Best Cuts of Meat for a Variety of Delicious Jerky

Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

A great batch of beef jerky is more than just salty dried meat; it starts with a cut of beef that was chosen with care and intention, and preserved under ideal conditions to get a delicious end result. Although there are a thousand ways to season, marinate, and otherwise flavor jerky, perhaps a more important factor is which cut of meat it’s made from.

If the cut is too full of sinew, the jerky will be too tough; if it’s full of fat, it won’t dry correctly, and could even start molding due to the fat’s higher moisture content. Some cuts are also comparatively bland, which isn’t great for a product that’s almost 100% meat.

If you’re wondering which are the best cuts of meat for your jerky-making adventures, you’ll find several expert recommendations below. These are some of the top cuts preferred by many beef jerky brands available widely by consumers, since they’re flavorful and relatively affordable.

How to tell if a cut of meat would make good beef jerky

jerky meat

If you have a cut of meat in mind, but you aren’t sure whether or not it’s suitable for jerky, just consider the following factors:

Fat content

It should be lean, or at least have very little intramuscular fat (marbling). If there’s fat that you can trim off, that would work. Although marbled or fatty beef is usually desirable, that’s the opposite of what you want for jerky.

Fat can’t be completely dehydrated, so jerky made from fatty meat will quickly spoil. Unless you’re planning on storing your dried meat in the fridge and eating it quickly, lean meat should be your #1 priority for jerky.


It should have a rich meaty flavor, that would taste good on its own or with additional flavorings.

While this has a lot to do with which cut you select, it will also be influenced by the freshness of the meat. Make sure you only get fresh beef that’s free of odd smells or discoloration.


It should be at least moderately tender, but don’t worry too much about finding the tenderest beef possible.

The jerky-making process often tenderizes the meat anyway, so it’s fine if you start out with a cut that’s somewhat tough.


This will affect you more than the jerky itself, but if you want to find a go-to cut of beef for your jerky, make sure it’s easy to find in your area.

However, if you already knew which cuts of beef would work for jerky, you could look out for them in case they became available.


Beef jerky is a dehydrated product, meaning there’s a considerable loss of volume between starting with fresh meat and eating the dried jerky.

It’s best to use relatively economical cuts of meat, so you don’t end up spending large amounts of money on each batch of jerky.

Some people think that using a higher-end cut of beef will result in much better jerky, but the extra expense doesn’t usually translate to a superior end product.

It really does make more sense to stick with economical cuts, especially considering that up to 75% of the volume can be lost during the drying process.

With that introduction, let’s talk about the best cuts of meat for tender, flavorful beef jerky.

Eye of round

The “round” cuts of meat are generally tender cuts of meat. The eye of round comes from the very center of the round, and is the most tender of the round cuts. It almost looks like a tenderloin, with an elongated cylindrical shape.

Not only does this make it easy to handle and trim, but it’s also perfect for cutting uniform medallions of meat against the grain. Even though there are plenty of cuts that make great beef jerky, this is one of the best ones.

  • Fat content – minimal
  • Flavor – natural beefy flavor
  • Texture – relatively tender
  • Availability – commonly available
  • Price – moderate

Flank steak

This cut is known for its bold flavor, with long (and relatively tough) grains that have to be cut correctly in order to make the meat tender. However, when properly prepared, it makes excellent beef jerky.

If you’re concerned about tenderness, try using a marinade that contains acidic ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juice, or buttermilk.

  • Fat content – moderate
  • Flavor – very rich
  • Texture – tender (when prepared correctly)
  • Availability – commonly available
  • Price – moderate

Sirloin tip

The sirloin tip comes from the round primal, and is prized by in-the-know jerky aficionados. It’s a bit trickier to locate compared to some cuts, but keep an eye out – you never know when you’ll run across it!

  • Fat content – minimal
  • Flavor – balanced beef flavor
  • Texture – moderately tender
  • Availability – can be found in some locations
  • Price – affordable

Bottom round

Although it’s the toughest of the round cuts, the bottom round still makes a great choice for jerky. It’s tender enough for an enjoyable batch of dried meat, and has a great flavor that’s typical of round cuts.

  • Fat content – minimal
  • Flavor – natural beefy flavor
  • Texture – not that tender
  • Availability – can be found in some locations
  • Price – affordable

Top round

Also known as the London Broil, this cut of meat is located on the inside of the leg, right across from the bottom round. It’s a bit tougher than the eye of round, but more tender than the bottom round. In fact, commercial producers love this cut because it’s big and easy to cut into consistently sized pieces.

  • Fat content – minimal
  • Flavor – natural beefy flavor
  • Texture – medium tenderness
  • Availability – commonly available
  • Price – affordable

The takeaway

Are you ready to start making jerky? It’s really simpler than you might think, especially once you’ve decided on which cut of meat you’re going to use. One of the greatest things about jerky is that you can experiment and make each recipe your own, so don’t be shy about trying out different cuts of meat as well. As long as you know what to look for, you pretty much can’t go wrong!