Homemade Beef Jerky & Hamilton Beach® Food Dehydrator Review

Not all counter-top appliances were created equal. When I first started cooking I was all about getting a hold of the latest gadgets and gizmos for my kitchen. The flip-able pancake pan? Check! The active-fry minimum oil fryer? Sign me up! A combination sandwich maker, coffee brewer, and pizza oven? Yes! Yes! Yes!

What I soon learned was that more kitchen appliances is not the merrier. The pancake maker never made great pancakes. When you flip the pan over, the side that had been face up is stone cold and is no position to been cooking your pancake. The minimum-oil french fry maker takes up half the counter space in the kitchen, takes an hour to make french fries, and they taste like, well, french fries that took an hour and weren’t made with any oil. So, yes, as a consumer I often get excited by the late night tv ads showing “must have” products du jour. But sometimes all you need to cook pancakes is a frying pan; and sometimes you need to fry your damn french fries in oil or don’t have french fries to begin with.

All of this is to tell you, I don’t like collecting kitchen appliances for the sake of having them. I’ve learned my lesson over the years. So many appliances collect dust in my basement until I finally give them away. So, when I tell you I can’t live without my food dehydrator – I’m speaking from a place of self-awareness. I’ve fallen for many a pretty juice maker and set of Ginsu knives.

Beef jerky is simply one of the greatest snacks ever invented. It’s beef. It’s delicious. It doesn’t need refrigerating. My kids LOVE it. And did I mention it’s beef? Beef you can travel with in your pockets.

Making beef jerky at home without a dehydrator is not impossible. I’ve made the recipe below in the past without one. You can turn your oven really low and use that but the temperature isn’t quite low enough and the beef cooks as much as it dries out. For me this sometimes results in moldy beef jerky a week after it’s made. An expensive investment with the current price of beef. I’ve also made jerky by rigging up a box fan and laundry basket, drying the beef out in my own mini wind tunnel. But it takes some work, and my wife curses me out every time she goes to fold socks and the laundry basket smells like a butcher’s shop…


The beauty of a food dehydrator is that it’s multi-layered (meaning you can do a lot of beef at one time), and it does one thing and does it damn well. It slowly dries your beef in a safe environment and ensures perfect results every time. That leaves you time to dream up ways of hiding the delicious results from your kids.  My Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator has five stackable layers with continuous airflow and an adjustable thermometer. So there is no need to rotate the beef or babysit it. I set it and come back four hours later to see how things are progressing.



4 pounds lean brisket – have your butcher thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips. Meat slices should be no more than 1/4 inch thick.
1 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon honey
4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large zip-lock bag and mix to incorporate all of the ingredients. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 6 hours.
  2. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Place beef slices in a single layer on the first tray, leaving space around each slice for proper drying. Fill trays with remaining beef slices.
  4. Stack trays on base with the top tray last. Set the dehydrator to 160°F for 4 to 8 hours. Start checking beef for doneness at 4 hours and then every 30 minutes. Jerky is dry when you can bend it and and the top cracks, but the slice does not break.
  5. Pat jerky dry with a paper towel to remove any surface fats and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
  6. If jerky has been properly dried, cooled, and packaged, it may be stored up to 2 months in an airtight container at room temperature.


Photo credit: stalkerville.net

Colour Me Happy

Some of my favourite memories of grilling for my friends has been on the road. As a teenager at camp, sneaking into the woods to bbq in the middle of the night over an open fire. Grilling on camping trips with a portable grill in northern Ontario. And by far my favourite – grilling for the guys on the various sports trips I’ve taken to baseball and football stadiums across North America. Popping up a portable grill in a parking lot, cracking open a beer and throwing around a football at ten in the morning may not seem like your idea of nirvana from the outset. But throw in 50,000 hard core sports fans, a handful of your good friends and it really is one of the greatest experiences there is.

I remember one time in Buffalo it started raining so hard that we decided to grill in the trunk of my friend’s mom’s station wagon. A great solution at the time… but his mom’s car smelled of smoke for the next three years…

Or the time it was so freezing at an NFL game and my friend Daniel decided to warm his gloves on my grill. This normally would have been fine, except I was just in the process of burning off the build up on the grill over high heat and his gloves melted. I still have his handprints on the outside of my grill!

Or the time we popped up shop at an NFL game and decided to grill every single meat we could find at the butcher’s that day. We could barely roll ourselves to the game following the dozen or so courses of grilled delectables.

By far my favourite event every year has become the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game. The weather is always spotty, the football is somewhat entertaining, but the parking lot tailgate celebrations are bar none! The fans dress in team gear from head to toe and the parking lot is a sea of blue, silver and black.

Fortunately Weber has now come out with a line of portable grills in an array of colours that allow me to join the crowd and show my support with my grill colour. The Weber Q 1200 grill comes in numerous colours and provides 189″ of grill space. More than enough to fill space to grill up a feast for a hungry pack of travelling tailgaters. So this year that grill with the melted gloves on it can find its way to the back of the garage. I can’t wait to show off my blue and black portable Weber and make some new grilling memories!


KettlePizza: Increasing Facebook friend counts since 2010

PicMonkey Collage2

Every winter I wait patiently for summer to arrive. Not because I won’t grill through the winter – I’m happy to light up the barbie as much in the cold as I am during the summer months. Sure, it takes a little more bundling up and my wife is forever yelling at me for leaving my snowy boots on a small towel in the corner of our kitchen by the back door… but all-the-same I’m out there rain or shine, sleet or snow. Happily, stubbornly grilling my way through whatever mother nature can throw my way. However, there is no substitution for the glorious days of summer when the sun is high in the sky, the kids are playing in the backyard, the bbq is fired up, and we get to hang out with friends enjoying some good food.

This year in particular summer could not come quick enough. Back in December I bought myself a KettlePizza kit – an adapter to a standard Weber kettle grill that turns it into a backyard pizza oven. I’ve done pizza on the grill many, many times but am often faced with the challenge of keeping the heat in. A challenge as I constantly need to lift the lid to check on the pizzas and move them in and out of the bbq. Inevitably I end up with pizzas that are cooked on the bottom, but not quite done on top. The KettlePizza kit resolves this problem by adding a middle band to the kettle grill that acts as a pizza oven door and enables the heat to stay where you want it. There is no longer a need to lift the lid off the top. Brilliant. Beautiful wood-fire charred pizza beckoned… I just needed the snow to thaw.

This past Sunday I finally put the call out on Facebook. What better way to inaugurate my new pizza oven then an open invite to all of my friends to come by and sample my wares! I spent the better part of the day fine-tuning my pizza-making techniques. The KettlePizza was sublime in its simplicity and success was not difficult to achieve as soon as the grill was fired up. The steps were as easy as:

1) assemble the KettlePizza kit

2) light the charcoal and hard wood

3) wait for grill to reach “pizza” cooking temperature (approx 700 degrees)

4) Get grilling!

PicMonkey Collage

The KettlePizza paddle and pizza stone made feeding the pizzas in and out a breeze, and otherwise it was really just a matter of occasionally feeding the flames with some additional hardwood to keep the temperature at a high enough level. Charcoal alone can get the grill hot, but it’s the hardwood that pushes it up into the “pizza hot” stratosphere.

Over the course of the day I had a lot of people stop by and help, and even more people stop by and eat! We cranked out about 20 pizzas over the course of 3 hours and made some solid Grade-A wood-fired pizzas. Brushing garlic-butter and sprinkling Parmesan on the crust really helped propel my backyard pizzas to ridiculous levels. There’s nothing better than spending the afternoon hanging out with friends and sharing some good food. The KettlePizza removed all of the obstacles to making great pizza on a traditional grill and had very little fuss or muss to worry about so I could focus less on minding the grill and more on hanging out and enjoying some great food! I’ll definitely be putting out the “pizza signal” on Facebook again the next sunny Sunday I get.


image from SeriousEats.com

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