DIY Everything: Make Your Own Jerky and Other Road/Trail Snacks

How to make your own beef jerky and other road trip snacks

Road trip time? Road trip time. The weather is beautiful, things are finally starting to open back up, and there are still so many sights to see! So you’ve got your gear loaded up, bags packed, children wrangled and strapped in, what about some snacks for the road?

I mean, sure, you could load up on some greasy gas station food along the way, but with a little planning ahead of time you can save some cash, and not be completely weighed down with heavy junk food. So here are a few great road snacks that you can make yourself that won’t completely weigh you down when it comes time to set up camp or hike.

Make Your Own Beef Jerky

I have an addiction. It drains me of way too much money and I just. Can’t. Stop. Hi, my name is Garrett, and I’m a jerkyholic.

But it’s OK, I found a way to deal with my affliction, or at least prevent it from costing me so much damn money. I started making my own jerky last year and now it’s hard to stomach the in-store prices. The other thing that I like about making my own is I can leave out all the sugar that the big brands completely pack their jerky with sugar and harsh nitrites for preservation.

What You Need:

  • An oven, smoker, or dehydrator
  • 1-gallon ziplock bags
  • 24 hours of time


Beef jerky preparation

Note that I use beef primarily, but you can subsitute in venison, pork, mushrooms, or your meat substitute of choice. For beef, you really just want to get the leanest cuts you can find. London broil, eye of round, and top round are most common.

You want to cut out as much fat from the cuts as you possibly can. Fat doesn’t dehydrate well, and will cause the jerky to spoil sooner than it otherwise would. Slice the beef into ~1/4th inch width slices for best dehydration potential.

ProTip: Throw your beef in the freezer for an hour before you start cutting it up, that will give the beef a little structure and really allow you to make precise, precision cuts. Work smarter, not harder!

The Recipes:

Here are a few recipes that I’ve come up with. If you’re looking for more, you can shoot me an email and ask!

Habanero IPA Jerky:

  • 2 lbs london broil
  • 1/2 cup dry ipa (brown ales and stouts work great too)
  • 1/2 cup worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup soy
  • 1 large jalapeno
  • 1-2 habaneros (I do 3-4 sometimes)
  • 1 tbsp red pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp onion
  • Optional: If you want to add to the shelf life of your jerky and a little sweetness:
    • 1 tsp curing salt (Prague power #1)\
    • 2 tbsp honey

For this recipe you can either mince the peppers or throw them in a blender to puree them. Either way, you get little dehydrated chunks of pepper on the jerky that is just delicious.

Street Taco Jerky:

  • 2 lbs london broil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy
  • 1/3 cup worcestershire
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp chipotle tabasco
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/4 onion
  • Pepper the beef lightly on the tray before dehydrating
  • Optional:
    • 1 tsp curing salt (Prague power #1)

The Process:

  1. Cut all vegetables and combine them in a bowl or blender
  2. Cut out all visible fat and silverskin
  3. Slice meat in 1/4″ slices (cut against the grain to make for easy bites)
  4. Combine the sliced beef with the marinade in a 1-gallon ziplock bag
  5. Let the marinade sit in the fridge for 10-24 hours (I usually do overnight)
  6. Lightly dab the jerky to remove excess marinade before placing on the tray (optional)
  7. Dehydrate the jerky (more on this below)
  8. The jerky is done when the meat bends and cracks, but does not break in half. It should be a consistent color all the way through, no pink

Note on shelf life: Without using preserving salt, this jerky will have a shelflife of about 1-2 weeks unrefrigerated and around 3-4 weeks refrigerated – assuming you dehydrated it fully. Less fat = longer shelf life. You can use dessicant packets and vacuum sealing to extend this.

Using a Dehydrator:

Using a dehydrator to make beef jerky

I use a Nesco 5-tray dehydrator, it’s cheap and works fantastic for small batches. Run the dehydrator on 160 degrees for 4-5 hours depending on your cuts. While you’re getting the hang of it, it’s not a bad idea to keep checking on your beef as it dries to see how it’s coming along.

Using an oven:

If you don’t want to have to buy a dehydrator (I recommend it), you can also dehydrate the beef using an oven — but only if it goes down as low as 160-170 degrees F! Any higher than this, and you’re cooking the beef, not dehydrating it.

It may take you a few tries to get the process down, but I was able to make some damn tasty jerky even on my first attempt! Once you get the hang of it, you can mess around with different recipes, and I definitely suggest searching for what other people are using for their jerky, there’s a lot of good info out there!

Making Frito Pie:

Making frito pie

OK, so while beef jerky is plenty healthy, this uhh, this might not be quite as good for you. But it’s a lot of fun to make (especially for kids) and makes for a great snack at camp! Frito Pie got its start down in Mexico, but made it’s way across the border and has blown up in popularity around the southwest US.

It’s basically a bag of Fritos with chili, cheddar cheese, fresh onions, jalapenos, and whatever else you want to throw in there. I’ve seen a few people even use brisket, which has my mouth watering even as I write this.

Chili recipe (serves 6):

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 4-oz can of green chilis
  • 1 medium chopped white onion
  • 3 minced cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Serving Instructions:

Open the bags and pour in chili, top with cheddar cheese, fresh chopped onion, jalapenos, and even some sour cream to taste. Eat with a spoon, or even with your hands if you really feel like getting nice and messy (wait for the chili to cool, of course)

What do you like to bring as a roadtrip snack? Any questions on any part of the process? Drop a comment below!

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Garrett Davis
Garrett has something of a sickness when it comes to cars, working on everything from Jeeps, to sports cars, to over-engineered German nightmares. Currently he is embroiled in an Audi Allroad offroad project, and is slowly losing his grasp on sanity.


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