Nothing against truck stops or gas stations, but the beef jerky brands you’ll find there are much like the egg salad sandwich you’ll find in the cooler; not the freshest and packed with preservatives. You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but what do you expect from a truck stop?” Wherein you’d be correct. We don’t expect fine culinary delights or organic, farm-fresh brands to be readily available. Our point is, the jerky brands you’ll find there are the same ones you’ll likely find at your local supermarket. They’re owned by large conglomerates that have the money to mass-produce jerky and fund nationwide distribution, along with ad campaigns.
When you first think of jerky of any sort, it’s likely a trucker or mountain man will pop in your head before a two-star Michelin chef. But, as with any food, the more dedication that is put into the preparation and using premium ingredients, the more delicious it will be. For many of us, “truck stop jerky” is all we know, and there’s no judgment if that’s what you like. However, we’d be doing the world a disservice if we didn’t at least tell you about the brands that have taken beef jerky, and other meats, to new deliciously amazing levels. All without the help of chemical preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, or msg and using natural ingredients. Some of the below brands use only grass-fed, organic beef in their jerky.
So if you’re ready to get woke to a whole new world of beef jerky, try one (or all) of the following brands.
So, what’s biltong? Other than being the new dried beef craze, it’s kind of like jerky but better. Biltong is a traditional South African meat curing process that dries out the meat without heat — which is commonly used in the beef jerky process. With biltong, the beef is marinated in simple ingredients, making the meat more tender than jerky, and providing more protein per serving. With good biltong, you first taste the meat, then the marinade. Speaking of good biltong, Brooklyn Biltong isn’t just good, it’s great! They use only grass-fed beef and no preservatives.
If you’re a jerky traditionalist, it doesn’t get much better than Country Archer Jerky Co.’s. The company prides itself on using only grass-fed beef with no preservatives. Also offering beef and pork sticks, akin to that one brand we all know (and maybe love), Country Archer Jerky Co. has perfected flavoring jerky. There’s no overpowering flavor dust or spice, and the flavor of the grass-fed beef still shines through while maintaining a level of tenderness. They achieve this by using real fruit purees when flavoring and curing their beef.
Stryve, like Brooklyn Biltong, is another company that is producing some high-quality biltong. One unique aspect of Stryve is their biltong slab, which is essentially a perfectly cured 8-ounce slab cured to perfection. You get to determine how thick, or thin, you want your beefy morsel. The thicker the slice, the sooner you have to order more. But, a nice thick slice of biltong sets off a flavor party in your mouth and really lets you understand the love and dedication that goes into making it.
Aside from having wonderful branding and marketing, Righteous Felon Craft Jerky stays true to the theme of premium beef jerky with all-natural ingredients. Righteous Felon jerky is all “dry-aged for 21 days prior to jerkification to ensure complete absorption of our delicious marinade deep into the beef.” If you’re a true jerky junky these guys can keep your stash fully stocked with their variety of subscription boxes. From an array of flavored beef and turkey jerky to sticks and biltong—there’s nothing they don’t have to satisfy your jerky needs.
With Chef’s Cut jerky, finally jerky is getting the culinary recognition it deserves. Chef Blair Swiler uses only premium cuts of beef, with no nitrates slow-smoked to perfection. Like Righteous Felon, Chef’s Cut offers many different flavors (all with their own marinades specially created by chef Swiler) and styles of jerky on a subscription basis to keep your jerky drawer fully stocked.
As the name suggests, Baja jerky combines all-natural beef jerky with the flavors common to the Southwest. Baja jerky offers seven delicious flavors (two of which are keto-friendly); traditional, crackin’ pepper, street taco, lime & serrano pepper, churro, sweet orange, and salsa fresca. If you’ve been looking for top-notch Southwestern-style jerky, look no further.
If you’re looking for some interesting flavors and jerky that can be Paleo- and Keto-friendly, then Perky Jerky is for you. What impresses us most about the range of flavors (and we’re not even talking about the turkey or pork flavors here) is that they cover just about every taste profile. From your “More than Just Original” to the fairly standard Teriyaki to the Sweet & Sassy, Perky Jerky covers the bases. Where they really shine, though, is in their Wagyu jerkies. Paleo- and Keto-friendly, the Wagyu series comes in both Chimichurri and Truffle and Thyme flavors. These flavors are so good (and so fancy-sounding) that you’ll have to stop yourself from eating with pinkies up.
If you’re a man that prefers his jerky in stick form, Nick’s Sticks has you covered with their all-natural, grass-fed beef sticks. Nick’s Sticks doesn’t end at beef, they also have turkey and chicken sticks. Grass-fed beef means that the jerky is naturally lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3s as well as conjugated linoleic acid, which is thought by many experts to help fight cancer (who knew eating beef jerky could be so good for you?). Nick’s only produces two flavors — Natural and Prairie Fire — but with all the other goodness packed into each pack, who really cares? It’s still delicious.
When it comes to the relative tenderness of jerky, too often the meat becomes too tough. The perfect level of tenderness is a fine line that isn’t too often accomplished, but T.O.P. Chops manages it. T.O.P could very well be the tenderest jerky on this list, while also being the most traditional. However, that’s our opinion. You’ll have to try them all to find out. While other companies have lines that contain multitudes of flavor profiles, T.O.P. keeps it simple with just four flavors — Original, Teriyaki, Red Chili Pepper, and Sweet & Spicy.
What Makes a Good Beef Jerky?
To determine what beef jerkies would rise above the rest, we looked at a few things.
- Quality of beef: We want beef that was treated right and given a good life. Happy cows make happy jerky.
- Variety of flavors: Sometimes we like things spicy, sometimes we want honeyed and hot. We want to be able to decide.
- Price: Beef jerky is a snack, after all, so we don’t want to have to take out a mortgage to afford it.
- Availability: Can I order it online? Can I get it while doing the grocery shopping? Where can I go to get my jerky fix?
With those parameters in mind, it’s time to do yourself a favor and pick up some of the best beef jerky out there. Though you could always make your own beef jerky if you’re up for it.
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