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11 Best Beef Jerky Brands to Try Before You Die

Let me establish some credibility here: I like beef jerky. A lot. Oh, and pork jerky. And the ever-popular turkey jerky. If you offered me some smoked salmon jerky I’d try it, though I’ve found fish jerky to be pretty hit or miss. In my life, I’ve also tried elk and tuna jerky and even vegan kelp jerky — only one of those I’d snack on again, though. To make a long story short, I like jerky.

And so do lots of people, and they have for years. Centuries, in fact.

The word “jerky” comes from the Quechuan language of people indigenous to the Andes Mountains. It’s an Anglicization of their term for dried meat, ch’arki. Ch’arki was traditionally made from llama meat, which I gather makes one fine jerky, though regrettably, I’ve not sampled it yet. The keyword there being “yet.”

If you don’t like jerky, permit me to posit the possibility that you simply haven’t tried the right brand yet. There are many cheap options cluttering grocery store checkout aisles and gas station countertops, and these inferior meat stuffs can indeed leave a bad taste in the mouth, literally and metaphorically (not to mention the various chemicals and additives they use, which may or may not end up harming you in the long run).

Best Beef Jerky Brands

Country Archer Jerky Co.

Country Archer/Facebook

My first taste of Country Archer Jerky Co.’s Honey Chipotle Turkey Jerky was a revelation. This is one of the best balances of sweet and spice I’ve yet found in a jerky, a balance underpinned by a subtle fruitiness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So, I read the ingredients. “Ah! Pineapple juice, that’s what that is!” I screamed aloud. Or I thought to myself, rather. The company offers two turkey jerky flavors and six beef jerky options, and all of their meats harmonize spice and sweetness with a little something extra, like that pineapple flavor, that will keep you coming back for more.

Lorissa’s Kitchen

If you like your jerky tender and tasty, then this is a brand you just have to try. Soft and supple, these “premium steak strips” call to mind a fresh cut of grilled beef more than they do a tough, dried chunk of meat. And that’s good, because you’ll pay about the same amount as you would for a decent steakhouse steak here. The 2.25-ounce packs are perfect for a quick power snack when you need a bit of protein and a just a few calories to fuel you through the rest of the hike, the workout, or the workday.

Brooklyn Biltong

Brooklyn Biltong/Facebook

Inspired by the traditional South African jerky known as biltong, this crazy delicious stuff is made with refreshingly few ingredients. In fact, most Brooklyn Biltong products sort of use just two ingredients: beef and marinade. I say “sort of” because those marinades feature multiple ingredients themselves, but they’re all natural things like cider and salt and coriander. The company only makes three flavors at present, and all are well worth trying. Just note that Brooklyn Biltong jerky is not only crazy delicious, but also crazy expensive. Oh well.

Duke’s Smoked Meats

Duke's Smoked Meats/Facebook

Duke’s prides itself on offering dried meat products that aren’t traditional jerkies, including ready-to-eat dried sausages and beef brisket strips. Rather than thin, tough strips of meat, their sausages and briskets are thick and tender, and they both taste and even feel more like an entree than a snack. You will also like the backstory here: the company was founded by a guy dubbed the Duke of Jerky, who grew up making his own smoked meats and marinades, and then finally figured he should just turn his passion into his career.

Chef’s Cut Real Jerky

Chef's Cut Real Jerky/Facebook

You could eat a different flavor of Chef’s Cut jerky every day and not run out of new flavors for more than a week and a half. Which is a slightly odd way of saying they offer 11 different flavors, each of which uses a marinade designed by chef Blair Swiler, the man behind the brand’s name. There’s Applewood Uncured Bacon pork jerky, Honey Barbecue smoked chicken breast jerky, Chipotle Cracked Pepper beef jerky, and many more. And beyond their bags of jerky, the company also offers meat sticks, meat bars, and Protein Snack Packs, which consist of a cup divided into two compartments, one of which is loaded with jerky, the other with dried cheese crackers.

Perky Jerky

Perky Jerky/Facebook

If you’re looking for some interesting flavors and a 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.

The New Primal Beef Jerky

The New Primal/Facebook

Making a range of meat products, the go-to product from The New Primal is their beef jerky. Using grass-fed beef that is naturally sweetened and naturally hormone-free, The New Primal crafts beef jerky for true jerky lovers. The flavors are simple, but they resonate. You can choose from Salt & Pepper or Honey & Cayenne, but as long as you like flavor, you can’t go wrong with either one. The New Primal also makes a Ginger & Honey turkey jerky which is way too easy to eat by the bag.  If you’re looking for a little more variety, we suggest checking out the beef thins or the turkey sticks.

Blue Ox Jerky Co.

Blue Ox Jerky Co.

This is, for all intents and purposes, the man’s man’s jerky. Why? Blue Ox’s slogan is, “Real men eat jerky. And legend has it those who didn’t turned into fanciful {hairless} woodland pixies.” So there’s that. If that kind of slogan gets you pumped up, then Blue Ox is for you. If you can ignore the slogan and just want to focus on great-tasting beef jerky, then this is also for you. Blue Ox jerky comes in a number of flavors, but where they really shine is being able to sign up for their Jerky of the Month Club. Fifteen bucks a month (with free shipping) gets you an 8-ounce bag of the Jerky of the Month. Not too shabby. Want more than beef? Blue Ox offers buffalo, turkey, elk, and venison jerkies, too.

Nick’s Sticks Beef Jerky

Nick's Sticks/Facebook

Nick’s Sticks uses grass-fed beef to deliver an all-natural delicious jerky. While their bread and butter is the meat stick business (Nick’s sticks produces both beef and turkey sticks in a number of flavors), they also produce top-quality beef (and turkey) jerky. The fact that the beef is grass-fed 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.

Old Trapper Jerky

Old Trapper Beef Jerky and Smoked Snacks/Facebook

The second-largest beef jerky company in the U.S., Old Trapper has been turning out delicious meat products for fifty years now. While they’ve added to their product line with kippered steak and beef sticks in the time since, their bread and butter (meat and spice?) is their jerky, which comes in six different flavors. Need more than a standard 10-ounce bag at a time? Old Trapper offers bulk orders, for all you meatheads out there.

Top Chops Beef Jerky

Top Chops Snacks/Facebook

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. Probably the tenderest jerky on this list, it is also the most traditional. 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.

To determine what beef jerkies would rise above the rest, we looked at a few things.

What Makes a Good Beef Jerky?

  • 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.

Article originally published by Steven John on April 16, 2018. Last updated December, 2020.

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