Interesting topic, and food is one of my favorite topics.
Since you don't seem to have gotten many suggestions yet I'll add my 2 cents (plus a few bucks).
Many of my friends have said my homemade jerky was the best they ever had, and I live where Oberto is based.
I use a commercial grade food dehydrator with 6 trays, that's capable of drying almost 10lbs of raw meat at a time.
Mine is similar to this one:
I use the highest setting (i think its 135 degrees F) and it takes about 6-8 hrs to complete drying depending on how thick I cut it (usually I like
really thick about 3/4" so its softer and easier to eat). It's really hard not to eat it all right as it comes off warm, SO GOOD!
Anyways the tricks that make the best jerky are seasoning and cuts of meat. Since meat is expensive i go for sources that are bulk but still quality.
We have a place in seattle called Cash n Carry that is typically for restaurant supply but they sell 10lb bags of what they call "Special Trim"
which is huge oddly sized overcuts of flank steak. I trim off the fat then cut 3/4" bias cuts so the grain is diagonal.
My next step is I grab several large freezer ziplock bags, and a large can of pineapple juice and brown sugar (sugar is the best red meat tenderizer
Ive ever known) and partition the meat into 2-3 bags (as it fits and depending on how many flavors I want to make) and add several tb of brown sugar
and about 1-2 cups pineapple juice (also a tenderizer) to each bag. I sometimes add some garlic powder and/or Sriracha and/or Mae Ploy chili relish. I
then zip them up good and put in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hrs (48-72 is even better).
Now, as the meat is marinating I ponder my flavors, since the trick I do is make a glaze for each flavor batch I make. I have done simple spicy
(Sambal Olek, Sriracha, garlic, and or Mae Ploy) or a Thai BBQ (fish sauce, lemon grass powder, Sriracha, brown sugar, anise, pepper and cilantro) or
typical american BBQ (liquid smoke, mustard, catsup, brown sugar, black pepper, cayenne, worchestershire). These ingredients are approximated since i
play by ear every time. But I make each up in small saucepan then add a small amount of cornstarch slurry (cold water and 1tb cornstarch) and thicken
them so it sticks to the meat well.
I then lay out all the meat on the racks and set to high and start up the dryer, and at about 1-2 hrs I turn it over, then 1 more hour and I start
using a basting brush to lightly baste the tops of each tray, then after another hour I turn each piece back over again and baste the backsides. then
I typically continue to baste every hour or so until my basting sauce is all used up.
Also after the basting process (depending on how fatty the meat is) I start to dab the fatty drippings off the pieces of meat with a paper towel.
But the test I use to tell if pieces are done is first poke them, and if they are not squishy I will try bending a piece to see if it cracks and
breaks. I want it to crack easily but not necessarily break (I go for a thick and chewy piece that has alot of flavor). So this drying process with
the thicker pieces (they dont all get ready at the exact time, as I pull the done pieces off and continue drying) is about 6-8 hours.
I have heard of people using ovens with the door cracked on the lowest setting (typically most ovens only go down to 200 so it seems too hihg to me)
with a cookie tray covered in foil beneath it, but they lay meat directly on the oven racks. To me this seems like it is even messier than using a
dehydrator so I advise always getting a dehydrator since the savings will more than pay for it in a years worth of use.
Well there's my Jerky 101 course, I hope it helps and or inspires you to make some awesome dried meats.
Dang now I'm hungry!