Smoked Beef Jerky

Dr. Pepper and Jalapeno Beef Jerky

I LOVE beef jerky. Scratch that. EVERYONE in our house loves beef jerky.

We used to make it once in a while using ground beef and packaged seasoning/cures. Nothing adventurous, but tasty and somewhat satisfying, nonetheless. No judgement here.

I’ve tried a couple of times in the past to make jerky from cuts of beef, hoping one day to capture the essence of those road trip staples. My favourite has always been the sweet heat types, my wife leans towards classic teriyaki. I’ll get to that one later. This one’s for me.

Having finally entered the world of pellet smokers, after a long, sordid tale of woe that was 2021 and chip shortages and everything shortages and giving up and then getting a call out of the blue, I decided it was time to take the plunge.

The Pit Boss 1150 Pro arrives at Chez Chris. If you’re confused at what it’s sitting in, that’s the still incredibly rare 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

So, I did my homework. I watched a PILE of videos. Read a bunch of websites. I kept hitting posts about Dr. Pepper jerky and was intrigued. Dr. Pepper and jalapenos? Sounded like a sweet heat style jerky to my brain.

The best sounding recipe I found was on heygrillhey.com. Seriously, that site is AMAZING if you like to smoke stuff. I started with their recipe as my base, and a couple of batches later, made a few tweaks to it.

One RIDICULOUSLY IMPORTANT NOTE before you begin! Boiling the marinade to reduce is important to concentrating the flavour. Some recipes I came across that don’t do this comment how they felt the flavour was lacking. BUT – and this is the ridiculously important part – DO NOT add the jalapenos until you have finished reducing the liquids! Otherwise, you’re in for a world of hurt as you essentially pepper spray your entire home.

In all seriousness. Don’t even put the sliced peppers in the same pot before starting. I made that mistake on my last batch and just the few seeds and bit of juice left on the pan from contact with the sliced peppers caused some coughing and burning in the kitchen. Wait until the reducing is over and add the peppers once you turn off the heat. It will be just fine. Lots of flavour and plenty of heat will still come through.

Anyway, you’ve been warned. And will be again.

Your tastes may vary, so adjust to your liking. This is the mix that’s basically perfection for my taste buds. My early tests were a little unbalanced – more heat than sweet. Adding the molasses to the mix made all the difference!

Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky

The sweetness and spices of Dr. Pepper meet the warm heat of jalapenos in a sweet and spicy smoked beef jerky that will disappear as fast as you can make it.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time4 hrs
Marinade Time12 hrs
Total Time18 hrs
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef, Dr. Pepper, jalapeno, jerky, marinade, Pit Boss, smoked
Author: Chris Pollard

Equipment

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp Knife
  • Sauce pan
  • Measuring cups
  • Wire whisk
  • Sealed Container (for marinating)
  • Cooling racks (enough for your meat)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb Beef Roast eye of round is best, but other LEAN cuts work fine, like top sirloin. They just may need more trimming before slicing.

The Marinade

  • 4 cups Dr. Pepper a 1L bottle is perfect
  • 4-5 jalapeno peppers thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp Kosher salt coarse
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic heaping
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp minced/grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tbsp fancy molasses

Instructions

Prepare the marinade

  • Put a large saucepan over medium heat. You could try a medium one, but may regret it if you're not careful. Details to follow.
  • Add the Dr. Pepper to the saucepan. ("the pan" from here on.)
  • CAREFULLY add the kosher salt. If you're using a medium pan, do this very slowly – as soon as the salt hits the soda it will rapidly decarbonate. Much like popping the top off a shaken pop bottle. You have been warned.
  • Add all other ingredients EXCEPT THE JALAPENOS to the pan.
  • Wisk everything together and turn the heat up to medium-high until you reach a rolling boil. Then bring the heat down enough to maintain the boil without things getting too violent in the pan.
  • Let the mixture reduce by about half, whisking occasionally. For me, this takes about 15 minutes.
  • Once reduced, remove from heat and NOW add the jalapenos.
  • Cool the marinade down to at least room temperature. It needs to be cooled before you can add any meat, or it will cook the beef, which is not what we want.

Prepare the beef

  • Trim any excess fat, silver skin, gristle, or any bits you do not want in your final product. With an eye of round, you generally only have to worry about the outside of the roast. When I used a sirloin, I had to trim out some silver skin and connective tissue from between sections of the roast. Do the work now for the best results.
  • Thinly slice the roast – ⅛" to ¼" thick is a good target. Try to keep it as consistent as possible. But if it's a little uneven, no worries. You'll be monitoring and pulling meat as it's finished anyway. It helps if you partially freeze the roast before slicing.

Make magic happen

  • In a sealable container, could be a bowl, even large Ziploc bags will work if you're not worried about leaking in your fridge, add the COOLED marinade and all of your beef slices. I have a couple of FoodSaver vacuum marinating containers that I use for this. I do a couple of vacuum cycles to get air out, then leave them under vacuum overnight. You don't need these though. A Ziploc bag will do the job.
    FoodSaver marinade containers
  • Work the beef into the marinade. Make sure the slices are separated and fully submerged in the marinade to maximize contact.
  • Put your beef in the fridge overnight. 12 to 16 hours is what I've done, and I found no real difference in flavour past 12 hours. I've been prepping one night and smoking the next day.

Roll smoke!

  • Make sure your grill is cleaned and ready to start up.
  • Go through your smoker's start-up procedure. I generally start at 300° and then drop back to 'Smoke' mode on the 1150PS2 controller, which is 180°.
  • Remove your beef slices from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and lay out on cooling racks in a single layer. This makes it much easier to move them around, flip them, etc. as you go. The more space you can put between the meat, the better. On my 1150 Pro, I can fit 6 racks across the upper and lower grills.
  • Smoke the meat! I normally do my first check at around an hour and a half. This is time to flip the jerky on the racks, rotate the racks in the grill, etc. Most pellet grills are hotter on the chimney side, and mine is no different. Front-to-back can vary too, so I'll normally rotate the racks 180° and move the rack from the left side to the right, right to the left, and leave the middle ones where they are.
  • Check on the jerky in another 35-45 minutes. Rotate as needed. Remove any pieces that are done. Doneness takes some experience to know well, but generally you want to bend the meat in half and have it NOT snap. If it snaps, it's over-done. It should bend, and you should see it looking dry and firm all the way through. You will probably start seeing some oils come out of the meat too.
  • To speed things up slightly, you can up the heat to around 200°.
  • As the pieces of jerky are done, remove them from the smoker to a sealable storage container/Ziploc bag. But DO NOT seal them until they have cooled. If using a Ziploc, just leave the bag open until everything is cool. Otherwise you can end up with soggy jerky. If you WANT soft jerky, you could always seal it up and let it steam a bit. Your call. I prefer harder jerky. That's the joy of making it yourself.
  • It should store for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but let's be real, it won't last more than a couple of days unless you have superhuman willpower.

Notes

Please, please, PLEASE DO NOT boil the jalapeno slices in the marinade when you are reducing it. You will very, very quickly live to regret your decision! Although, I suppose if you’re doing it outdoors, on a grill side burner, and really hate your neighbours … well, that’s your call.
You have been warned! Repeatedly. 

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