Caslon, I've made lots of jerky and just thought about the way meats behave to get the texture and flavor I want. Put these concepts in the back of your head and it will help.
1. Acids tighten up meat proteins, making the meat tough and not able to absorb other flavors.
2. Salt initially draws moisture out of meat, but then, as it sits, especially in a brine solution, the salt water is pulled back into the meat tissue by osmotic pressure, flavoring the entire meat throughout with whatever flavors are in the brine.
3. Jerky is a method of drying meat so as to preserve and flavor it, making it shelf stable and resistant to molds, and microbes at room temp.
4. All dried meat is tough and leathery. That is, the less moisture in the meat tissue, the tougher it becomes.
5. Cutting with the grain forces the meat to be eaten by tearing long strings of meat fibers apart. This is where the muscle tissue gets its strength, from the long, multiple fibers. Think of your own muscles, how they connect from one bone to the next, and how that develops strength for you to do work.
6. muscle tissue cut against the grain creates a condition where the muscle fibers are very short, lengthwise, and require many more individual fibers to create a slice, than if cut with the grain. The fibers are much more easily separated from each other than if trying to tear them along the length of the fiber, hence, more tender meat.
To get you jerky more tender, cut strips against the grain, and leave a little moisture in the meat. But remember, though the moisture content will give you more tender jerky, it is more susceptible to spoilage due to microbial action. It will need to be eaten more quickly, and may even require refrigeration if enough moisture is present.
Summary - use flavored brines to flavor the meat, not acidic marinades; control the moisture content by controlling the drying time and applied heat; if smoking the jerky, cold smoke it until it's dried sufficiently; cut meat against the grain to create you strips.
Hope that helps.
Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
“No amount of success outside the home can compensate for failure within the home…
Check out my blog for the friendliest cooking instruction on the net. Go ahead. You know you want to.