Friday, December 12, 2008

Jerky Snackability

Yesterday, I was talking to some friends of mine when one of them asked me about my weight loss, and I told them about all the jerky I had been eating. The conversation eventually migrated into a discussion on what constitutes "good jerky". I ended up describing "snackability" to them.

Snackability is my way of measuring how well a jerky satisfies your urge to snack. When a jerky is very snackable, you find yourself wanting more and more. It's a combination of taste and chewing pleasure, where you crave the flavor and love the way it chews, that you can't keep your hands off of it.

A jerky can still be snackable if the meat consistency is tough, but only if the taste is so good that you have to have more. It could also be the other way around where the taste is average, but it's so easy to eat that you can down it quickly.

A good taste and a good chewing texture are still subjective to the jerky snacker. Therefore, snackability is also subjective. But then again, most of us don't buy jerky so that we can nibble it like brie on melba toast. I think jerky taps into an instinct passed down to us by our cave-dwelling ancestors to grab a piece of flesh with our hands, tear it with our teeth, and replenish our bodies with nutrients from the kill.

I think jerky ought to be that kind of snack, though you're certainly welcome to extend your pinky finger while nibbling your piece of dried beef.

As I've said many times on this blog, snackability has the greatest weight in assigning ratings. Jerky is a snack food, and therefore should satisfy as a snack. You could certainly eat jerky as if it were a meal, but for the 99% of us, we eat jerky as something to snack on while doing something else, be it typing on computer, driving down the road, watching television, or sitting on a mountain peak after a long climb.

Snackability could be compromised by a variety of factors...

* Too salty - too much salty taste in jerky eventually leaves my mouth feeling scorched, and I can't handle eating any more it.

* Bland taste - a jerky with little flavor complexity ends up becoming boring. I like jerky with lots of flavors to keep me thinking about what I'm tasting.

* Toughness - a jerky that's tough to chew will eventually make my jaws tired. But if the jerky has a lot of surface flavor, I can suck on it for awhile, and let it soften up before chewing.

* Connective tissue - jerky with too much tendon and gristle is a big turn off for me. A "good jerky" should demand that meat processors take the time to remove this stuff.

* Stale meat flavor - if the natural meat flavors taste stale, rank, or slightly rancid, it loses snackability. The exception is if there's enough seasoning and marinade to overcome that taste.

When I created this website, I did some Googling for criteria on what defines "good jerky", and I couldn't find any. So I created my own set of criteria. This article doesn't really cover all that, perhaps I'll write another article on that alone.

But because I've used the word "snackability" in my reviews many times, I wanted to go into detail what I mean by it. I imagine the manufacturers and brands have their own words to describe this.


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