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The Best Meat for Beef Jerky and How to Select Them

Beef jerky is one of the best snacks that can provide a sense of satiety during the day. It can also be a low-carb snack with high levels of protein and healthy fats that can be prepared quickly. It’s easy to make at home, but you only need to learn how to choose the best meat for beef jerky.

The Best Meat for Beef Jerky and How to Select Them
  • The cut of meat beef jerky is made of can directly affect the jerky’s quality.
  • Try to choose meats with tender cuts, high marbling, and high healthy fat content.
  • Top round, sirloin top, and elk meat are the best high-protein meats.
  • Bottom round, flank steak, and pectoral meat have the highest amount of healthy fats and align with high-fat diets like the Carnivore diet.

The Cut of Meat Affects the Quality and Taste of Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a delicious snack made from lean cuts of dried meat, commonly beef. It’s one of the best snacks you can make on low-carb ketogenic diets like the Carnivore Diet because it is rich in essential nutrients like protein and is easy to prepare.

Picking the right meat makes a big difference in your beef jerky. It impacts how it tastes and how easily it prepares and dries. The main two differences in meat cuts are related to muscle tissue and marbling.

  • Muscle Tissue: The meat texture will affect the texture of the jerky. Tough cuts like shanks have tough muscle tissue, making the jerky chewy and unpleasant. But tender cuts like sirloin tip and tri-tip have finer muscle tissue, producing soft and tender jerky.
  • Marbling: Marbling refers to the distribution of fat throughout the muscle tissue. Cuts with high marbling, like Chuck Eye, can add incredible flavor and juiciness to your jerky, while lean cuts, like top rounds, might lack the intense flavor of marbled cuts.

When selecting the proper meat for beef jerky, you need to pay attention to three important factors, i.e., fat content, the cut of meat, and texture.

Learn More: White Meat vs. Dark Meat: Which One Is Better for You?

Dr. Chris Mohr:

"The best cuts for beef jerky are lean meats like eye of round, top round, and bottom round. These cuts are less fatty, which makes them ideal for drying and preserving."

How Do You Select the Best Meat for Beef Jerky?

You can choose the best meat for beef jerky based on your specific needs and goals. But the following general factors help you choose  the proper cut of meat for beef jerky:

  • Fat Content: The best meat for beef jerky is beef, which has high fat content that provides a softer jerky [1].
  • The Cut of Meat: Choosing a lean cut of meat will help the jerky dry evenly and prevent it from becoming greasy [2].
  • Texture: A tougher cut of meat will require a longer drying time, so if you need a quick jerky, you should choose more tender cuts of meat like flank steak [3].

Learn More: The Best Meat to Smoke: 15 Best Cuts to Throw into the Smoker

Based on these factors, you can choose the type of meat that best suits your specific diet, but the following 9 cuts can give you the best beef jerky.

The Best Cuts of Meat for Beef Jerky

There are a variety of cuts of meat that you can use to make tender and delicious beef jerky, including:

  • Top Round,
  • Bottom Round,
  • Eye of Round,
  • Sirloin Tip,
  • Lifter Meat,
  • Flank Steak,
  • Pectoral Meat,
  • Deer Meat, and
  • Elk Meat.

Learn More: Is Steak Good for Weight Loss? The Best and Worst Cuts of Meat

American Council on Exercise (ACE):

"Lean cuts of beef are preferred for making jerky because they have less fat, which can spoil and turn rancid during the drying process."

Top Round

The Top Round, or “Inside Round Steak” or “London Broil”, is a lean and affordable choice for beef jerky. It’s a popular cut due to its affordable price and large size. However, it lacks the intense flavor and tenderness compared to other cuts.

Bottom Round

This cut, also known as “Bottom Round Oven Roast” or “Round Roast”, comes from the same area as the Top Round, which is the hind leg of the cow, specifically the muscles in the region known as the "round.". It’s a bit tougher and less tender than the top round but makes great beef jerky.

Eye of Round

It can be found in the cow’s round primal area and comes from the elongated muscles located in the center. It’s more expensive but also more tender and flavorful than the top and bottom round.

Sirloin Tip

Also known as “Knuckle” or “Round Tip”, sirloin tip is a less popular cut from the cow’s round primal, but it’s a great option. Its price is reasonable, has more flavor, and is less tender than the top round, bottom round, and eye of round.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

"Choosing lean cuts like round, sirloin, and flank for beef jerky ensures a lower fat content, which is beneficial for shelf stability and overall healthfulness."

Lifter Meat

Lifter meat, aka “Blade Meat” or “Cap and Wedge Meat”, comes from the cow’s ribs primal and outside of the ribs. This cut is a little less lean and has medium marbling, which means it has medium fat content through muscle tissue, which is good for more tender and flavorful beef jerky at a slightly higher cost.

Flank Steak

Flank steak, also called “Beef Flank” or “Plank Steak”, comes from the flank primal. It’s a lean cut with low marbling, which is less tender than lifter meat but has much more flavor and is one of the most expensive cuts for beef jerky.

Learn More: Can You Eat Turkey Bacon on the Carnivore Diet?

Pectoral Meat

Pectoral meat, also known as “Special Trim”, comes from the cow’s chuck primal. It has more fat and marbling than other meats like top and bottom round, sirloin tip, and lifter meat.

This cut is extremely tender but less flavorful. It is an affordable option and one of the cheapest cuts for beef jerky, especially for first-time jerky makers.

Learn More: Beef Jerky on The Carnivore Diet: Yes or No? [Top List]

Deer Meat

Deer meat is another tender, lean, and flavorful choice that you can use to make a great jerky.

Elk Meat

Elk meat is also very lean, tender, and great for making jerky but has less flavor, unlike deer meat.

The following table shows the nutritional values in 100 grams of the above cuts of meat [4]:

MeatProtein (g)Fat (g)Calorie (kcal)
Top Round 30.1 3.77 162
Bottom Round 27.2 7.83 185
Eye of Round 23.4 3.04 121
Sirloin Tip 30.8 5.03 177
Lifter Meat 23 5 140
Flank Steak 21.2 7.17 155
Pectoral Meat 19 15.3 224
Deer Meat 29.9 2.35 149
Elk Meat 30.2 1.9 146

According to these nutrition profiles, if you’re looking for high-protein meats for jerky, top round, sirloin top, and elk meat can be the best options.

But if you’re on a high-fat diet like Carnivore and Keto, it’s better to choose bottom round, flank steak, and pectoral meat for jerky, as they contain more fat.

There are some other cuts of meat that are not suitable for making beef jerky due to their high levels of fat and toughness.

Learn more: The Carnivore Diet: Is it Healthy? Benefits and Side Effects

The Cuts of Meat Shouldn’t Be Used for Beef Jerky

It’s possible to make beef jerky with every kind of meat, but some are not ideal and will give you low-quality jerky that may conflict with your specific (low-carb) diet.

  • Brisket: This cut has a lot of unhealthy fat that won't let the beef dry well and makes your jerky too greasy.
  • Ribs: Like brisket, ribs are full of unhealthy fat that makes the jerky greasy and unpleasant [5].
  • Chuck: While some cuts of chuck can be trimmed for jerky, generally, it’s full of unhealthy fats and is not suitable for making quality beef jerky.
  • Shank: This cut is very tough and requires long cooking times to become tender. Dehydrating it for jerky won't provide a pleasant texture [6].
  • Ground Beef: Jerky requires whole muscle cuts for proper drying and texture. Ground beef won't hold its shape and will crumble during dehydration.

It was all you should know about choosing the best meat for beef jerky. Considering the following tips will help you prepare and enjoy your jerky more.

Learn More: Beef Heart: Nutrients and Side Effects + 5 Ways to Eat

Tips to Choose Meats for Beef Jerky

  • Choose meat with fine muscle tissue to have a tender texture and melt in the mouth.
  • Consider your desired thickness and drying time. Thinner cuts dry faster for a quick snack, while thicker cuts take more time but usually offer a more delicious taste [7].
  • Be mindful of your budget when choosing meat cuts. Some cuts are more affordable than others, so choose what fits your budget.
  • Try different cuts of meat and find your perfect jerky. Trying different options lets you find the jerky that suits your taste.

Learn More: What Is The Best Meat Dehydrator for Jerky? The 5 Best for Home


Beef jerky can be a great snack that provides a sense of fullness between main meals, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet. Jerky is full of protein and healthy fats with low levels of carbohydrates.

But remember that the protein and fat content of beef jerky depends on the kind of meat you choose for jerky. Also, consume jerky in moderation based on your diet goals and needs.

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