Food on a wooden cutting board

Make It Yourself: Beef Jerky, French Salad Dressing, Steak Sauce 

If your family loves beef jerky, French salad dressing and A-1 Steak Sauce as much as mine, you definitely need to learn how to make these grocery items yourself—cheaper and better!

Food on a wooden cutting board

Here’s the deal: If you can make it as good or better than its store-bought version for way less money, why not? Give these recipes a try. I’m going to bet that once you do, you won’t go back.

This recipe will make beef jerky better than anything you can you buy, and it is infinitely cheaper. Make sure you get the beef on sale and you’ll be under $5 a batch. A pound of store-bought quality beef jerky in my area runs anywhere from $24 to $40 a pound.

Beef Jerky

  • 1 pound very lean beef (chuck or round)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (or steak sauce, see below)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried onion flakes (or 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh onion)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Trim all visible fat from meat and freeze until firm and solid enough to slice into thin strips. Cut across the grain and make sure that the slices are thin, about 1/8-inch.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour liquid over meat. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 140 F. Remove meat from the marinade and place the strips on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at this very low temperature until strips are very dry and splinter on the edges (from 18 to 24 hours). Cool immediately before wrapping lightly in plastic wrap. Jerky will keep in a tightly covered container for 2 to 4 weeks. This recipe multiplies well. Yum!

NOTE: It might seem as though jerky should be stored like other dried food items. The shelf life of jerky is generous, but just like any other food item, jerky that is stored improperly will go bad. The best way to store jerky is to treat it like a fresh food item.Jerky can be stored in the refrigerator to be used within 6 months.

French Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse grind black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking often, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover the dressing until cool then place it in the refrigerator to chill. Yield: 1 cup dressing.

Steak Sauce

You’re going to swear this is the secret recipe for A-1 Steak Sauce. I can’t guarantee that it is, but I would not be a bit surprised. Don’t fret about the raisins. They will disappear and this sauce will be smooth as butter once pureed.

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over med heat. Boil, stirring continuously for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cool 10 minutes, dump mixture into blender and puree until completely smooth. Pour into a bottle or jar and cover tightly. Will last 3 months when stored in the refrigerator.

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9 replies
  1. UncommonSensesc says:

    I am definitely going to try this recipe for beef jerky; we have one that we usually used and that I’ve tweaked to get the taste we like but this sounds really good. We have 2 dehydrators that we’ve picked up at yard sales for $5 and $3, plus 4 extra trays that cost us $1 (I love a good yard sale!). On one we make our beef jerky and the other we use for fruits and vegetables. I don’t know who can afford a whole pound of beef jerky at the store and making our own just tastes better too. We usually let it marinade for at least 24 hours to be sure to get the best taste possible. I love this column and look forward to my daily email – thanks for doing this Mary!

  2. CLAIRE KIRK says:

    Chili-Lime sauce.
    A few years ago, El Pollo Loco came out with a Chicken Chili-Lime special that was outstanding! It was for a very short time, and to my knowledge, was never repeated, even though I have requested it many times.
    I recall that they would serve the regular flame BBQ’d chicken pieces and simply baste the pieces with the sauce before serving. If you could duplicate this recipe, I’d be one happy camper!

  3. Chris says:

    I would like a copycat recipe for Heinz Chili sauce,not make as needed but a canning recipe that would make enough to last for a year.

  4. Kayak Jack says:

    The answer to “crabbyoldlady’s” question is – most assuredly. Historically, a low, smokey fire was used to make jerky. Ancient man didn’t have gas ovens. So, a low, smokey fire did the work. The smoke has three benefits. It keeps away flies, it adds a preservative, and (with the right woods) it adds the best of flavors. Smokey fires in our kitchens are not feasible, or desireable.

    Interestingly enough, jerky dries well on a screen rack, with ambient air blowing up through it, no heat needed at all. Lay one of those square, window fans up on 4 bricks or blocks so the bottom is up off the floor a few inches. It should freely take in air on the bottom, and be blowing air straight up. Lay a screen rack across the top of the fan. Place the marinated meat strips onto screen. Several such racks can be stacked up like this.

    Turn the fan onto a lower or mecium setting, letting a free flow of air to pass upwards through the layer/s of meat. In a day, check the meat, and rearrange pieces that seem to be drying slowly so they are assured good air flow. At two days, the meat will be nearly all done, some pieces probably will be done, and can be removed. Make sure that each piece is brittle dry and leathery before removing.

  5. Kayak Jack says:

    I would like to make a protein rich diet. Mixing grains (corn, rice, etc.) with legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, etc.) forms protein as we digest them. My question is, in what proprtions is this the most effective. Realizing that with various combinations of different grains with different legumes, the proportions will be different, it complicates my trying to solve this set of problems. So, I ask an expert for assistance.

  6. crabbyoldlady says:

    When the oven must be running for hours, is it really saving that much? Just a thought.
    One thing I would like to make is the WHITE french dressing we had in most cafes in Paris…


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