Food: Beef Heart Jerky

08 Nov


This is some fine jerky.

I love jerky but I can’t stand what you find in stores. Yesterday I made some great tasting jerky from a beef heart and I’ll tell you what I did, but be warned – if you like the commercial product you find in the grocery store this one might not appeal to you.

Why beef heart? Well, first of all, because I had one handy. If that seems odd you have to realize that we buy a half a beef every year and we always get as much of the organ meat as we can as part of it. For those that don’t do this, hearts are normally cheaper than most other cuts of meat (most people don’t know what to do with them) and because they are almost all muscle they make wonderful jerky. Personally I think jerky is one of the best uses for them, having tried a lot of baked and braised (long simmering) recipes. You might have to ask your butcher as a special order, but you might also be surprised at the low cost.

I need to say one other thing before diving in: I think that the only way to make this stuff is in a good dehydrator. I’ve tried using the oven (people always say “You can do this in your oven, too”) but there is no comparison. Still, if that’s all you have, that’s all you have. We got so frustrated by not being able to dry things easily that we finally broke down and bought an Excalibur nine tray dryer and I’ve never regretted it.

So, here are the directions:

Remove the membrane on the heart and any fat. This will take a little bit of the meat off at the same time unless you are a hell of a lot more skilled (and patient!) than I am, but our two dogs were quite grateful for the scraps and I’m glad to give them to them. I actually had more than I expected so I boiled it since it would last more than a meal or two – otherwise I would have simply given it to them raw. (Our beef comes from a friend and we know how it’s raised; I have no qualms about this at all.) Anyway, get the fat and caul-like wrapping off.

Slice the meat into strips. The heart is not a single piece of meat like a roast, it’s more like a bag; at any rate, you won’t get a lot of long strips about 1/4 inch thick, you’ll get a lot of different lengths. I worried that this might be a problem as far as drying them goes but it wasn’t.

If you want to marinate them or use a rub, that’s the next step. I used a marinade, the recipe for which is below. I let the strips soak for about ten hours, then placed them on three trays of the dryer and then dried them at 155 F for seven and a half hours while I slept. When I got up this morning they were perfect – dry, leathery and slightly flexible. The flavor is very good, but the marinade I used is (deliberately) not a strong one; for me, this is just perfect.

Here’s the recipe I used:


1 Beef heart (3 pounds, in this case)


1/3 cup tomato sauce

1/5 cup soy sauce (call it a scant 1/4 cup if that’s easier; the quantities don’t matter that much.)

1/5 cup Worcestershire sauce

4 decent-sized cloves of garlic, crushed to bits

A good sprinkling of fresh coarse-ground pepper

1 drop of Liquid Smoke

(Note on Liquid Smoke: I used to think this stuff is appalling, but after I researched it I found out it’s not so bad at all – what’s bad is too much of it, and this amount is hardly noticeable. Obviously, you’ll skip it if you find it a turn-off, but it’s interesting to find out how it’s made so there’s something for you to Google.)

Just mix all the stuff together and put it on the sliced heart in a low flat dish; cover and refrigerate for however long you like, turning the strips over every so often. I left mine in there all day.

Place strips on the dryer trays and dry at 155 F for as long as it takes – the weather and ambient temperature will have something to say about this. Yesterday (early November in Oregon) it took seven and a half hours.

That’s it! As a note, I should say that I like plain (no marinade or rub) jerky too, so this may be too “unflavored” for you, although to me the marinade’s flaver is quite noticeable. But the stuff in the stores…well, it’s hard to imagine any of my Indian heroes ever eating that crap; Dull Knife or Crazy Horse would have spit it out, I suspect. This would make great pemmican, but that’s another story for another time.




Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Recipes & ingredients


Tags: , ,

4 responses to “Food: Beef Heart Jerky

  1. Jen

    June 7, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    I agree, I”ve found beef heart is great for jerky. I do some plain for the dog(though I’ve eaten it), boil all the extra bits(yes my dog is spoiled but just gets the broth on his dry food sometimes) then marinade the rest for me(or the dog…sense a theme here lol). I am not a huge salt fan and was looking for a sweeter but not too sweet flavor. My marinade is usually a pineapple base(like one little can), with some apple cider vinegar, molasses, soy sauce and dashes of liquid smoke. It changes based on the batch but has always come out well. I can find heart, finding a half or whole heart however is harder(even at my farm market they sell it already chopped up).

  2. Tyrannocaster

    June 7, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    No idea how you found this post, since the blog is essentially moribund at this point, but thank you for commenting. It is moribund precisely because I got tired of nobody commenting!

    I actually like plain, un-marinated jerky (although I don’t mind a bit of salt added) too.

    A whole heart is pretty hard to find; the quantity that I mentioned in my recipe is actually a portion of a heart, as beef hearts are really, really big. However, my experience has been that the butchers are ahead of you and often anticipate this problem by quartering them. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as long as you can afford to pay for whatever you get, but the difference between jerking a whole heart and and a 1/4 heart are not trivial. Man, am I glad we got that dehydrator!

    Thanks again for commenting.

  3. Jeff

    July 7, 2016 at 7:48 am

    I just made beef heart jerky in an old smoker, I am very pleased with the results. the texture, and slightly different taste really sets apart. I’ll have to try tomato sauce in the marinade sometime.

    • Jen

      July 7, 2016 at 8:11 am

      I’ve don’t have a smoker, it’s on my want list, but am looking into how to smoke on a charcoal grill. That would add another dimension of flavor. I have some marinating now but haven’t decided jerky in dehydrator or grill.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: