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Beef Jerky - The search for the best

  • b

Whenever my husband and I road trip (which is very, very often) we always pick up a bag of jerky in whatever roadside convenience store we stop at. It's a great snack while driving. We keep trying different brands, but I don't have a real favorite yet. Usually we get peppered or hickory smoked. He likes it hot so we try the hot ones too. Here are my opinions so far:

Oberto - Pretty good, but it can be kind of salty and harsh esp. their Teriyaki flavor

SMC (Stafford Meat Company) - I tried a bag of their Honey Glazed and thought I'd found my jerky heaven. It was sweet and had a great flavor and it was TENDER. Unfortunately my first bag seemed to be a fluke. The next two bags I bought had a weird flavor (almost fishy) and the jerky was so tough it was like shoe leather. I was severely bummed out.

Pemmican - Our current favorite, but I think we can do better

Golden Valley - Peppered style was pretty good. I also bought a small bag of their Buffalo meat jerky. Texture was good, but I don't think I like Buffalo jerky

Tillamook - Haven't bought this recently; that probably means I wasn't impressed

I forget the brand, but we recently tried one that seems new in the stores out here (San Francisco Bay Area). It's a Jalapeno jerky. It's really spicy, but tasty, fresh and tender.

So what should I be trying? I still haven't found an all-time favorite.

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  1. Go online and order some jerky from Robertson's. It's kind of expensive but it's amazing!!

    Link: http://www.robertsonshams.com/index.htm

    2 Replies
    1. re: DeeS.

      Try Whittington's in Johnson City Texas. They do an on-line business as well. They're really good.

      1. re: DeeS.

        I just found this thread by searching on robertson's jerky. My father is from Marietta and Ardmore, so my family has been eating their jerky a long time.

        My brother orders a few pounds every year. He always orders by phone, and when he calls them they always remember him and tell him stories about our grandfather and great grandfather.

      2. I would second the Robertson's jerky. They have it all the Love's Country Stores (travel stops) mostly in Oklahoma and Texas.
        I used to work there and it was amazing how many times a package would just break open all by itself and have to placed on the waste sheet and eaten by employees.

        The best I have ever had is kinda out of the way. Home made at the M-35 convience store. Just south of Escanaba, MI in the U.P. on M-35

        Ben

        1. We LOVE the peppered turkey jerky from the New Braunfels Smokehouse. They also have many other "flavors". you can order from them on line. Here's their website:

          http://www.nbsmokehouse.com

          also - if you are ever swinging through New York City, we're very lucky to have several places in Chinatown that make their own homemade jerky - below is a link to a recent post with a list...

          and thanks for postin' - picked up some good tips form you and the other replies :-

          )

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1. Does anyone remember the beef jerky made by Hickory Farms of Ohio? It was long and gnarly. They had no flavors, only what companies now would call "regular." Hickory Farms no longer carries this jerky; I have confirmed this with the company. So, the question is: which jerky most closely approaches the HF version? Any suggestions? TIA.

            8 Replies
            1. re: TomSwift

              I believe that is our jerky you tried at Hickory Farms. We made long sticks of beef jerky for Hickory Farms a few years ago. We cut them from whole muscle top rounds, so they are the long sticks you are speaking of. We still make them, using beef, Certified Angus Beef (r), Buffalo, Elk and Turkey.

              Paul Murdoch

              Link: http://www.garywest.com

              1. re: Paul Murdoch

                I'll give a big thumbs-up to Gary West's jerky. Their Cajun jerky is to DIE for--my lips were burning from the peppers, but I couldn't put it down!

                1. re: Paul Murdoch

                  I actually just ordered your sampler from your recommendation and it came in the mail today. I am a huge fan of HF Jerky and unfortunately what I got was not what I was looking for. Your beef jerky is good, but it's not the same as what I used to get @ HF. Wonder if anyone knows who made it. If I recall back in the mid to late 80's it was close to $20.00 a pound. I'd pay $100 if I could get it again.

                  Again the Gary Jerky is good, just not HF good. Thanks

                2. re: TomSwift

                  That was my favorite jerky of all time. When I started making our flavors I always had that Hickory farms jerky in mind. Did the stuff you remember have a 'snap' to it? I have a couple flavors that are really close. That stuff was good.
                  Paul you said a few years ago? The stuff Im thinking of was many years ago, more than 18 years I would say. Got it from the Hickory Farms store at Hillsdale mall back in the day.

                  1. re: GreenLightJerky

                    It was about 12-15 years ago that we stopped making it for Hickory Farms. We had made it for 4-5 years before that.

                  2. re: TomSwift

                    TomSwift i know what you are talking about go to SMOKEDMEATS.COM you liked the kind i did it is called INDIAN JERKY no tast but you just could't stop eating it. Tough to bit you had to tear or cut to eat.I promise this is IT!!!!!!!!!!

                    1. re: mikeandeb

                      You're right! I've been looking for the Hickory Farms jerky for YEARS! My brother and then my high school sweet heart worked there in the 80s and then the 90's and I swear I lived on the stuff for years until it just disappeared!
                      I've tried lots of different brands over the years in search of my true love and FINALLY came across Mahogany Smoked Meats Indian Jerky!
                      This is IT! My brother and old girlfriend agree! Hallelujah! my search is over....just ordered my 3rd pound and just found them maybe three weeks ago!
                      During my search others that I like are:
                      No Man's Land Beef Jerky
                      Mingua Brothers
                      and Robertsons...
                      But the Indian Jerky is the BEST!

                      http://www.smokedmeats.com/indianjerk...

                      1. re: mikeandeb

                        He's right, this IS the h.f. Beef jerky from the 80s

                    2. Not the conventional answers, but try some Vietnamese beef jerky. You can find it at any Vietnamese grocery store. Sweet, fairly tender, and nice n' spicy. Also if you are in San Fran or LA some Vietnamese groceries carry deer jerky which is FANTASTIC if you toast it up a little.

                      1. p
                        Professor Salt

                        When I drive up from LA to Mammoth Mt (CA), I stop in Bishop at the Mahogany Smoked Meats to load up on jerky. Their website is below. The jerky page has photos of the different offerings. My favorite is the cowboy jerky. It's an extra thick disc of flank steak smoked until it's nearly dry. It's too thick to gnaw on - you'll have to slice or tear off thinner pieces off to chew it. Pretend you're on horseback in the Eastern Sierras while the meaty smoke flavor permeates every chew : )

                        There is no comparison to commercial stuff, and the variety offered here is staggering.

                        Link: http://www.smokedmeats.com/

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Professor Salt

                          Mahogany smoked meats black pepper. Great real jerky flavor. One of the best in this jerky hound's opinion. I have not tried all of their brands, but I will be.

                        2. Have any of you been to the House of Jerky? They have stores all over, and this has got to be the best jerky by far! They have every kind imaginable. They have all different flavors of Beef and Turkey. They also have game meats and they have sugar free too. It dosn't have preservatives or anything in it either. It's the best I've ever had!

                          Link: http://www.houseofjerky.net

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Debbie

                            Unfortunately none of those stores are anywhere near NYC but there were some earlier threads about good jerky in Chinatown (another comment in this thread mentions one of them but has a dead link.)

                            beef jerky
                            http://www.chowhound.com/boards/thebe...

                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            1. re: Debbie

                              Is the jerky tough or chewy? I like it when it has some substance and girth, so it is easy to chew on.

                            2. You might want to widen your search to Latin groceries and look for "carne seca". Its very, very good. Its dried beef slices in chile sauce.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Pssst

                                How is it packaged and what aisle would it be located in? There are Latin groceries near me and I'd like to find some and try it.

                                Thanks!

                                BTW, I did a Google search and didn't come up with an answer to the above question but this was the first hit for "carne seca":

                                Link: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrh...

                                1. re: hilldweller

                                  "Preparation of the carne seca involved slicing partially thawed beef and then drying the beef in a passive solar drying room for 2-3 days. Before drying, some of the beef was marinated with a red or green chile marinade for 24 hours."

                                  Sounds about right. I was served some of the best carne seca I've ever had last week (at a luncheon in Mexico) and I asked my hosts how they had made it. The cook said "well, we slice the beef, pour chile water on it and put it on the roof for 3 days". At that event, it was served with the appetizers on a plate with sliced white onions, cilantro and a drizzle red sauce.

                                  I would look for it in two places - in the packaged snack section and in the meat section. If you can find a good latin butcher shop, they will probably have a better quality version.

                                  1. re: Pssst

                                    Thanks! Would it be in a plastc pack like jerky, or would it be in a can?

                                    1. re: hilldweller

                                      I've only seen in it plastic packs like jerky, I've never seen it in cans.

                              2. I was just on a road trip through Alberta and Sask., to try and keep it more interesting I set off to find the best jerky I could. Searching for local products mostly but I picked up any that were regional from larger operations too for comparison purposes. The best of the mass produced was McSweeneys, naturally random shaped pieces, not all chopped and pressed, I like the black pepper one -- but it still didn't compare to the smaller operations products. I have a fridge full of random ones still, ranging from really tough to thick and almost moist. Some with lots of intense salty steak flavor while some were bland and disappointing. Ultimately, I like one I got unlabled in bulk from a hotel tray in a gas station or a vacuum packed one from a steer farms' butcher. As per usual the indie producer seems to be doing it with more care & quality, ultimately creating a better product...has anyone tried making their with one of those dehydrators or other device?

                                1. You might be able to find Chinese dried 'lamp shadow' beef in a Chinese market. (Lamp shadow because of its thinness.) Very spicy, tender, sometimes with sesame seeds.

                                  1. This is a great thread topic, I remember the fabulous selection of beef jerkies in stores along the highways out west and I've enjoyed many of them driving about. Now I'm in NE/MA and there just isn't any serious jerky here.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: steinpilz

                                      If you're ever in Vancouver BC try Bee Kim Heng. I love this stuff so much I've been known to give it as presents...

                                      -----
                                      Bee Kim Heng Beef & Pork Jerky Ltd
                                      4194 Fraser St., Vancouver, BC V5V, CA

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Does anyone know if Bee Kim Heng can take order over the phone and ship to Toronto? What are their price?

                                        My family got it as a gift awhile ago, and we've been craving for it since.

                                        1. re: UptownGal

                                          Hey UptownGal, I just called Bee Kim Heng and they can indeed ship their product but only in Canada (I didn't ask the price though). Give them a buzz and good luck!

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            Bee Kim Heng now has an online presence. Still only shipping to Canada but maybe wider distribution soon as they just won a deal on Dragon's Den.

                                            http://www.bkhjerky.com/

                                            They've also moved their bricks and mortar store a few blocks on Fraser for any Vancouverites reading.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Thanks grayelf, I kept forgetting to reply to your post here.

                                              I did try to call them quite a few times, but no one seems to be answering the phone last year when I posted this.

                                              Thanks for providing the link! Now I know where to go to get my pork jerky fixes!

                                              1. re: UptownGal

                                                No worries, hope you get to try it soon. And BTW the store is still in the old spot, no move as yet. I have two 1/2 lbs in my snack drawer as I type :-)..

                                      2. I get my fix of jerky 3 times a year from a place called the jerky hut http://www.jerkyhut.com/
                                        They come to the 3 boat shows I go to in south florida I like the habenaro jerky stay away from the salmon jerky it's like smelling bait taste good but the smell is tough enjoy guys

                                        1. Nobody mentioned Big Johns eh? That is the most popular one on Canadian forums (probably because they ship to Canada as well). Free shipping in the US...

                                          http://www.bigjohnsbeefjerky.com/abou...

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: duckdown

                                            I ordered Big John's Beef Jerky a few times due to one of their guys posting and offering discounts on another message board I go to, and it is delicious -- probably the best I've ever had.

                                            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                              Thanks for reviving this thread, Big Bad. I'm always on the lookout for the jerky of my childhood. I like hard jerky, so I like the texture of Robertson's, but I wish it had more spice---more pepper and I wouldn't mind a bit of sweetness. I'm actually pretty okay with something like the classic Oberto's pepper flavor, but I'm still looking for something *better* than that. I'll try the Big John's next, I think.

                                              1. re: PegS

                                                Another vote for Big John's--I think I got the idea to order it from this thread. Very good, black pepper-spicy and just a little sweet. Great plane snack. Also compared to a lot of mail-order companies it's very reasonably priced.

                                          2. 2 places-
                                            Gary West, out of Jacksonville, OR, and Mahogony Smoked Meats, Bishop, CA. Love Gary's teriyaki, and Mohagonys honey turkey jerky. Like candy. Have some Gary West cajun beef jerky in my cupboard right now, but I'm kind of scared-I don't do too well with spice. If you are ever in Southern Oregon, go to Gary West's Tasting Room-all beef jerky, wine, mustards and jams. And across the street, at the Pony Espresso, they have fabulous tomato bisque.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: LesThePress

                                                In Baker, CA? I usually stop there on the way to Vegas (which isn't often since I loathe Vegas) and grab a bag. It is good stuff..

                                            1. I like two Vermont companies Rosie's Beef Jerky and Damn Good Jerky.

                                              The Rosie's is very thin (not hard, just thin) while the Damn Good is a little thicker and chewier. I think the Rosie's Maple Flavor might be the best, although I like the Damn Good teriyaki.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Shann

                                                Hey, anyone ever get an answer to the Hickory Farms beef jerky question? Years ago I got the name of the company from HF and bought two five pound bags of it. They were big clear plastic bags of the best jerky ever. I remember it was from a company in CA that had nothing related to jerky in it's name. I am hoping to get the company name, not some body who has a jerky just like it. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks

                                                1. re: HF Lover

                                                  It is the Indian Style Jerky from Mahogany Smoked Meats in California. Just got two pounds and this is absolutely it. I have not seen this since the mid 90's. It is $37 per lb. but totally worth it.

                                                1. babyfork;

                                                  If you ever come through northern Colorado, visit LaPorte (an outskirt of Fort Collins) and drop by Overland Foods, a small privately owned market. Their private butcher makes their own beef jerky, and it is to die for. Slices 3/8 inch thick, soft inside with a crispy outside, just salty enough. It's not dried to shoe leather and so does require refrigeration, though it keeps fine for a couple days without.

                                                  When I'm hitting the road for a fishing trip, I drive miles out of my way to stock up.

                                                  The only better I've had was home made.

                                                  Sorry, they don't ship.

                                                  DANBOB

                                                  1. Call Sanford Butcher in Sanford, Maine and ask if they can ship their house bison jerky. IMO, it has the right amount of salt, sugar, pepper and smoke. Really delicious stuff. I believe they're closed on Sundays and Mondays.

                                                    Sanford Butcher
                                                    578 Lebanon Street
                                                    Sanford, ME 04073
                                                    (207)432-0858

                                                    1. Czuchraj Meats was endorsed by Iron Chef Michael Symons on the best thing that I ever ate on Food Network.

                                                      It is good, very good.

                                                      http://stores.jandjmeats.com/StoreFro...

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Kelli2006

                                                        Got a chance to try it this summer & second that!

                                                        1. If you're looking for a more mass-market jerky, I think Whole Foods' Organic 365 is good. It certainly tastes better to me than the Oberto, Jack Links stuff found in most supermarkets. It isn't cheap, though.

                                                          1. I have a cousin who's an outdoorsman and he makes his own. Very simple, just marinate the meat in any good sauce that you like and then slow cook in a low oven. His comes out great, and you can't beat the price.....much cheaper than packaged....and you control the salt levels.

                                                            1. This summer I stumbled upon "Gus's Really Good Fresh Jerky" in Golden Valley, AZ (near Kingman) and thought their jerky was, well, really good. They also have locations in Olancha, CA (near Lone Pine & Bishop) and in Needles, CA. You can also order online http://www.freshjerky.com
                                                              They have great pickled garlic as well, but it is not listed on the website for some reason, but I have ordered garlic by calling them.

                                                              1. Go online and buy some caribou jerky. A store in Cambridge Bay Canada sells local made. IMO it's the best of the best. Not 'gamey' mild naturally sweet. The indians up there make it and sell some of it. Most is eaten by the locals.

                                                                1. Over 10 year old thread...wow!

                                                                  If you're finding it hard to get that perfect jerky in a bag, just make your own. It's easy...and you can come up with a recipe tailored to your own taste.