Tips How to Choose the Best Cut of Meat For Jerky

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By Maria Turner • Last Updated: May 10, 2023 is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Tips How to Choose the Best Cut of Meat For Jerky

Are you a new player in the meat jerky game? You should consider making your first beef jerky as a rewarding but yet, a challenging experience. The truth is you don’t have to gain 10 years experience to pull it off. The main question that makes all the difference is: what is the best cut for making beef jerky?

You might be wondering if that is a hard question to answer. Making great beef jerky is not a one divided by a half trick, but rather it is more of a one shared by one and a half trick.

In this article, you’ll learn about the best cuts for making beef jerky and why they happened to be.

Basic Understanding about Meat for Jerky

Before we start punching in the numbers let’s get into the facts. The whole idea about making great beef jerky is for it to last long and of course the texture and flavor that makes humans go crazy. Now, to realize what needs to be done to achieve all these things you should then know what the main factors are.

Meat is made of all sorts of things, and for the past few decades many food scientists have executed their research and came up with all kinds of evaluations. Some of these things have made it easier and more direct for food enthusiasts to make their dream dishes and on the other hand, caused people to care more than they should.

Why is Beef Jerky Low in Fat?

Let’s start with the big elephant in the room which is the fat. So far in the world of food and flavor fat has been a game changer and in the world of health, fat is more of a game ender. But I’ll be happy to let you know that you don’t need to deal with all that or rather just a little bit of it in this reason.

In this case, fat is the enemy of lasting in meat – Which is a much-needed goal in making excellent beef jerky. The higher the fat content the less time it is expected to last when the beef jerky is made.

To have a deeper understanding of this, you should remember that the main idea for meat to last long is when it has little moisture left. And in the process of making jerky, the meat is dried to achieve that. The interesting thing to note here is fat contains some oils that can’t be evaporated.

And generally, you should know this even at home. Try keeping a bowl of oil beside a bowl of water to see which one evaporates faster. If you have successfully understood this now let’s shift to the other part of the game which is the texture.

The Texture

On this side of the beef jerky game, it all has to do with the tenderness of the meat and whether it is thin or thick. Thin beef is not always considered as tender, but it makes more sense to use a thin piece of meat. And this is why the cut of the meat matters most.

Thin meat is expected to have a lesser fat content, but the tenderness depends on the nature of the muscles. If the cut is gotten from areas of the cow with a lot of exercised muscles, then you should expect to have meat with much tougher tissues.

Meat that has tougher muscles when used in making beef jerky makes the jerky to become a lot chewy than having a snap bite. A crucial factor that lets the experts get away with this is how the it is sliced. You should consider cutting the meat against the grain rather than with the grain.


You should know that before the meat is said to be ready for drying, the fat has to be trimmed off. But wait, fat is the king of flavor, and if the whole fat is removed then where the flavor does come from. Now here comes a great tip that most experts and professionals have been utilizing at their best. After trimming off the external fat you’ll have an internal fat remaining, this is called the marbling.

Marbling plays an essential role as an internal fat both for the meat to last long and of course adding flavor. Different cuts have different marbling, and you should be careful when selecting your cut. In the end, you should have meat that is thin, has soft fibers, and a medium or little marbling.

What is The Best Cut of Meat to Use for Beef Jerky?

Best Cut of Meat to Use for Beef Jerky

1. Eye Round

Eye round is a cut found in the rear leg area, and it is considered the most tender round of all. You’ll need to trim off the fat right before drying the eye round. It has a little amount of marbling and has great grain structure running with the length of the meat.

2. Bottom Round

This is also located in the leg area particularly the rear leg. It is a complete set of muscle cut from the upper leg joint. The bottom round is not as tender as the eye round but can still make excellent jerky. It has a medium interior marbling which means more flavor. It is not the most expensive cut.

3. Top Round

The top round is found directly opposite to the bottom round as you may have guessed. It is located in the same rear leg area. Overall it is much tender than the bottom round following the eye round. It is lean and has a great grain structure with relatively medium marbling.

4. Sirloin Tip

The sirloin tip is almost as tender as the eye round but not precisely. This makes it a lean piece of meat probably one of the best, but it will cost you more than the others. Make sure to cut it against the grain for even better tenderness.

5. Flank Steak

The flank steak is very popular and preferred by many people. On the other hand, it is not a tender piece of meat, it is a sturdy one. You should avoid slicing the flank steak with the grain at all times; otherwise, you’ll spend hours chewing. It is relatively lean and has a high interior marbling.

6. Ground Meat

Just like the name sounds it is a form of grounded meat. Many people who are not looking to take any risks go for this type of meat for a guaranteed tenderness. One thing that might have you contemplating, in the end, is that the end texture is very different from other types of meat.

7. Elk Meat

Elk meat resembles the deer meat but rather in a different way. Remember that both types of meat are organic but have to be treated a bit different from the standard kinds of beef. It is a tender piece of meat with little interior marbling and less flavor but serves the purpose.

8. Pork Tenderloin

Pork is not the most preferred piece of meat when making beef jerky. Some prefer it in their recipes for sweetness. It is tender and has a high interior marbling. Using pork will give your jerky little chances of lasting.

The Verdicts

Making great jerky doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the above qualities most be perfect. The primary and most important thing is for the meat to be fresh. You should have a fresh quality cut with no ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and as little fat as possible.

The key challenge is balancing all of the three components starting from lasting, tenderness, and flavor. Try and introduce some of you in making the jerky to establish yourself better in the jerky game. Whenever you have the chance to go for the top round, bottom round, eye round, and the flank steak go for it!