MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS

Since Alton Brown is pretty much nerd-dom's representative on food TV, I figured I'd have to tackle one of his recipes for MacGyver Chef. I chose a classic: Beef jerky made with a box fan.

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MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Equipment:
• One box fan
• Minimum of two air conditioner or heater filters. Avoid fiberglass and anything else that seems like it might kill you, and get cotton or cellulose if you can find it
• Two medium-length bungee cords (the kind with hooks on both ends)

Notes: My filters, the Filtrete line from 3M, are made of some crazy hypoallergenic outer-space material that seemed a little fishy. The guy at the hardware store assured me they're jerky-safe, but if you don't like living on the edge as much as me, go for cotton/cellulose.

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Ingredients:
• A substantial amount of flank steak, sliced very thinly with the grain
• Marinade: I used soy sauce, sriracha, Worcestershire, peanut oil and honey, but any other typical beef marinade would work just fine

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Step 1: We've got to get jerky-sized slices out of this giant chunk of meat, which isn't especially easy. Toss the meat in the freezer for an hour or two to firm it up; it'll be much easier to slice when it's less flaccid. Slice with the grain, as thin as you can, and go for about an inch wide.

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Step 2: Toss your pre-jerky into a bowl and glop on your marinade. Mix thoroughly, cover, and stick in the fridge for 3 hours. If you have those big gallon-sized freezer bags, congratulations, you've got a better-stocked kitchen than I do. Use them instead of a bowl for zero cleanup.

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Step 3: Slap the pre-jerky onto one of your A/C or heater filters, spacing evenly. Put the second filter on top, sandwiching the meat, and repeat if you want multiple layers.

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Step 4: Strap the sandwiched filters onto the front of the box fan with the two bungees and turn the fan to medium. Alton says leave it for 8-12 hours, but I left it longer, convinced that my slicing job wasn't thin enough. 14 hours was just about right for me.

MacGyver Chef: Box Fan Beef JerkyS


Results: It totally worked! I unstrapped the top filter and there, where before I had draped raw meat, was, unquestionably, jerky. The texture's right and it tastes pretty good, although despite drenching the marinade in soy sauce I think it needed a bit more salt. But the sriracha comes through with a nice bite and the jerky as a whole is totally gnawable.

I'm still about 30% sure I'm going to die after eating it, given my use of non-Alton-approved filter material. Cotton/cellulose definitely would have been better for my state of mind, if not my lifespan.

I'll definitely use the setup again to dehydrate other meats and fruits (chili-spiced dried mango is next, for sure). I can pronounce this MacGyver Chef recipe a total success.

Taste Test is our weeklong tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl-Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.