Ana Mardoll | Friday, August 28, 2009
Nesco Jerky Kit BJX-5 / B001795P3K
I purchased this for use with my Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator, but despite the glowing reviews on Amazon, I personally did not find this jerky gun very easy to use.
To start with, if you just load this jerky gun with ground beef right out of the package, you will find that the gun clogs instantly - there isn't enough pressure to force the ground beef through. If you soak the ground beef first in liquid (like, for example, soy sauce) and load it into the gun and press the trigger... the liquid will be forced out, the ground beef will stay in the gun, and another clog will result. In fact, the *only* way to get the ground beef to come out of the tube in strips is to puree it to a liquid beforehand in a food processor, blender, or electric mixing bowl.
Once you've actually got pureed ground beef, you have to actually extrude the jerky from the gun. The major problem here is that there are only two ways to push material out of the tube: either you press the button for short, controlled bursts, or you hold the button down with one hand and push the presser bar until you've gotten the length you like. Pressing the button for short bursts is completely useless, however, since the gun spits out about an inch of jerky (if that) so shudderingly that it immediately disconnects from the gun - so if you want a jerky STRIP instead of tiny jerky bites, you're going to have to hold the button down and use the presser.
The problem with the presser method is three-fold. First, you'd better be pretty strong to push the presser successfully, and I mean *very* strong, and you'd better have a steady hand - if you tremble at all, the jerky strip tears off from the gun. Second, you'd better have pretty long arms because the presser literally doubles the length of the tube. And third - and this is the biggest problem - you need three arms. You have to have one hand on the button at all times in order to work the presser manually and of course you have to use a second hand to operate the presser. If you have a circular dehydrator (and most people do), you're going to have to get a second person to help and turn the plate as you extrude jerky. You can't just extrude some and then use your presser hand to turn the plate and keep going, because that slight motion will break the jerky strip.
Consequently, jerky with this kit is a big production at our house - I puree the meat and stuff it into the jerky gun, my fiance operates the plastic gun while I turn the dehydrator plate to create the necessary long 'jerky spiral' that dries so nicely and breaks into strips. And then, of course, there's the clean-up which takes awhile: not only are these several pieces to clean, but the screwed on top doesn't come off easily after the jerky juices have leached into it during use.
After several uses with this kit, I kind of dread making ground beef jerky, just because it's so tricky to do with this. I wonder if I should have gotten a more expensive machine - maybe one that would extrude in a strip automatically, and just let me worry about positioning and turning? It really shouldn't have to take 3-4 hands to operate a jerky gun. In the meantime, I'm sticking to 'strip steak jerky' just because it's so much easier.
A side note about the seasonings - they are VERY strong. We used them at the given ratio and were completely overwhelmed; even halving the ratio only helped a little. And they're not even really that great - the strongest taste is of MSG and salt. And if you use soy sauce to liquefy the meat, you really don't need MORE salt. I'd recommend making your own seasoning from an online recipe or something because these just didn't taste good at all, in my opinion.