Home » Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky

Slicing your meat when making making beef jerky is where you get to decide whether you want a chewy jerky or a more tender jerky. Here you will learn the different ways of slicing meat so you can get the best feel and taste out of your jerky!

Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky

So hopefully at this point you have decided what type of meat to use when making your homemade beef jerky, now you just need to trim and slice it! If you haven’t picked a cut of beef yet, visit my page on Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky.

First, trim any visible fat from your cut of meat. Here is a lean Beef Eye of Round Roast before trimmed.

Eye of Round Roast

Use a sharp knife to cut away any fat. Fat makes beef jerky spoil faster, so it is best to trim as much as you can now to prevent your jerky from going bad.

Trimming Fat

There are a couple different ways to slice meat for beef jerky that will make a huge impact on the final result.

You have probably heard about the “grain” of meat; and depending on how you cut in regards to the grain will affect the texture of your jerky. The simplest explanation is:

  • Slicing WITH the grain = Chewy / Tough Jerky
  • Slicing AGAINST the grain = Less Chewy / Soft Jerky

So what exactly is the “grain” of meat? The grain of meat refers to the direction the muscle fibers run within a piece of meat. Okay, so how do you know what direction the muscle fibers run?

You will be able to see the lines of fibers that run parallel to each other along a cut of meat. In the picture below, the fibers are running vertically from bottom to top.

Eye of Round with Grain Instructions

Slicing in the SAME direction of the fibers is called “slicing WITH the grain”. The 3 slices of meat seen above were sliced WITH the grain at about a 1/4″ thick. As mentioned earlier, slicing with the grain will produce a more chewy / tougher piece of jerky.

In the picture below you will see the blue arrows again showing the direction of the grain of the meat. When slicing the meat perpendicular to the direction of the grain (in the direction of the black arrows), you will be slicing AGAINST the grain. Again, as mentioned earlier; this will produce a softer / less chewy piece of jerky.

Slicing Against the Grain

Below is an example of slicing AGAINST the grain.

Slicing Against the Grain

This is what a slice of meat looks like when it is cut against the grain at about 1/4″ thick. You can see that the muscle fibers are running in several directions. This makes the jerky easier to tear apart and less tough.

Sliced Against the Grain

***Jerky Slicer***

You can also use a jerky slicer when cutting up beef jerky meat. I use a Westin Jerky Slicer to get even sized strips which is fantastic when drying your jerky. Since the strips are the exact same size, they dry evenly. This means no more pulling several pieces of jerky off the dehydrator and leaving other pieces on to keep drying because they are a little thicker.

 

Jerky Slabs

To use the Westin Slicer, cut the roast in 1 1/4″ slabs and feed it through the machine. A couple turns of the handle feeds the piece of meat through and it slices it with ease. Just feed the slabs through the slicer either with the grain or against the grain to achieve your favorite chew!

Westin Jerky Slicer

 

***What if you like a piece of jerky that isn’t so tough your jaw hurts from chewing, but also isn’t so soft you don’t get that great beef jerky chew? TENDERIZE!***

Slice the meat WITH the grain and tenderize with a meat mallet (beat the hell out of it with the pyramid pointed side). This will break up the muscle fibers and make the jerky a little less chewy. (This will give you a chew not as tough as if you sliced only with the grain and not as soft as slicing only against the grain) That’s what I did when making my Brown Sugar Beef Jerky.

Brown Sugar Jerky Marinade

I hope this has helped you decide how to slice your beef for making beef jerky. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below! Happy Jerky Making!!!

You Might Also Like:

Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky

How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator

How Long Does Beef Jerky Stay Good?

40 comments

  1. John Blando says:

    Thanks for the info..against the grain makes the most sense..I’m new to making jerky and i have an old round dehydrator..I’m still experimenting..different marinades and cuts of beef..I feel bad though..just ruined a two pound piece of tip by leaving ot in too long..live and learn huh?

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    Thanks for the great post. So you are saying cutting WITH the grain and tenderizing will lead to more tender jerky than cutting against the grain.

  3. Tania says:

    Great info. I’ve never made jerky before, and I want to try this weekend. I don’t have a dehydrator, so I’m going to do a small batch, slow cooked in the oven. wish me luck.

  4. Roger Williams says:

    Will thanks for making me crave jerky .. Walking out the door to go too Walmart and buy a dehydrator, meat ,and all the ingredients to make damn jerky this weekend …

  5. Philippe says:

    Hi Will, and thanks for the great info on your site. I am a bit concerned that slicing eye of road against the fiber might produce very large slices. If I start slicing against the grain to keep the cut tender, will I ruin the effort by cutting the slices into strips? I guess cutting slices into strips comes down to doing the last cut with the grain.
    Any advice on how to manage create tender strip in regard to sequence of cutting?

    • Will
      Will says:

      If you slice against the grain and get a very large piece, slicing that large piece in a strip will NOT ruin the effort of making it less tender. You will notice that when you go to slice a “large slice that was cut against the grain” into a strip, with the normal shape of a eye of round, you will not be cutting with the grain but simply only cutting that slice into smaller strips. Once you cut a slice against the grain, the grain now runs lengthwise ONLY as thick as your slice was cut, normally 1/4″. With the grain in a piece only running 1/4″, it will not be chewy no matter how you slice it into strips. This was extremely hard to describe! Once you go to cutting your slices, it will all make sense… Thanks for the question Philippe!

  6. Gary Guagenti says:

    What a great place for Jerky Lovers! Thanks so much for your advice. I have just learned more about making jerky in 5 minutes than I learned in a lifetime!

  7. Ed says:

    Hello.. I’ve been making jerky for about six months now and find I’m making a batch every weekend. The beef I’ve been using is top round which I’ve been buying from a local butcher who slices it on a ban saw. Because they are slicing it, they charge a premium for it. I started researching electric slicers (I want the uniform thickness) and found slicers with both serrated and non-serrated blades. Can you recommend a blade type that’s not going to destroy the texture of the beef? Thanks in advance.

    • Will
      Will says:

      I can not recommend one at this time. I hand cut all of my meat and do not use slicers because of so many bad reviews I’ve found when researching them. I might buy 2 or 3 here in the near future and do my own testing on them, but have not used one as of yet. Sorry I couldn’t help. If you get one, let me know which one and how well it works!

  8. Jerry says:

    I made jerky with bottom round. It was cut against the grain but was very tough. Did I dry it too long?. Thanks! I enjoy your website. BTW, I keep my jerky in the freezer. Jerry

    • Will
      Will says:

      Hey Jerry. I wouldn’t think that it would come out too tough if it was cut against the grain. I would use eye of round (my favorite) and tenderize it with a meat mallet before marinating. This should definitely make it more tender. I am not sure if you over dried it. Just because it is tough doesn’t mean it is over dried. I’m glad you like the site! Thanks for coming by and checking it out!

      • Jim says:

        I used eye of round, sliced against the grain, tenderized it with a meat mallet, cooked in a dehydrator at 145 degrees for 6 hours, and it came out very tough. Is this from cooking too long bad cut of meat or what? Thanks, enjoy your web site

        • Will
          Will says:

          You might have dried it too long. Make sure to start testing it at about the 4 hour mark. When you test it, take a piece out of the dehydrator and let it cool for 5 minutes before seeing if it is finished. Check out my page on making jerky in a dehydrator for a little more information.

  9. Anne says:

    Fantastic information, love the explination about grain, I’ve always been a bit confused. I have an old round dryer too like a coment above. It’s phamlet said to cook the meat first, which I do in but wonder now about patting it dry and then just putting on dryer. Your thoughts!
    Thanks for this site, I am trying the teriyaki today and love that I have more recipe options now.

    • Will
      Will says:

      Hey Anne! I have had this question a couple times before, so I put it an answer on the FAQ Page. Check out the answer to your question there and then make sure to let me know how your jerky turned out!

  10. Charles Wersal says:

    I found slicing with the grain is more popular with the commercial makers of beef jerky. I have tried both cross grain and with the grain. I think my cross grain does
    get more flavor from the marinade than the with grain but I don’t care for the
    texture of the cross grain I have been making jerky in my oven for over 20 years.
    !50 degrees for about 8 hours. I just bought a food dehydrator yesterday and am
    going to try it.

    • Will
      Will says:

      Everyone has their favorite flavors and textures, it’s all about finding what works for you! Let me know how the dehydrator works out for you.

  11. john says:

    All commercially produced jerky that you find in the store is tender. You know those producers don’t take the special slicing and marinating steps that you are emphasizing, so there must be other means for tenderizing their product?

    • Will
      Will says:

      You are 100% correct John. I am trying to figure out how they get their meat so tender. If you figure it out, let me know! This is my #1 goal right now…

      • robert says:

        Another natural way to tenderize meat is kiwi and other acidic fruits fruits. experiment with these methods and you’ll be surprised how effective they are. I’m sure in commercial environments they are using some chemicals that produce the same effects. Acid breaks down the fibers in meat. I find rubbing it with kiwi and letting it sit with the juices does very well. You can even over do it so try different time amounts to get it to your liking.

  12. Mac McAtee says:

    Jerry, new to your blog. Thank you for doing this.

    Got a question about slicing. What if you took your eye of round, cut it across the grain in 1 1/4″ thick cuts. You’d end up with roughly four disks of meat. Then you take each disk and laying flat on the cutting board, slice your 1/4″ strips for jerky off each disk.

    That would give you 1 1/4″ wide strips with the grain running across the narrow direction. It would be less tough than grain running lenght wise and more chewy that cutting slices across the grain.

    Have you ever done it that way? Any comments?

  13. jack pretts says:

    Will,

    You really do not want to know how the commercial store bags at 1.5 oz are made.

    Most is made by grinding and they use high pressure compression to give it a chew. Worked in the business for a while.

    What you are sharing on this blog is awesome. I have 17 lbs of eor chilling for slicing. Going to be a busy weekend.

    Jack

  14. Jenifer Moore says:

    Hi Will, Your website is awesome! Often I end up eating jerky for a meal at work which can get exspensive with store bought jerky so I am going for broke with all your advice. I have 1 question: tho it will take longer to dry I suppose, I LOVE thick jerky and was thinking a Costco tenderloin cut in 1/2″ thick strips rather than 1/4 or 1/8. Ever tried that thickness? Any additional advice? Hoping this isn’t a jerky sacrilege!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Glad you are enjoying the site Jenifer! You can totally do 1/2″ thick strips, and yes it will take longer to dry. Tenderloin tends to be a pretty lean meat and should be good for jerky. Normally it is not used because it is expensive and jerky is made out of “cheap” cuts of meat. But go for it! Let me know how it turns out…

      • Jenifer says:

        I took your advice and went with the Top Round (much cheaper) did a small batch and OMG its good but I I did your Post Treatment in the oven after and THAT made it PERFECT. You know you stuff Will. Thank you! I didn’t know how to add a picture here but put it on one of you Pinterest pins- they’re beautiful!

  15. Dave says:

    Glad I found this site!. Been making amazing jerky for years and used bottom round, sliced at the store. Mine has been cut with grain, chewy, hickory smoke and peppercorn. Flavor lasts a long time in mouth.
    Going to try Eye o round against grain and a mesquite smoke flavor or a sweet sticky tender teriyaki.
    I just got a slicer and my jerky world just got bigger! Great info! Thanks.

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