Best Cuts Of Beef For Jerky


If you are looking for the best cuts of meat for jerky, this article can help. You’ll find a mix of traditional beef and exotic meats that are ideal for making jerky. Jerky is an excellent snack, especially when stuck somewhere with nothing to eat. It’s a great source of protein, but you don’t have to be out in the wilderness to enjoy it.


There are a variety of cuts of beef that you can use to make tender, delicious beef jerky. While top round, bottom round, pectoral, and lifter are typically the best cuts, others like flank and skirt steak can also make great jerky. These cuts of beef are all lean, economical, and full of flavor. Let’s look at a few different cuts of meat and learn how to choose the best ones to make beef jerky!

Here Are the Best Meats for Tender, Delicious Beef Jerk

Top Round—Also called “Inside Round Steak” or “London Broil,” this cut comes from the round primal region. It’s an excellent source of lean, economical large-cut meat for beef jerky. It’s also the most popular cut used by commercial jerky companies. It’s extremely lean and affordable, but it’s not the most flavorful or tender.Bottom Round—Also called “Bottom Round Oven Roast” or “Round Roast,” this cut comes from the same area as the top round. It’s a little tougher but still makes great beef jerky. Overall, it’s pretty similar to the top round but a little less tender.Eye of Round—Also found in the round primal area, eye of round comes from the elongated muscles located in the center. It’s more expensive, but it’s also more tender and a little more flavorful than top and bottom round.Sirloin Tip—Also called “Knuckle” or “Round Tip,” this is a less popular cut from the round primal but is still a great option. It’s in the middle as far as cost goes, and it has more flavor than the other cuts listed above but is also less tender.Lifter Meat—Also called “Blade Meat” or “Cap and Wedge Meat,” lifter meat comes from the rib primal and is meat from the outside of the ribs. This cut is a little less lean and has medium marbling, making for more tender, flavorful beef jerky at a slightly higher cost.Flank Steak—Also called “Beef Flank” or “Plank Steak,” flank steak comes from the flank primal. It’s a lean cut with long grains. It has little fat and marbling. This cut is less tender than lifter meat but has much more flavor. It’s also one of the most expensive cuts for beef jerky.Pectoral Meat—Also called “Special Trim,” pectoral meat comes from the chuck primal. It’s slightly fatty and has decent marbling. This cut is extremely tender but less flavorful. Pectoral meat is a great affordable option, especially for first-time jerky makers.Deer Meat—You can also make great jerky with deer meat. It’s usually very tender, lean, and flavorful. It’s a great choice for those that love the game flavor.Elk Meat—This meat is also very lean and great for making jerky. It’s extremely tender and has very little game flavor, unlike deer meatPork Loin & Tenderloin—This meat is slightly fattier but works well, especially for sweeter jerkies. It’s full of flavor, relatively inexpensive, and super tender.

How To Choose the Best Cut of Meat for Beef Jerky

You have so many options available, and while there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for choosing a cut of meat for your beef jerky, we’ll give you some general guidelines to help you make the best choice.Fat Content—This is one of the most important criteria for choosing a cut of beef to make jerky with, and it’s the first one to look at. When making jerky, you can’t fully dehydrate the fat, meaning that leaner cuts are typically better. Too much fat can cause your jerky to spoil faster. However, if you plan to eat all of your jerky within a few days, you can choose a cut with slightly more fat without any problems.Intermuscular vs. Intramuscular Fat—Intermuscular fat is fat around the protein, and you should remove it before starting the jerky-making process. Choosing meat with the least intermuscular fat makes making jerky easier.  Intramuscular fat is the marbling, which runs between muscle fibers. More marbling is better for making jerky; it contributes to the tenderness, juiciness, and rich flavor.Choose Economical Cuts—Fresh, high-quality beef is better than buying the fanciest cut you can find. Even relatively tough cuts of meat can be used to make tender jerky. It’s usually better to save the fancy cuts like ribeye and filet mignon for other uses.

Can You Use Ground Beef To Make Jerky?
—Yes! However, it’s more difficult, and the end result is usually not as tasty as using whole muscle beef. Ground beef jerky will have a much different texture than traditional jerky. If you go this route, choose the leanest meat you can find and consider looking into a “jerky gun” to make the process easier.

Tips for Buying Beef Jerky Meat

Buy Fresh Meat—The fresher, the better. Avoid buying meat with dark spots, ligaments, tendons, or cartilage. Take your time and inspect the beef before taking it home.Buy the Right Amount—During the dehydration process, you’ll lose a significant portion of the original weight. A good rule to follow is three pounds of meat for one pound of jerky.Find a Butcher—A reputable butcher can be an amazing resource for your jerky-making adventures. They can slice the beef for you, saving you time and ensuring that the jerky cooks evenly, which is extremely important when making jerky at home.Know Your Cuts—Once you know what cuts you prefer, you can watch out for weekly sales and specials, allowing you to purchase large quantities for great prices.

Best Meats for Beef Jerky: Final Thoughts

Making jerky yourself is challenging, but it can be very rewarding. One of the most important parts of the process is selecting the right cuts of beef. The best part of making your own beef jerky is that you get full control over everything, and you can experiment on a small scale to figure out which cuts you prefer. 

4 Best Cuts Of Beef For Jerky (And How To Make It)

Beef jerky is best when made from scratch. But the texture and flavor of your meat will come down to your choice of beef. Learn which beef cuts are best for jerky, and everything you need to know to get started with smoking your own snack strips.

best cuts of beef for jerky

Great homemade jerky is one of the purest homemade snacks out there. Tough, chewy and delicious, once you get on the jerky train then it’s hard to get off it. It’s what BBQ smoking was made for.

Despite this, not a lot of people make their own at home. It might seem like a daunting process, but it’s actually a lot easier than you might think.

dried beef jerky served on kitchen tabletop

The biggest determining factor of the success of your homemade jerky will be the cut of beef that you choose.

There are four cuts of beef that are perfect for jerky: Shank, Round, Sirloin, and Flank.

But what makes these cuts the right fit? Here’s my breakdown of the four best beef cuts for jerky, and how each one might be the right choice for you.

beef cuts diagram


Shank can be found at the upper portion of the legs of the cow, both front and rear, and can be found under the brisket at the front of the round at the back.

Because it tends to be tough and low in fat, beef shank is great for jerky. Its high collagen content also makes it good for stews and soups.

It can be bought fairly cheaply too, which makes it a great starter meat if this is your first time making beef jerky. It’s usually sold with the bone and marrow still in it, but for jerky try to buy it with the bone removed to help save you time when you prepare your meat.


Now for one of the most commonly used cuts for smoked beef jerky. Beef round is found at the rear of the cow, and is usually split between two categories: Top round and bottom round.

There is one major reason why round is so great for jerky: Muscles.

Cows rear legs are one of its strongest parts, so it should come as no surprise that it is packed full of muscle. It’s lean and rich in protein. As a result, the fat content here is really low and is perfect for jerky.

When you buy it you might find some sinew and fat on the outer side of the cut, but don’t be put off. You can easily trim and remove these, and get cooking right away.

For an even chewier and more tender jerky, you can only easily remove some of the grain found on the round. This is easily visible.


Sirloin just had to make it to this list. It’s tender, lean, and ideal for jerky.

Sirloin sits towards the cow’s hind legs, located near to where the bulk of the animal’s muscles are. Just like with round, this means that it’s largely comprised of muscle, and is therefore low in fat and high in protein.

One thing to keep in mind is that sirloin is a little pricier than either round or shank, but for good reason: It’s ridiculously delicious.

Flank steak

Flank is found in the lower chest of the cow or abdominal region, and is another cut that’s lean and low in fat.

Its grain is easy to see, which makes it easy to cut into slices. This is also helped by the shape of the muscle itself, making it easy to hold and work with when carving.

Flank is one of the most trusted cuts of beef for making jerky. However, just like sirloin, it’s also a little dearer than round or shank, so the price can be a little eye-watering to newcomers.

Decided on which beef cut you’re going for? Let’s get into making some beautiful jerky!

best cuts of beef for jerky

How to make beef jerky

We’re going to start by freezing our beef. I know this might seem strange, but trust me.

Allow it to freeze for between 45 and 60 minutes, but not until it’s frozen solid. We want the meat to firm up enough for it to be easy enough for you to start cutting into slices.

Remove from the freezer and place it between two layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper.

Tenderize it using a tenderizing mallet (like this), flattening the meat and softening its muscle fibers.

Look for the grain in your meat. We’re going to use this as a guide and cut the beef in the opposite direction to it.

Slice the beef against the grain. Try to aim for slices around one-quarter and one-third of an inch in thickness. You can vary from this if you prefer, but try to make the slices fairly uniform.

If you struggle with cutting evenly, consider getting yourself a home meat slicer.

How to marinade beef pieces for jerky

This is where we get to really infuse our jerky with added flavor.

I like to use a mix of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and paprika like in this recipe.

Allow the beef to slices to sit in the marinade for an hour, in the refrigerator.

How to make beef jerky in the oven

For the best results, use a wire rack and place it on top of a baking sheet. Take the properly cut beef strips and place them on the rack. The strips will dry faster as the juices run onto the sheet lying underneath.

Start baking for 3 to 4 hours with the oven turned to around 175°F. However, this time may vary according to the type and effectiveness of the oven used, as well as the thickness of your beef.

Don’t just set and forget though. Every now and then, be sure to check on the progress of your jerky.

Fortunately, it’s easy to know how to tell when jerky’s done. As you approach the three-hour mark, you can take a strip of your jerky from the oven and taste it. When you taste it, pay attention to the meat’s texture. If it feels too soft or quite fleshy, put it back in the oven. If you feel it’s chewy and tough you can remove the remaining jerky from the oven.

It should be noted that the drier the jerky, the easier it will be to store and preserve it. However it’s a fine line so don’t overdo it otherwise you’ll run the risk of it turning into brittle crackers.

How to store beef jerky

Look for a good airtight container and store your jerky there. It can be stored in an airtight container for about a week.

If you think your jerky is slightly on the fatty or undercooked side, you can store it in the refrigerator.

Tips for Buying Meat for Beef Jerky

Sliced Beef Jerky Meat Top Round Raw
Sliced Beef Jerky Meat Top Round Raw

Buy Fresh Meat

Only buy fresh meat. Do not buy expired meat or even meat that is nearing its expiration date. The fresher the better. Avoid meat with dark spots, any off smells, or cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. 

The beauty of making beef jerky home is that you have full control. Make sure to inspect each piece of meat to ensure you are getting exactly what you want.  

Buy Sufficient Amounts

Also, keep in mind that you will lose anywhere between 50 – 75% of the original weight during the dehydration process. Make sure to buy a sufficient amount of meat. A good rule of thumb is 3 to 1. Every three pounds of raw meat will transform into 1 pound of jerky. 

Make Friends with Your Butcher

Make friends with your local butcher. He or she can be an excellent resource for all your jerky making adventures. 

You can have your butcher pre-slice the beef for you. This will save you a step of the jerky making process. With a commercial slicer, your butcher can slice the beef into uniform slices to your exact specs. This will ensure that the jerky cooks evenly in your oven, a very important part of jerky making at home.

Know Your Cuts and Keep an Eye on Sales

Once you know the cuts, you can keep an eye on weekly specials and sales. Big box stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club are also a great place to shop for meat for beef jerky. They offer great prices in larger quantities.  

Miscellaneous Jerky Meat Questions

People's Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky
People’s Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky

Can you make beef jerky out of Filet Mignon?

Absolutely. You can make beef jerky out of any cut of beef, in theory. While this might be a fun and novel idea, we think Filet Mignon cooked to medium rare is the best option. Stick to the recommended cuts of beef such as Top Round, Bottom Round, Lifter, Pectoral, Flank Steak, and Skirt Steak

Can you make beef jerky out of ground beef or ground meat?

Whole muscle beef jerky is much easier to make, but you can also make beef jerky out of ground beef. You can form patties or strips by hand or use a jerky gun device. 

Can you make beef jerky out of tri tip?

Trip tip makes for a fantastic cut of meat for jerky. It’s on the more expensive side, but it has the leanness factor that you’re looking for when it comes to jerky. 

What’s the best cut of beef for tender jerky?

Cuts of beef that have more intramuscular marbling make more tender jerky. Lifter or pectoral meat are great options. The cut of beef can make a difference in the tenderness of the end jerky. But the processing technique will have an even bigger impact.

Bottom Line

People's Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky
People’s Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky

Making jerky at home is a challenging but very rewarding experience.  One of the more important steps in the process is selecting the cut of beef. The best part of making beef jerky at home is you have full control over the process. Plus, you can experiment on a smaller scale. Let us know your favorite cut of meat for jerky! 

Are you curious about how the different cuts transform into jerky? buy some of our artisan-crafted jerky today!

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