The entire world of jerky dates back to the Incan civilization. It comes from the word “Ch’arki”, which is Quechuan for dried meat. It’s purpose was to allow people to store meat for long periods of time – sans freezers – as well as create nutrient-rich food that they could take along with them on lengthy journeys. The spicy flavoring began as a way to hide the taste of rot, but has since become the sole reason to eat jerky made from any animal (or that tofu jerky, if you hate yourself).
When considering which beef jerkies we wanted to recommend, we looked at more than just the spices on top, but the cuts of meat being used in the process. Since anyone can dry out meat, we looked for innovative cooking solutions that enhanced the flavor, reduced the nutrients lost during cooking, and added levels of complexity to the taste that can’t be found through just throwing a little pepper on a slab of meat and letting the air have it until it’s chewy. When we were finished, we had the 10 best beef jerky brands and their best offerings on the market.
International Cuts: Lawless Jerky goes for deep cuts. Rather than just taking a good hunk of beef and smoking it to perfection, they also seek out new flavors from around the world to add to their own distinctiveness. Sriracha, Pho flavoring, and curry all make appearances alongside their more standard BBQ and Pepper tastes. Made in Arizona and created by a lawyer with a hankering for doing jerky right rather than practicing law, each type is made from scratch by the owner himself and meets his exacting standards before ever seeing the inside of a package.
Field Trip All Natural Beef Jerky
Clean Living: Completely gluten free (like most meat) Field Trip’s jerky is made entirely from natural ingredients for a less carcinogenic snack than most gas station fare. Fat and calories are kept to a minimum thanks to the lack of man-made flavors, and the taste is deeper and more complex. The company is only a few years old, but it is proudly based at home in the United States, and the guys who started it did so partly to feed their own habit for healthier high-protein foods that are good for working out, and snacking without guilt or empty calories.
Blue Ox Jerky
Buffet-Style: Whether you like meat sticks or the more standard thin strips of jerky, Blue Ox can accommodate you. They have arguably the best Teriyaki jerky that has ever been made by man. That isn’t to say any of their other flavors fall down on the job. If you’re looking for sweet, spicy, or bold, they have it. Get the jerky with zip, with tang, or just get a sampler to take your tastes for a trip around the world. Select according to flavor, or by what kind of meat you like. However you slice it, your palette with thank you.
Alien Fresh Jerky
Oddly Delicious: A strange company with strange ideas, Alien Fresh might think it’s funny to call their flavors things like “Colon Cleaner” and “Abducted Cow” but for all their tongue-in-cheek titles, their tastes are clearly homegrown and made to give you a salty, savory snack wherever you go. The flavor selection is relatively limited, but you won’t require much in the way of complication when they’re checking all the boxes during flavor tests. Any jerky fan owes it to themselves to give Alien Fresh a shot, since their esoteric notions yield some lip-smacking results.
Three Jerks Filet Mignon Beef Jerky
Prime Cuts: By jerky lovers, for jerky lovers, the guys behind Three Jerks are all foodies who have a deep-seated passion for dried meat. They didn’t start the company to make money, they just wanted some damn snacks that weren’t just dried out sticks of beef, but butcher-grade cuts that had been seasoned to perfection. While they lack a large array of flavors, any of their big three tastes will leave you craving more. For jerky your grandfather would love, go original. For a taste that is distinctly southern and a little spicy, go for the Memphis BBQ. And if you want something way off the reservation, hit the Chipotle Adobo made with a Filipino glaze and Mexican Chipotle peppers.
365 Organic Beef Jerky
Nature’s Bounty: 365 is a rapidly growing name in healthy living and healthy eating circles. Their aim is to go beyond what the USDA considers organic to make something that even the most natural person would be proud to put in their pantry. Their flavor array is simple, with little more than pepper and whatever smoking they use, 365 has some of the tastiest jerky around, and it’s easier on your body because they’ve cut out all the fat and the artificial colors and flavors. You’ll get meat, seasoned, cured, handled, and smoked in the classic tradition.
Krave Beef Jerky
Summer Savor: Chili and Lime have the feel of long days and hot evenings, cooling off with a nice Mexican beer, complete with lime for a more refreshing sensation. Krave is a California-based operation, so they have summer almost year round, so it’s no surprise that their Jerky, specifically their Chili Lime, is incredible. Using the fresh citrus that only California can provide for seasoning, it’s made for the person who doesn’t necessarily love jerky. Made of domestic knuckle cuts of tender meat, any of Krave’s products are a pleasure to chew when you want low-fat, high-nutrient meat that tastes like it was dried in the sunshine.
Oberto All Natural Original Beef Jerky
Pervasive Taste: You don’t always need to go with artisanal, niche brands to get a quality piece of jerky. Oberto has a natural line that doesn’t skimp on flavor, doesn’t add anything untoward into the mix, and can keep up with almost any small-batch jerky maker. They start off with premium steak that is given a little smoke flavoring along with other natural ingredients, and then sent all over the world. For as ubiquitious as the brand is, they’re quality control department must be working overtime for their natural line to be as clean, as good, as healthy, and as popular as it has become.
Get Pumped: There’s a lot going on in this jerky, which is why we love it. A beef or turkey jerky that comes with caffeine to help give you a boost, less fat to slow the spread of your waistline, and has tons of protein for building muscle, it becomes as good if not better than having gels or energy bars in your gym bag. Hints of soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper give the jerky a nouveau-classic flavor that sinks in deep thanks to overnight marinating prior to cooking. It’s shot in the arm when you need it, and both short and long-term energy for finishing a workout or cresting a mountain pass.
If You Build It: SlantShack came out of 9 friends in New York who were obsessed with making the world’s finest jerky. The company works with ranchers and farmers from the northeast to get the best bred and raised cattle for incomparable cuts of meat. They then use glazes and seasonings of their own making to create tastes like their Jerk McGurk’s Wild RubDown or Garlic Powder. In addition, they allow customers to choose from their glazes and seasonings to make their own custom jerky flavors so that you always get precisely what you want.