Guilty Pleasures: Beef Jerky

by foodhoe on May 14, 2008

and while we’re on the topic of meat….

I don’t know if it is a cultural thing, but I love beef jerky.  It’s not something you generally go shouting about on the streets, but for those of us who enjoy gnawing on dry salty leathery strips of meat, behold the embodiment of jerky perfection.  It is a stick of peppered smoked jerky from Marin Sun Farms. This is indeed highbrow stuff, and hard to come by as we had to drive all the way out to Point Reyes to their store and paid roughly $10 for a vacuum packed bag of 3 pieces… Some say this is the best, and I’m inclined to agree, there’s something very refined about it. You can also find this at their stand at the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays.

I have been sampling a few different brands, with an eye towards naturally raised or organic meat. But most importantly, I look for jerky that is salty, lean and perfectly dried. Anything that is soft, pressed, chopped or reformed is off the list. One of my favorite brands is the Robertson’s Peppered Jerky, which is sliced very thin and is so dry that it almost shatters when you bite into it. They use only lean beef, season it, then hang it up to dry

Mingua Brother’s Beef Jerky, from Kentucky has a very tasty Cajun spiced jerky that is also very thinly sliced and salty, but dusted with a mixture of tastbud tingling spices. It’s a little thicker than the Robertsons so has more of a meaty feel and is not as dried out as the Robertsons above.  Mr. K prefers this over the others, as he always feels that jerky is not spicy enough.

Fesperman’s Gourmet Beef Jerky, is made with very lean meat that is cut in thick slices and dried until it is almost brittle but the marinade leaves a sticky residue on your fingers.  The garlicky marinade is very heavy and potent as if it has been brined overnight in soy sauce giving it an elemental and rather brutish flavor.  Overall it’s a neanderthal workout on the jaws and burns your tastebuds, but I found it to be addictive once I started gnawing on it…

I ordered most of the above online from The Beef Jerky Emporium in Oklahoma City and received a sample Elk Stick which tasted like something you buy from a plastic tub at 7-11.

Gary West from Oregon had received a lot of good press but I didn’t care for the style, which was thick and chunky, more like beef sticks… although I have to give them credit that they were actual pieces of meat, not chopped and formed. It was too chunky and cut too thick for my taste, it made me think of way overcooked meat (my inadvertent specialty)… Here’s a picture of what it looks like from their website:

I like these special order jerkeys way more than the grocery store varieties (Jack Links, Pemmican and Oberta).   The care taken in processing smaller batches show more character in both the quality and flavor of the meat.  The only problem is the cost of the shipping, I think it said orders over $95 get free shipping.  That’s a lotta jerky…

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Passionate Eater May 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Have you ever tried pork threads? It is a dried shredded and flavored pork that you can add on top of congee or cold tofu. You have a quite a discerning palate for beef jerky (I actually eat Slim Jims, and other nitrate laden and sodium heavy processed meats), so I am interested to hear your thoughts on those dried pork threads.

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Single Guy Chef May 15, 2008 at 12:19 am

Among Chinese, beef jerky leans toward the sweet side and actually is easy to bite into. So that’s what I grew up with. I never got into the dry, salty versions. You should try some sweet ones and see what you think. It’s like eating dried barbeque meat.

Single Guy Chefs last blog post..Mini Travel Dish: Yummy Korean BBQ (Honolulu)

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Cathy May 15, 2008 at 12:47 am

I love beef jerky too! Have you ever had the Chinese or Vietnamese spicy fruit flavored beef jerky? Those are my favorite! I’ve never tried to order beef jerky online… I’ll have to try that sometime. I usually just go to Little Saigon or San Gabriel Valley and get the spicy fruit flavored beef jerky, or I go to Costco and get the spicy jerky there. What do you think of the one at Costco?

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rowena May 15, 2008 at 5:45 am

It is definitely a cultural thing. My aunts in California would go to Vegas and buy economy size packages of jerky whenever they knew they’d be flying to Hawaii for a visit. Gosh we eat jerky like we eat spam!

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foodhoe May 15, 2008 at 9:19 am

PE, I’ve seen pork threads, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried it. Sounds delicious! I love the shaved dried fish flakes, what’s not to like about pork fluff?
SingleGuy, I haven’t ventured into the asian beef jerky, I always see it in the market. You’re right I should check it out, I love BBQ!
Cathy, spicy fruit flavored sounds tantalizing indeed! I’m scared of buying at Costco cuz buying in bulk is such a commitment, you know? I must check out the spicy fruit jerky though!
Rowena, LOL I love it, we eat jerky like we eat spam!

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Cathy May 17, 2008 at 1:21 am

I really think the Costco beef jerky is pretty good! You can always share the bag with your co-workers if you don’t like it… Anytime I bring anything to work, it usually disappears by the end of the week!

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Gastronomer May 20, 2008 at 4:08 am

Foodhoe – pork floss is BOMB. Go get some! If customs weren’t such a bitch, I’d bring you back some from VN 😉

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foodhoe May 20, 2008 at 10:07 am

Cathy, that’s a good point! I do need to make a costco run soon too.
Gastronomer, I must say that pork floss just conjures up a weird visual, but I will take your word for it and go foraging!

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Steve Johnson July 7, 2008 at 12:19 am

House of Jerky is an excellent brand, free of preservatives, packed solid with flavor, retains its natural beef taste, and is easy to eat. I gave it a top rating on my blog.

Steve Johnsons last blog post..Wal-Mart Great Value Beef Jerky – Teriyaki

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