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Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky

The Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky

You can’t start making jerky until you know what cut of beef you are going to use to make your jerky. The simple answer is, a cut that has the least amount of fat as possible. Fat will spoil and ruin jerky, avoid at all costs!

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you with such a vague answer though. Let’s narrow down your choices to some inexpensive and great cuts of meat for jerky.

There are several types of cuts you can try during your search for your favorite one. The list below refers to beef; when making wild game jerky, such as deer, you will find that the meat is VERY lean and great for jerky!

Before we get into specific cuts of beef, there are some ground rules that will apply across the board. When shopping for your choice of meat, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Never purchase old or expired meats
  • Purchase the correct amount of meat. After drying, jerky will lose about 2/3 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 less 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!

Below is a list of cuts of meat that work very well for 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 flavor of jerky!!!



Eye of Round – Going to be the most popular cut for making 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.

Eye of Round Roast

  • 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 for making 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

  • 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

  • Lean
  • Flavorful
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)



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

  • Very Lean
  • Most tender
  • Economical (relatively inexpensive)



Flank Steak – More expensive than the rest but still a great meat for 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

  • Lean (do need to trim some fat)
  • More interior marbling
  • Flavorful
  • Can be a tougher jerky


Ground Meat – If making 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.

Midewest Ground Beef Jerky Lean Beef

  • 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
  • Visit my page on How to Make Ground Beef Jerky for more information


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!

Venison Roast

  • Very Lean
  • Very little interior marbling
  • Organic
  • Great Game Flavor
  • Tender


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.

Check Out Our Reviews on the Best Dehydrators for Making Beef Jerky

The Best Dehydrator For Making Beef Jerky

Don’t forget to visit our fantastic Beef Jerky Recipes Page!

Beef Jerky Recipes

Learn how to slice meat for jerky! Like a chewy jerky? Soft Jerky? I’ll show you how to get the jerky chew that you want!

Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky


  1. ron says:

    liked your post on cuts for jerky. I would like to knoe can you grind sirloin tip roast,and use it in a jerky gun. thanks ron

    • Will
      Will says:

      Thanks for stopping by Ron. To answer your question; ground sirloin in a jerky gun would make a great jerky! Make sure that when you make ground jerky, use a recipe that has little or no liquid ingredients. A jerky gun is the easiest way in my opinion to make ground jerky, I love my jerky gun. Let me know how it turns out!

    • Ray says:

      I’m sorry but I am going to disagree here. Grinding up any meat and squeezing it out of a jerky “gun” like toothpaste is not jerking meat. That is just my opinion but there it is. That’s like calling a mass market “hamburger” a great porterhouse steak. Paste does not make great jerky and I’ve been making jerky for over 35 years now. One of the defining features of great jerky, besides great flavor, is it’s texture. Depending on the type of animal of course. You can jerk a turkey but it’s not real chewy. It IS tasty. Paste has no texture. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of recipes for jerky. (Or no recipe at all, just dry strips of meat over a wood frame in the sun the way our ancestors did it.) That’s why I stopped in here, to read all the recipes and gather ideas.
      But I do have a very strong negative reactions to “paste jerky”. Again, just my opinion.
      The ground meat jerky (and gun) was the mass market’s method of cheaply turning nameless waste cuts of scrap beef into profit; grind it, extrude it into identical strips, spray flavoring onto it at the last moment as it goes into a commercial conveyor dryer, package the little identical clone strips of cardboard at the other end of the dryer, and sell it as “jerky” to people who don’t know the difference. For A LOT OF CASH. That’s the stuff you see individually wrapped in the big plastic tubs at the big box outlets that shall go unnamed. But it isn’t jerky. It just isn’t.
      I suppose it’s safer to extrude paste than to slice meat with a flawlessly and painfully sharp knife and then marinade it but I find the slicing and marinating and drying to be a very satisfying process. Then I get to eat it!
      I would also note that in my opinion jerky should be at least a little tough, otherwise it isn’t worth chewing.
      I’m on my 4th dehydrator I think, I’ve lost count, if you treat them properly they will last for years, but I see my current dryer is one you suggest on the site. I’ve gotten many people into jerky making.
      My suggested lean beef cut for a medium chew would be an eye round. Lean with miminal marbling and just one flap of fat to trim away from one side before slicing into jerky cuts. Not expensive. I usually buy in a 10 lb batch, and go back for the 2nd and 3rd as I’m making the different jerkys. I double vacuum pack for storage in different weights. I will cut with the grain for a chewier jerky as is my preference, or across the grain for less chewy.
      I do not chemically cure meat. I have learned that drying loses up to 80% of weight. Jerky should be flexible but not brittle when bent. I tend to dry a bit more for long term storage in vacuum packs.
      I prefer simpler jerky recipes using onion powder black and red peppers, garlic powders, low salt soy, teriyaki, and Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar only occasionally as well as hickory smoke.

      • Dan says:

        I agree 100% with what is said in this comment. Grinding the meat is an option, but will never be as good as a carefully sliced piece of good meat! I use the Round Sirloin Tip, you get 5 different muscles that offer different meat consistencies and it is essentially free of fat, although you need to remove a decent amount of connective tissue

      • Chris says:

        You’re obviously confusing grinding with crushing and smashing. Crushing and smashing turns something into a paste, not grinding. Jerky made with grinded meat definitely has texture. Unfortunately for your opinion… no matter how it is sliced, chopped, diced, minced, grinded, or smashed, jerky is simply dried meat. End of story.

      • Will
        Will says:

        Thanks for stopping by Ray. I am also a MUCH bigger fan of whole meat beef jerky, but there are people out there that like the ground jerky better. Some people just can’t eat chewy whole meat jerky because of their teeth, and ground jerky gives them something they can eat. When commercially selling jerky, in order to call it only “beef jerky” it has to be produced from a single piece of beef. Otherwise, you have to put “ground & formed” on the label. Lately there have been a lot of small producers putting out some great jerky (not Jack Link’s, etc…). Support small shops, I buy jerky every chance I can get when I’m at farmers markets, fairs, rodeos, small towns… Keep making that jerky man!

        • Drew says:

          I will say, I am a fan of both sliced meat jerky and jerky made from grinding meats like turkey or chicken. For anyone living a Paleo life, it’s a great option to make jerky and take it on the road with you when working or traveling. Plus, eating just beef jerky can get old. I make a Buffalo Jerky- using freshly ground turkey or chicken, Frank’s Buffalo sauce, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, and sometimes a little vinegar to help bind it. Then I use my LEM Jerky Cannon and make a flat strip. A healthy alternative to Buffalo Wings.

          In the end, chefs don’t squabble over variations of preparing foods, a forum like this one for making Jerky should be no different. Toe-may-toe, Toe-ma-toe.

  2. MARC says:

    WOW !!! I love your website. I’m making jerky for the first time this weekend. I will use what i learned here. Thanks Will.

  3. Seth says:

    Love the website. I’ve been doing research all day as I plan to make my own jerky for the first time this week! Yes I’m an addict. I can’t wait! Mexican Heat looks intense but good!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Thanks Seth. Glad the website is helping you get ready for jerky making. You WILL be addicted! Ha. Let me know how your batch turns out.

  4. Seth says:

    Okay so I made 2 batches. A “hot” using Frank’s, a sriracha season and diced habenaro peppers. Thought would be too hot but came out perfect!!!! Other batch was just WAY too salty and, I love salt. I think I went too heavy on garlic salt. Was going for “Garlic, Salt and Pepper”. I also used diced garlic in the marinade. I have some questions about the “chew” of it. It was a little tough for my liking. I used eye of round but I think it’s my cut technique and/or dry time. Round two is happening now!!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Franks, sriracha, & habanero peppers?! That sounds deadly! Ha. To make it less tough there are a couple things you can do. I would cut the meat against the grain. Eye of round is my favorite cut to use for beef jerky. The grain normally runs from end to end lengthwise. So cutting against the grain will give you short roundish pieces of jerky. If you want to cut with the grain (long pieces of jerky) but want less chew; use a meat tenderizer mallet. After you cut your strips, beat them with a meat mallet (use the tenderizing end, NOT the flat end of the mallet) Also, to make sure not to over dry your jerky; take a piece out of the dehydrator or oven and let it cool before testing if it is done. After it has cooled check to see if it is done by bending it. It should bend and crack, but not break in half. Sounds like you are off to a good start!

      • Ryan says:

        Wow awesome and helpful comment. I’m off to find some eye of round or top round to make jerky today. I’ll start with a quick smoke over a bit of applewood, then into a marinade and onto the dehydrator later today.

      • Mike says:

        Being new to making jerky, I use flank steak and if you want a premade dry marinade, I highly recommend the one I have bought at Academy Sports. It is “cracked pepper & garlic”. I highly dislike a sweet tasting jerky and this one is a peppery taste, I do add a little kosher salt to the mixture as I also like a little salty taste. I then put in my smoker at 200-deg with mesquite chips for about 2-1/2 hours. Guaranteed to cure all colds, moles, sore holes and guaranteed to make child birth an instant pleasure.

  5. Nicki says:

    I’m so excited!!! Thanks for all the great info! I’m making jerky for the 1st time this week. I’ve dried fruit in my dehydrator but haven’t made jerky. It’s funny b/c I bought the dehydrator mostly to make jerky! lol
    Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Nicki says:

      What is your favorite cut for jerky? I’m wanting to make it as tender & easy to eat as possible w/ using ground beef.

      • Will
        Will says:

        My favorite cut would be the Beef Eye of Round Roast. Slice the meat against the grain for an easy chew. Make sure not to over dry the jerky and you should be good to go!

        • Kurt Doty says:

          Hey will just recently picked up a dehydrator and jerky kit with gun. I was wondering why none of the recipes for jerky with sliced meat have no chemical cure? Is this only used when using ground meat? As you can tell I am as green as it gets with the jerky game but looking forward to getting started. Thank you for your time and words of jerky wisdom. KURT DOTY

          • Will
            Will says:

            Thanks for stopping by and congrats on the new kit Kurt! I would say about half of my whole meat jerky (sliced meat) recipes have cure in them. If the ingredients include “Prague Powder #1”, that is the cure I use. Maybe I need to list it as a cure in the ingredients… Thanks for the idea! Cure can be added to ANY of these recipes; sliced meat or ground meat. Some people do not like using cure when making jerky and that is why I do about half with cure and the other without. You can read some more about Jerky Safety & Cure Here.

  6. Bill says:

    Great tips for making jerky. I’m heading to the grocery store now to pick up some beef.


    P.S. Shouldn’t your shirt say Jerky instead of Hurley? ;D

    • Will
      Will says:

      I have not used any of those to make jerky. I use as lean as I can get, which the Beef Rounds are great for. If you do use any of the cuts you mentioned, let me know how they turn out!

    • M A says:

      Flat portion of a brisket make great jerky. The meat is not marbled, very lean once fat cap is trimmed.Slice diagonal, rather than across the grain. Tri-tip also makes excellent jerky. It is more marbled, but for me, fat is flavor. It doesn’t sit around long enough to go bad.

  7. Jeff says:

    Really good information here. I normally use eye of round as well, turns out great! For anyone out there looking for a super easy Teriyaki beef jerky, just marinade in 1 part Kikoman Teriyaki / 3 parts water. I also add a few ounces of soy sauce to balance the flavor. Let marinade sit 4 hours – 24 hours depending on how strong you want the flavor. I’ve had success with this many times and everyone loves the jerky! Have fun!

  8. Jerry says:

    My wife bought a chuck roast by accident. Most of the fat can be cut away. I will let you know how it goes. I don’t use any cure, but do store it in the freezer. The beef should be as fresh as possible.

  9. TB says:

    great info! We usually have the butcher slice the top round. but they sometimes get too thick or thin — any recommendation on what to tell them for the slicer setting?

  10. Helen says:


    Made your Bourbon Jerky…OMG! I also did some Turkey Teriyaki/Pineapple jerky with white breast meat turkey slice 1/4 “. It came out great. I used my Cajun Injector Electric Smoker with apple wood chips. I will be doing my second batch tomorrow. Doing Bourbon and a batch of Teriyaki Beef this go around. Also bottling my hard Apple Cider for Thanksgiving tomorrow! Thanks for the great tips!


  11. Richard martin says:

    A bit of an old hand at making beef jerky . My favorite is ” Hot teriyaki ” . ( raves from co-workers ) . Flank steak, partialy frozen and cut at about a 45 degree angle to give the slices some width .Dust with ” simply Asia ” dry rub , or dry ingredient spices such as ginger, garlic ,onion , etc. … chill for 2 hrs . In a rectangular pyrex dish layer strips evenly while pouring ” Mr. Yoshida’s ” brand teriyaki marinade until slightly covered . Sprinkle with dried red pepper evenly .Let marinate 8-12 hrs. Drain and arrange on dehydrator racks . @ 145 degrees for 12 hrs . Enjoy !

  12. smokermark says:

    Jerky lovers & experts…..
    I am new to making Jerky, and my 1st time was a hit. Would like to share so to invite the experts to chime in and offer areas of improvement and to take to the next level…..

    I Used Venison backstrap. Sliced to desired length and about 1/4″ thick. Marinated overnight in:
    Soy Sauce
    Jerky seasonings
    Barbecue sauce
    Hot pepper flakes
    Chopped Garlic
    Teriyaki Sauce
    Salt & Pepper
    I placed on an oven mesh grate and placed in my Traeger smoker. Let it go at about 150 degrees (smoke setting). for about 6 hours (believe I should have let it go a bit longer).
    Any helpful tips or recommendations are encouraged to make even better for the next batch.

    Thank you.

  13. Scott says:

    Ive used some cuts I dont see mentioned- Brisket and tri-tip. The flat portion of a trimmed brisket makes a great beefy flavorful jerky. There is a lot of lean meat under that fat cap. Tri-tip comes out with similar texture to brisket, but it does have interior marbling. A select grade, usually leaner still has some interior fat that lends to more beef flavor in my opinion. I refrigerate it and it keeps well. Delicious! Thanks for the recipes.

  14. Bill Likes says:

    I too am a first timer here and still green with the process. I’ve bought several cuts of beef during my 4 attempts..all cross cuts..bottom, top and eye of round, flank, top sirloin, t-bone, beef tenderloin, and pork tenderloin, ground and used a gun. Gun texture too undefined, bottom, top and flank to tough. Eye of round-maybe-if I went thicker? I think the t-bone got lost in the sirloin. Both tenderloins are tender but dang…there has to be a better way to better choice to get a texture that you can pick at it all day and not have sore jaws at night.
    If you are after tender, what’s the best answer with cross sliced beef? And to make it even more complicated, I also want it thicker than the 1/4″ cuts that I have done thus far.
    I have marinated with different Nesco seasoning and now have my own Prague powder to start making my own. Does the cure cause it to be more tough?
    Thanks in advance for your input

    • Will
      Will says:

      Hey Bill, thanks for stopping by. Sounds like you have really been testing everything out, that’s great! My favorite cut is the Eye of Round, but all the jerky I make is a little tough. If you eat enough, your jaw will hurt at night. Slicing against the grain of the meat really helps make the jerky softer, but it still can be kind of tough. I have not found that the cure makes the jerky tough, I feel like it actually makes it a little softer. You can try to slice it a little thicker, the meat might be a little more tender inside, just make sure to heat the jerky to 160F all the way through.

      • Bill Likes says:

        Thanks Will!
        I just finished mixing up my first batch of homemade marinated and cut some eye of round to a thicker 3/8″ (along with a lb of cubed steak just for the fun of it)
        I was hoping to tap into this wealth of knowledge to make sure I’m not doing something out of bounds.

        My marinade includes among other things, soy, olive oil, wine vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar and spice, but no cure ….yet.
        I plan to let the 5 lbs of meat sit in the sauce for 24 hours as a “tenderizer” then remove the liquid, reserving 2 cups so I can then add 1 tsp of Prague #1 and return it to the beef for 48 hours.
        Then into the dehydrator, but this time set the temp to 130 for about 2 hours, then increase to 160 for 2 hours, then back to 130 until done. (I’m guessing 7 to 10 hours total) My amateur thought is the longer times may result in a somewhat more tender jerky. Is this a total waste of time or unsafe process?
        Thanks guys

  15. Bill says:

    I gotta say… this batch is fantastic. It’s not something you would eat in bulk,more like a dessert after feasting all day on the heard

  16. Joe says:

    If fat is so bad for jerky, what about bacon jerky? You know there’s fat in that. Doesn’t the fat go rancid and bad like in beef jerky?

  17. Harry says:

    Hey Will –

    Thanks so much for for the immensely helpful tutorials and recipes!

    I was curious if you ever bought round when on sale, sliced it up, vacuum sealed it, and froze it for future recipes. Fairly good sale ($2.99/lb) on large slabs of bottom round going on now where I am and I’m tempted to buy several. Thanks!

    • Will
      Will says:

      No problem, glad you are enjoying the site! I have not sliced it up and froze it; but I have bought rounds, vacuum sealed, and then defrosted later to make jerky. I also freeze my venison in 2-3lb roasts, then defrost and slice. It works great! $2.99/lb is hard to beat, would be a great idea to stock up!

      • Harry says:

        Just chopped up 50 lbs of bottom round and vacuum sealed and froze about 30 – the refrigerated part will be used over the next couple of days. Discovered another place has Sirloin Tip for $2.89/lb for the next week, so my freezer may get even more full if I don’t eat all my chili lime!

  18. jack burton says:

    A great piece of meat to make jerky with is rabbit flanks. These are the two side pieces that come from the belly when you butcher a rabbit. They are about the size of a hand, and are thin enough to not need any further slicing. They are about as lean as you can get. If you know someone who raises and butchers rabbits see if you can get about a dozen or so flanks to try out.

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