What is the Best Cut of Meat for Making Beef Jerky?

The best cuts of meat for beef jerky are Top Round, Bottom Round, Lifter and Pectoral, but a variety of cuts can be used such as Flank Steak and Skirt Steak. These cuts of beef check all the boxes for beef jerky—economical, lean, and full of flavor.

Our family has been handcrafting beef jerky for over 90 years and four generations. We're proud to be LA's Original Beef Jerky. We’re happy to share pro tips on selecting the best meat for beef jerky.  

List of Beef Cuts for Beef Jerky

Top Round

Top Round
  • Also Known As: Inside Round Steak, London Broil
  • From the Round Primal. Excellent source of economical, lean, and large cuts great for beef jerky. This is the most popular cut for commercial jerky makers.
  • Extra Lean, Little to No Intramuscular Marbling, Less Flavorful, Less Tender, Less Expensive 

Bottom Round

Bottom Round
  • Also Known As: Bottom Round Oven Roast, Round Roast
  • From the Round Primal. The bottom round tends to be tougher than the top round, but still works great for jerky.
  • Extra Lean, Little to No Intramuscular Marbling, Less Flavorful, Less Tender, Less Expensive 

Eye of Round

Eye of Round
  • From the Round Primal. Similar in shape to the Tenderloin, but much less tender. The name comes from the elongated muscle located in the center of the Round.
  • Extra Lean, Little to No Intramuscular Marbling, Less Flavorful, More Tender, More Expensive 

Sirloin Tip

Sirloin Tip
  • Also known as: Knuckle, Round Tip
  • From the Round Primal. Less popular but a great option for jerky.
  • Extra Lean, Little to No Intramuscular Marbling, More Flavorful, Less Tender, Little More Expensive

Lifter Meat

Lifter Meat.
  • Also Known As: Blade Meat, Cap and Wedge Meat
  • From the Rib Primal. Removed from the outside of the rib.
  • Medium Leanness, Medium Intramuscular Marbling, Flavorful, More Tender, Slightly More Expensive 

Flank Steak

Flank Steak
  • Also Known As: Beef Flank, Plank Steak
  • From the Flank Primal. Lean cut with long grains. Name comes from the flank area of the animal.
  • Lean, Little Intramuscular Marbling, Very Flavorful, Less Tender, Even More Expensive  

Pectoral Meat

Pectoral Meat
  • Also Known As: Special Trim
  • From the Chuck Primal. Portion of the Brisket. Also called Special Trim.  
  • Medium Leanness, Medium Intramuscular Marbling, Flavorful, More Tender, Less Expensive 

Criteria for Choosing a Cut of Meat for Beef Jerky

There are many options available to you and we want to make sure you select the best choice for beef jerky. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to choosing a cut of meat. But here are some general guidelines.

Reduce Fat Content 

One of the first and most important criteria for selecting a cut of beef for jerky making is the fat content. You want to select a cut that has the least amount of fat possible.

Due to its composition, fat cannot be fully dehydrated. The presence of excess fat in a batch of jerky can cause the jerky to turn rancid and spoil at a quicker rate. The selection of a cut of meat with minimal fat will ensure a long and safe shelf life. 

If you'll be enjoying the jerky immediately after cooking or within a few days, you can get away with a slightly fattier cut of meat.

Intramuscular versus Intermuscular Fat

It's important to consider both intramuscular and intermuscular fat.

Intramuscular fat, also known as marbling, runs between the muscle fibers and cannot be removed. It contributes rich flavor and helps keep the finished jerky tender and juicy. This is the goal when selecting meat for jerky.

Intermuscular fat, on the other hand, exists around the protein. It should be removed before the jerky making process. To make life easier, focus on cuts of beef that have minimal to no intermuscular fat.

While cuts of beef with more marbling are excellent for other uses, it's best to select a cut of beef with minimal fat content. You want to make jerky that will last.

Choose Economical Cuts

Always buy fresh, high quality beef. 

You don’t have to buy the fanciest cuts of beef. In fact, we don’t recommend it. The beauty of the jerky process is it turns tougher cuts of meat into tender jerky. While jerky made from fancy cuts sounds good in theory, it’s a poor use of the meat. 

Save your filet mignon, ribeye, and prime rib for the fancy steak house.

Tips for Buying Meat for Beef Jerky

Sliced Beef Jerky Meat Top Round Raw

Buy Fresh Meat

Only buy fresh meat. Do not buy expired meat or even meat that is nearing its expiration date. The fresher the better. Avoid meat with dark spots, any off smells, or cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. 

The beauty of making beef jerky home is that you have full control. Make sure to inspect each piece of meat to ensure you are getting exactly what you want.  

Buy Sufficient Amounts

Also, keep in mind that you will lose anywhere between 50 – 75% of the original weight during the dehydration process. Make sure to buy a sufficient amount of meat. A good rule of thumb is 3 to 1. Every three pounds of raw meat will transform into 1 pound of jerky. 

Make Friends with Your Butcher

Make friends with your local butcher. He or she can be an excellent resource for all your jerky making adventures. 

You can have your butcher pre-slice the beef for you. This will save you a step of the jerky making process. With a commercial slicer, your butcher can slice the beef into uniform slices to your exact specs. This will ensure that the jerky cooks evenly in your oven, a very important part of jerky making at home.

Know Your Cuts and Keep an Eye on Sales

Once you know the cuts, you can keep an eye on weekly specials and sales. Big box stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club are also a great place to shop for meat for beef jerky. They offer great prices in larger quantities.  

Miscellaneous Jerky Meat Questions

People's Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky

Can you make beef jerky out of Filet Mignon?

Absolutely. You can make beef jerky out of any cut of beef, in theory. While this might be a fun and novel idea, we think Filet Mignon cooked to medium rare is the best option. Stick to the recommended cuts of beef such as Top Round, Bottom Round, Lifter, Pectoral, Flank Steak, and Skirt Steak

Can you make beef jerky out of ground beef or ground meat?

Whole muscle beef jerky is much easier to make, but you can also make beef jerky out of ground beef. You can form patties or strips by hand or use a jerky gun device

Can you make beef jerky out of tri tip?

Trip tip makes for a fantastic cut of meat for jerky. It’s on the more expensive side, but it has the leanness factor that you’re looking for when it comes to jerky. 

What’s the best cut of beef for tender jerky?

Cuts of beef that have more intramuscular marbling make more tender jerky. Lifter or pectoral meat are great options. The cut of beef can make a difference in the tenderness of the end jerky. But the processing technique will have an even bigger impact.

Can you make jerky with other proteins such as venison, turkey, and pork?

Absolutely. You can make jerky from a variety of protein sources. Read more about the different types of jerky

Bottom Line

People's Choice Beef Jerky Big Slab Top Round Raw Jerky

Making jerky at home is a challenging but very rewarding experience.  One of the more important steps in the process is selecting the cut of beef. The best part of making beef jerky at home is you have full control over the process. Plus, you can experiment on a smaller scale. Let us know your favorite cut of meat for jerky! 

Are you curious about how the different cuts transform into jerky? buy some of our artisan-crafted jerky today!

Try Top Round which is used for our Classic Line.

Try Lifter Meat which is used for our Old Fashioned Line.

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