Best Beef For Jerky What Cut

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Your search for the best beef for jerky what cut is over. Our guide explores the pros, cons, and the preferred cuts to use in making delicious jerky. Jerky is a favorite snack among trekkers and campers as it requires no refrigeration and can be easily transported from one place to another. It becomes even more enjoyable when you are accompanied by your best buddies.

The Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky — And Which to Avoid!

Beef jerky is a snack that satisfies like no other. But, if you’ve only had gas station jerky, you’re missing out on one of the most incredible things you can make in your smoker. To help you make delicious homemade beef jerky, let’s learn which cuts are best for the job.

A paper roll full of beef jerky on a dark background

Today’s topic: choosing the best cut of beef for jerky, including which cuts are best, which are ok, which to avoid, and why.

There’s a beef dish for every meal, from breakfast burritos to a Reuben sandwich to a steak dinner. And for between meals, it’s a heck of a snack.

With due credit to Homer Simpson, I say, beef: is there anything it can’t do?

We’ll start by determining the qualities that make great jerky and then look at the top contenders individually.

Just as importantly, I’ll tell you which beef cuts to steer clear of, pun intended. Finally, I’ll summarize a few key traits to look for in the store, including grading and cost.

Ready to drool? Mmmm, jerky.

Is There a Single, Best of the Best Cut for Jerky?

Hold the phone — can we end the debate right here? Actually, no, not really.

There are 10 cuts we think are viable for making jerky. Of those, 6 stand out above the rest. But why?

Let’s discuss the properties of a cut of beef that make it ideal for turning into jerky.

What Makes a Cut Great for Making Jerky?

If you believe in the old barbecuer’s motto “fat equals flavor,” this next bit might surprise you.

To make the best beef jerky, start with cuts of beef that are lean. I know, right? Mind blown. But it makes total sense.

Plenty of lean cuts still have fabulous flavor. Also, remember we want our final product to be dry and chewy — the exact opposite of how we want our steaks and ribs.

Fat still equals flavor, so we want a bit in there. But, excess fat will reduce the shelf life of our jerky because it spoils more quickly than the meat. So cuts that we consider to be the best steaks for grilling mainly due to intramuscular fat that adds incredible flavor, are actually some of the worst cuts for making jerky.

Think about the outer fat, too. Dehydrating turns fat on the exterior of your jerky to gristle, and no one wants that. This may require a bit of trimming on your part to remove the excess surface fat.

Also, fresh meat makes the best jerky — the fresher, the better. So avoid the freezer at the butcher, and don’t pre-freeze your meat before starting the jerky-making process.

The Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky and Why

Now that we know the properties we want in our jerky meat let’s look at the cuts that deliver them.

Eye of Round

Raw eye of round roast on dark surface with tomatoes and some greens

Of all the sub-primal cuts from the round, the eye of round is the most tender. It’s very lean but with just a bit of interior marbling.

Additionally, the grain runs in just one direction — lengthwise — so it’s easy to cut into strips. Finally, it’s a low-cost cut, making your eye of round jerky an economical snack. (Also good news if you’re new to making jerky and still honing your technique!)

You will have to remove the fat cap before you slice it up, but this is easily done with a sharp knife.

Bottom Round

bottom round roast on a cutting board with peppercorns and tomatoes

The bottom round is a lean exterior muscle from the top of the rear leg is the least tender cut from the Round primal. But don’t let that discourage you!

Bottom round has enough interior marbling and rich, beefy flavor to make it worth your while.

There may be a fat cap to trim away, and look for any large intrusions of intramuscular fat that need removing. But, this bit of prep work is a small price to pay for the small price you paid at the grocer!

Top Round

A tied top round roast with carrot sin the background

Another cut from the Round primal, top round is an interior leg muscle. In terms of tenderness, it falls somewhere between the eye of round and bottom round.

Top round is a very lean cut and may show next to no marbling at all. Trust me on this one, though: it’s beefy and delicious and makes terrific jerky.

Prep should be minimal (there may be a thin fat cap to remove), and just like other round cuts, the top round comes at a bargain price.

Flank

Raw Grass Fed Flank Steak on butcher paper with rosemary

Flank meat, especially the steak, costs a bit more than some of our other top cuts for making beef jerky. But, it’s worth every penny for the excellent flavor.

There’s more fat, both inside and out, on this cut than on many others in this list. For that reason, you’ll need to spend some time trimming to get the best results.

As well, if you don’t cut it right, you’ll end up with very tough jerky; slice against the grain to keep it tender and tooth-friendly.

Done right, beef jerky made from flank steak is excellent.

Sirloin (all, Including Top And Bottom)

A large sirloin roast with one steak sliced off the end

No matter which part of the sirloin primal you pick, including the tip, you’ve got the makings of fantastic beef jerky.

There’s some inner marbling — enough for flavor, but not so much that we need to worry about spoilage. Trim away the outer layer of fat, and you’re good to go.

The price of sirloin cuts is a bit higher than round cuts, but they’re easier to find, too. That’s an important consideration if your grocer has a limited selection. Also, it’s tender and tasty, which is precisely what we want.

Short Loin

Large piece of raw short loin on cutting board with a steak sliced off

Of all the primal cuts of beef, the short loin is where some of the very best steaks come from, including the New York strip and porterhouse. The meat here is delicious and tender, but it doesn’t usually go overboard on the marbling; some judicious trimming will take care of it where it does.

Yes, many of the short loin cuts come with a premium price tag, and some among you may gasp at the idea of drying such fine meat out for jerky. If you can swallow the cost, though, you’ll love swallowing this excellent jerky. Just be sure to tell everyone what kind of meat you used.

Cuts That are Good in a Pinch — and Actually Preferred by Some

While we don’t think these 4 cuts rank with our top 6 best cuts of beef for jerky, they do work. In fact, some jerky fiends consider these go-to cuts. We’ll leave it to you to decide.

Chuck

A large piuece of raw chuck beef on a dark surface

The chuck primal yields some fine steaks and roasts, and ground chuck makes excellent hamburgers. Hey, and it makes great jerky, too. Why is it in this grouping, then?

There’s a lot of fat in this primal up at the shoulder, which means a lot of time spent trimming. Even with the exterior fat cut away, there’s enough intramuscular fat to move the “best before” date way up.

If you plan to eat your jerky right away, I say go for it. However, if you plan to store it for weeks or slowly work your way through it, you might want to try another cut.

Brisket

A raw large piece of brisket on a cutting board

You might think brisket is ideal for jerky; it’s tasty and grainy and holds up well to extending cooking.

But there’s a lot of fat on brisket and a fair bit of marbling. For smoking, that’s ok; the fat renders during the smoke session, infusing moisture and flavor.

For jerky, though, we don’t want moisture. Unfortunately, that means you’ll spend a LOT of time removing fat before you’re ready to make your jerky, and it still won’t last as long as jerky made from our top 6 cuts.

Best Meat for Beef Jerky

One of the most important decisions when making beef jerky is the cut of meat you are going to use. Using the best meat for beef jerky makes all the difference, and here I’ll show you what meats are the best!

I also have a video that will explain these cuts in more detail, show you what they look like, and let you know which ones are my favorite! So make sure you check it out.

The best meat for jerky on cutting board with spices and seasonings

🥩 What is The Best Cut of Meat?

Beef eye of round, bottom round, and top round are the best meat for beef jerky. Choosing a cut that has very little fat is important, fat will spoil faster and shorten the shelf life of your jerky.

Below is a list of cuts of meat that work very well for making beef jerky. You can also make beef jerky out of lean ground meat. Try several different cuts and decide for yourself which one is your favorite! Once you do, check out my Beef Jerky Recipes Page to find your favorite jerky marinade!!!


Drawing of a cow showing the beef rounds come from the hind quarters of the animal

Eye of Round –

Hands down, this is the best meat for beef jerky. The most tender of the Rounds. This is a single oval muscle in the rear leg. This is my go to cut of meat when making beef jerky.

beef Eye of round on dark cutting board, the best meat for beef jerky
  • Lean
  • Little interior fat
  • Need to trim the fat cap
  • Grain runs the length of the cut for easy slicing with or against the grain
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)

Bottom Round –

Another great choice of meat for making beef jerky. It is the outer muscle of the upper rear leg. This is the least tender of the rounds. Even though it is the least tender, it makes great jerky!

Bottom Round roast on cutting board with spices for making beef jerky
  • Lean
  • Possible interior marbling
  • Flavorful
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)

Top Round –

Very similar to bottom round. The top round is cut from the inside leg muscle, opposite of the bottom round. This cut is more tender than the bottom round and less tender than the eye of round.

Beef Top Round on cutting board with tomatoes, the second best meat for beef jerky
  • Lean
  • Flavorful
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)

Sirloin Tip – 

Second Most tender of the rounds. Not as popular, but still a very good piece of meat for making beef jerky.

  • Very Lean
  • Most tender
  • A little more expensive

A drawing of a cow showing where the flank steak is from, the belly

Flank Steak –

More expensive than the rest but still a great meat for beef jerky. If sliced with the grain, your jerky will be extremely tough. Better to slice against the grain when using this piece of meat when making beef jerky.

Flank steak on cutting board with spices for beef jerky
  • Lean (need to trim some fat)
  • More interior marbling
  • Flavorful
  • Can be a tougher jerky

Ground Meat –

If making beef jerky with ground meat, make sure to choose a lean package. Many people like ground meat jerky because it is easier to chew and less harsh on your teeth. The texture is VERY different from whole meat jerky though, so keep that in mind.

Ground meat on slate with spices for beef jerky
  • Makes easier to chew jerky
  • Choose the leanest ground meat available (at least 90% lean)
  • Requires a jerky gun or flattened and cut into strips

Deer Meat –

Deer meat is GREAT for making jerky! Venison jerky is some of my favorite. It tends to be very lean meat and very tender. If you harvest your venison yourself during hunting season, it is also about as organic as you can get!

Deer meat on cutting board with spices
  • Very Lean
  • Very little interior marbling
  • Organic
  • Great Game Flavor
  • Tender

Elk Meat –

Just like Venison, Elk Roasts are very lean cuts of meat that are great for making jerky. Elk has a mild game flavor making it a fantastic option for even the pickiest of eaters in your family.

Elk Meat on cutting board with spices
  • Very Lean
  • Very little interior marbling
  • Organic
  • No game flavor
  • Tender

Pork Loin & Tenderloin –

A little fattier of a cut, but my favorite when using pork. Great for making pork jerky. Goes really well with sweet recipes, but also turns out great with spicier recipes.

Pork Tenderloin on slate with spices
  • Flavorful
  • Tender Jerky
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)
  • Great with sweet recipes

💭 Tips When Buying Meat

There are some ground rules that will apply across the board. When shopping for your choice of meat, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Join big box stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco for great prices on the best meat for beef jerky, sometimes half price.
  • Never purchase old or expired meats
  • Purchase the correct amount of meat. After drying, jerky will lose about ⅔ of its weight. If you buy 3lbs, you will end up with a little over 1lb of dried jerky
  • Inspect each specific cut to find the one with the least amount of fat
  • Ask the butcher to slice the meat for you – Many butchers will slice the meat to your specified thickness at no cost. This saves a lot of time!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your local butcher. I am sure they will be more than helpful in getting you what you need.

Why get this deal?

Great prices! I found that locally the price of USDA Choice Beef Eye of Round Roast (one of the best cuts for jerky) at Sam’s was $4.68. This is compared to $6.99 a pound at the local grocery store, that’s a 33% savings!

Don’t even get me started on the great price of USDA Prime Beef Brisket!!!

How to get this deal?

Click here for the $45 gift card with sign up. (Jerkyholic is in no way associated with this deal. We do not get anything from Sam’s or you for you signing up. Just passing along a great deal!)

It will give you a coupon code when filling out information. Make sure to copy that code down and give it to the person at the membership table at Sam’s. The lady we dealt with already had it, but make sure to write it down just to be sure.

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