Once upon a time ago, packing for a road trip without a jerky of some sort was unthinkable. So prevalent was the salty sweet snack on these adventures, I had an almost Pavlovian salivating for the stuff the minute we hit the open road. It was, in fact, pretty much the only time we indulged in a large package of the sodium bomb treat.
But in more recent years I grew tired of the way I felt on such trips where a healthy meal is rarely achieved and any attempts at something raw and pure result in tasteless salads piled with fried croutons, cheese and tomatoes that make me want to cry. We've since worked hard to pack our own eats and better plan our destinations around places with promising provisions.
That said, I still love a good jerky and had always wanted to make my own. A sucker for the salty AND sweet, otherwise known as a "complete" snack, I decided to try making a bulgogi version. I dusted it with ground sesame, salt, and a bit of kochukaru for heat, but that is optional. And now I'm itchin' to go somewhere... —savorthis
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: The same cook who had us slurping the sauce off edamame has done it again and this time, she’s taken her talents to the road.
WHAT: A sweet, salty, and spicy jerky that’s better than anything you’ll find at a roadside rest stop.
HOW: Marinate sliced beef in the refrigerator overnight, sprinkle with ground salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and bake slow and low for 4 hours.
WHY WE LOVE IT: What snack could better satisfy a carload of hungry travelers than a batch of chewy, peppery jerky? With a little help from the Korean dish Bulgogi and a few wildcard ingredients (pear nectar, sake), this jerky achieves the perfect blend of sugar, salt, and spice. Plus, no crumbs! —The Editors
Place beef in freezer to firm up enough to slice very thinly (about 1/4"). Blend remaining ingredients except for salt, sesame seeds, black pepper, and kochukaru until smooth. Add beef to marinade stirring gently to make sure all is coated and marinate about 7 hours.
Heat oven to 200º F. Drain beef, blot dry with paper towels and place on a rack on top of a baking sheet. Grind the salt and sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle (you can use a spice grinder, just be sure not to turn the mixture into a paste). Sprinkle over beef, then grind fresh black pepper and add chili if desired.
Bake about four hours, rotating pans halfway through, until dried and jerky-like. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.