Saturday, November 29, 2008

Riley's Jerky - Jalapeno

About a week-and-a-half ago I did a review of Riley's Jerky - Original. In the days since then, it's become the most popular review, consistently getting read more than the others. I still have this Jalapeno variety...

As I said earlier, I discovered this jerky while driving through Northern California on my way up to Washington State at the beginning of this month. I stopped in at a Mobil Station in Yreka, CA, and picked up a bag of this Jalapeno. I ended up eating it all during my drive, and liked it so much, that I made a point to buy some more on my way back home.

Riley's Jerky is based out of Greenville, CA. It's been in operation since 1980, and from what I've been able to gather, is still a small family run business. They claim to make all their jerky by hand in their own facility, and advise that while their jerky is a little bit tougher to eat, it has a taste and texture that's superior to most others. Their jerky is largely sold in stores throughout southern Oregon and northern California. They also sell to directly to individuals over the phone.


Ingredients

Beef, soy sauce, jalapeno peppers (jalapeno peppers, water, carrots, cottonseed oil, salt, vinegar, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano), water, garlic salt.

Taste

The taste I pick up from the surface is the jalapeno flavoring, with a decent amount of jalapeno flavor and salt, as well as some garlic. In the chewing, I get a higher degree of that jalapeno seasoning, a higher degree of salt, some vinegar taste, more garlic, and some natural meat flavors.

The jalapeno flavoring is quite strong in this, and is what I'd consider to be the dominant flavor of this jerky. It's not necessarily hot, however. I'd rate the hotness as a mild-medium.

Also strong, is the salt. This is quite salty and is at the upper limits of what I might tolerate. It's not bad in a few pieces, but over the whole bag, it leaves my mouth somewhat scorched, and yearning for something to drink. This is more salty than Riley's original variety.

The natural meat flavors can be identified, but are not well defined. I think the stronger jalapeno and salt flavors have masked much of it. Contrast that to the company's original variety which has a strong natural meat flavor.

Also, the original variety I reviewed earlier consisted of very thick chunks of meat, almost like beef stew meat. The heavy thickness seemed to have left a layer of inner meat with some slight moisture providing a concentrated meat flavor. In this jalapeno sample, the pieces are not as thick, and as such is completely dry all the way through. My guess is that it's all hit or miss as to what your bag of Riley's may contain.

Overall, it's a great tasting jerky, mostly as the jalapeno flavoring, with the saltiness as a close second dominant flavor, followed by the natural meat flavors. I can also sense the garlic and vinegar.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be cuts of whole meat, sliced into thick strips, ranging from 1-3 inches in length.

This is dry jerky, very dry. Combine that with its thick cut, and it makes this very tough to tear apart, and very tough to chew. However, I find a good deal of surface taste that I tend to suck on a piece first, which helps to soften the meat.

And once I'm able to soften up a piece, it has a steak-like chewing character.

It's a pretty clean jerky, leaving no residue on my fingers or pieces on my lap. It's also very lean, I found no pieces of fat, tendon, or gristle.




Snack Value

I paid $5.99 for this 3 ounce bag at a Mobil Station in Yreka, CA. That works out to a price of $2.00 per ounce, putting this on the border between average and expensive.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it provides a decent value. It's got a great taste in its jalapeno flavoring, though the tough meat consistency can present a challenge. I guess it might be like sunflower seeds, where half the enjoyment is sucking off the salt and cracking open the shell. In this case you're sucking off the jalapeno flavoring, and softening up the meat.

As a jalapeno variety, it presents a good value at this higher price, because I do get plenty of jalapeno flavoring, though not necessarily hot.

This is actually a good value as a dieting snack, being extremely low in fat and carbs, with no preservatives, a great taste, and eating so slow enough that it'll take you 2-3 hours to eat it all.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I like the taste of this jerky, with its strong jalapeno flavor, notes of garlic and vinegar, and light natural meat flavor. It also provides a steak-like chewing satisfaction. But it's very tough. It's tough enough that you might become frustrated wanting to chew into that great taste, but not being able to. The toughness is largely what keeps me from giving it a better rating.

But it still seems to work well as a jerky because it does have plenty of surface flavor that you can get a good deal of snack value sucking on this as it softens up.

The high degree of saltiness is also an issue with me, and also prevents me from assigning this a higher rating. But the overall flavor of this jerky is still good enough to mitigate the saltiness.

My beer recommendation with this is a wheat beer (hefeweizen).

Rating: Good

Where to buy:
  • Call Riley's Jerky direct, (530) 284-6313

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mt Shasta's Finest Beef Jerky - Original

Mt Shasta's Finest Beef Jerky - OriginalWhile driving back to Southern California after a trip up north to Washington State, I stopped at a gas station in Yreka, CA, and found this bag of Mt Shasta's Finest Beef Jerky. Always wanting to try new jerky brands, I picked this up, along with another one of their flavors, black peppered.

The package says it was manufactured for Bill Wood Distributing. A look on the Internet shows that it's a small company that distributes products to truck stops, gas stations, and convenience stores around the Northern California area. The jerky itself was actually manufactured by Lucksen Trading Company, who makes several brands of jerky under its KMB Foods banner. The packaged is stamped, "Produced in the USA".

I tried to call Bill Wood Distributing, but got only a recorded message; I had hoped to pick their brain on this brand of Mt Shasta's Finest.

In the end, I ate the black peppered variety while driving home, but left myself this original variety to review. I should have bought a couple packages of that black peppered so that I could at least have one left to review, it was really good stuff!


Ingredients

Beef, water, salt, pepper, papaya, brown sugar, garlic powder, seasoning sauce (caramel, water, carrots, onions, celery, parsnips, turnips, salt, parsley & spices).

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a slight sweet flavor, followed by a meat flavor, and I think some peppery flavor. Moving into the chewing, I find a very strong meat flavor.

Right away, the natural meat flavors are evident in this. It tastes just like the outer layer of prime rib. In fact, it's the dominant taste of this jerky.

The seasoning sauce listed in the ingredients, I'm sure, has a lot to do with the flavor of this. There's a bit of pungent quality to the marinade that was perhaps created by the garlic, onion, parsnips and turnsips. I can also taste a bit of peppery aftertaste in the back of my mouth.

There's a salty flavor as well, but I don't see this as being "too salty" even though the nutrition facts label might suggest otherwise.

It's difficult for me to peg down the second-most dominant flavor of this, but I'd probably give it to the salt. But it's largely the natural meat flavors that take over the palate.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a dry jerky, one that retains just a bit of flexibility, but will crack not too long after. It's still flexible enough that it won't break apart. In fact, most pieces are rather tough to tear apart, though some others are not too bad. But it's tougher to chew, I find most of the pieces to give my jaw a good work out. This is something better to suck on for awhile, and then chew.

In terms of chewing experience, it seems to chew like a real steak, though more like a tough steak.

It's a pretty clean jerky, leaving no residue on my fingers, and no bits of meat on my lap. And it's also seems to be fairly lean, seeing only one piece with a significant piece of fat. I did find one piece with a nice sized piece of gristle, which was very hard.




Snack Value

I paid $4.99 for this 4 ounce package at a Mobil Station in Yreka, CA. That works out to a price of $1.25 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, I think this offers an excellent value. Even though it's a tough jerky that'll give your jaw a work out, I find the taste to be worth the exercise.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I really like the taste of this jerky, which is mostly all natural meat flavors, tasting like the outer portion of prime rib. The salt and marinade seem to enhance the flavor of the meat.

But the tough meat consistency makes it difficult for me to assign a higher rating. While I can overlook the toughness for the great taste, there's not enough in the taste department that wows me to give it a best rating.

The black peppered variety, that I consumed before I could write a review, could have gotten a best rating just because it did provide a good deal of black pepper taste combined with that meat taste. In fact, I'd love to try a jalapeno variety of this stuff.

My beer recommendation would be a brown ale.

Rating: Good

Where to buy:
  • Contact Bill Wood Distributing, (530) 926-2588

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Buffalo Bills Dead Meat - Snafu Spicy

Buffalo Bills Dead Meat - Snafu SpicyA few days ago I received a few packages of "Dead Meat", a new line of jerky from the Buffalo Bills brand. Buffalo Bills is owned by Choo Choo R Snacks, Inc., of Lebanon, PA. They've been selling jerky since 1990.

The folks there explained to me that the Dead Meat line is all sold in one pound bags, and for the most part, it's exactly the same as their Premium Line of jerky, with the same varieties, except made with a less expensive cut of beef, but still made from US-raised cattle. The cheaper meat allows them sell these one-pound bags at a price that competes better with other brands of one-pound jerky.

One thing I like about the Dead Meat line is the presentation. The labeling is all military themed, with their famous Buffalo Bill logo decked out in camoflauge, with machine guns and hand grenades. Even the name "Dead Meat" is cool to me. It's blunt, it's manly, and it's exactly what jerky is anyways. It's almost as if it were a response to the political correctness run amok that seems to have taken over America these days.

In addition to this "Spicy Snafu", the Dead Meat line also includes "Hooah Hickory" and "Troi Oi Teriyaki".

Ingredients

Beef, sugar, water, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, red pepper, black pepper, cayenne chili, liquid smoke, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The flavors I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a good deal of sweetness and the taste of chili peppers. In the chewing, I pick up some smokiness, some saltiness, and the natural meat flavors.

This stuff could easily pass as a sweet & spicy jerky as there's enough sweetness on this stuff to make it so, and the level of spicy seems enough to warrant calling it spicy. I'd rate the hotness as medium for most pieces, and mild-medium for some others. The actual flavors of red chiles and cayenne pepper are easily detectable too.

The natural meat flavors are also easily identifiable, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's a strong flavor. I get a mild taste of the beef with some smoky overtones. Some of the pieces had a stale taste, but most of it seemed fresh.

I don't really see this as "too salty" at all, it seems to have a moderate level taste. It may be the higher degree of sweetness that dampens the impact of the salt.

I can also pick up the garlic too, but lightly, and only after eating several pieces. It's aftertaste makes a decent presence in the back of my mouth.

To me, the dominant taste of this jerky is that combination of sweet & spicy from the red chiles and cayenne pepper. The second most dominant taste is the natural meat flavors, and third place is the salt. It's a flavor-intensive jerky.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced at average to thick thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

I'd classify this as a dry jerky, but clearly with some slight degree of moisture, and more soft and tender than typical dry jerkies. It retains a lot of flexibility. It does require a bit of effort to tear apart, and it is indeed chewy, but I wouldn't consider this tough. The chewiness is somewhere between easy and tough.

The chewing experience has a heavy fibrous character like a well-done steak, but there is also a chewiness to this, perhaps even a slight rubbery texture.

The sugary coating also leaves some sticky on my fingertips, and that picks up some of the chili pepper flakes as well. Here and there I'm having to do some finger licking.

There is a noticeable degree of fat on some of these pieces, but most of it seems fairly lean. However, I also found streaks of gristle, and tendon as well, on other pieces. One piece had a large enough piece of tendon that I just yanked off and tossed away.




Snack Value

Choo Choo R Snacks sells this Dead Meat Snafu Spicy variety from their website at a price of $17.99 for a 16 ounce bag. That works out to a price of $1.12 per ounce, putting this on the lower end of the medium price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it offers an excellent value particularly at this lower price. I found it very snackable with its great taste. Even though the meat is on the chewy side, it's not really tough at all, and I found myself craving the sweet & spicy flavor.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

First, I found it very snackable, which always gets a jerky up to at least an average rating. But I liked the flavor with its combination of sweet, spicy, natural meat flavors, and that touch of garlic. While it's not necessarily billed as a sweet jerky, it is billed as spicy, and it indeed stands up to that claim.

The meat consistency, having enough pieces of fat, tendon, and gristle is largely what kept me from assigning this a higher rating. While the chewing texture is kinda chewy, and maybe even rubbery to a small extent, I could overlook that for the better taste. The chewing texture is actually ok for the most part.

But this is a jerky designed for the price point of selling in large one pound bags. If you like sweet & spicy jerky, the value of this makes it a worthy buy, considering the snackability, great taste, flavor-intensity, and low price.

A good beer recommendation a light, honey blonde ale.

Rating: Good

Buy this online:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jerky Direct - Beef Steak Sticks - Peppered

Jerky Direct - Beef Steak Sticks - PepperedJerky Direct sells jerky through a multi-level marketing system, similar to the way companies like Arbonne, Partylite, and Medifast operate, where products are represented by a salesman and sold directly to consumers. To buy Jerky Direct, you have to contact an authorized sales rep, visit their website, or find them at street fairs and farmers markets.

Jerky Direct was launched in 2004 by Roger Ball, the guy that launched the Golden Valley Natural brand of jerky, as well as Intermountain Natural, a meat processor. Back in 1969, he launched the King B brand of jerky. In 1983, he helped found Melaleuca, a direct sales brand of wellness products. The success of Melaleuca seems to have inspired Ball to extend direct sales into the jerky business.

All of Jerky Direct's products are manufactured by Intermountain Natural, the same company that makes meat snacks for Golden Valley Natural, as well as jerky for store brands like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market. I've reviewed jerky for all of those brands here on Best Beef Jerky, and it's all largely the same stuff, just different labeling. Though, I haven't had these "beef steak sticks" before.

Ingredients

Beef, water, salt, sugar, flavorings, monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a smoky aroma and maybe just a faint bit of sweet. Going into the chewing, I pick up some black pepper taste (probably the result of biting a pepper corn), some natural meat flavors, and some saltiness.

Right off the bat, I have to say that of all the jerky I've had from Intermountain Natural, this stuff has the most natural meat flavors of them all. You might argue that these Beef Steak Sticks are not jerky, but I'd argue that I've seen other products marketed as "jerky" in the same size and cut as this. Either way, it's still pieces of dried whole meat.

However, this still doesn't have much taste to it, which is on par with everything else I've had from them as well.

I'd say the dominant taste of these sticks is the natural meat flavors, which is still not a strong taste, but still strong enough to be enjoyed at a good level. Some of the pieces I bite into release traces of oil or fat, which adds to the meat taste, giving it a "beefier" taste.

For being advertised as a peppered variety, I do indeed taste the black pepper, but it probably varies from light to medium in terms of intensity. I tend to taste it in the chewing, and most likely because I'm biting into a pepper corn. The pepper is the second-most dominant taste.

The saltiness is also light, probably about the level that I'm most comfortable with.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be cuts of whole meat, sliced into strips of varying between 1 to 6 inches in length, and widths of about 1/2 inch.

This is largely a dry jerky, but having a slight bit of moisture. It's somewhat easy to bite off a piece; it might take a little bit of tugging. The chewing is also somewhat easy.

It provides a chewing experience that's very much like a real steak, once you've managed to soften it up in your mouth.

For the most part, it's a very clean jerky, aside from the bits of pepper that fall off.

A couple of the pieces had some significant amounts of fat, but I didn't really find them to detract from the taste, they actually enhanced it. Though if in any greater amount, they might have ruined the taste. Otherwise, I found no pieces of tendon or gristle.




Snack Value

Jerky Direct sells these peppered steak sticks at a price of $12.00 for two 4 ounce bags. That works out to a price of $1.50 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it has a great value. I found it offer a good amount of taste, though not quite "flavor packed". It's very snackable with its decent amount of natural meat flavors and black pepper taste. I think meat lovers will even find the thick cuts of beef to provide some good satisfaction as well.

As a peppered jerky, it has a decent value. I did find a fair amount of black pepper taste; you're just not going to get tons of it. But considering the medium-level pricing at $1.50 per ounce, I'd see it as a decent purchase. If priced any higher, I'd find the snack value to drop significantly.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

I found these peppered beef steak sticks from Jerky Direct to have a decent amount of natural meat flavors to enjoy, and combine that with its thick chunky cuts, and it really provides a great meat snacking experience. The volume of black pepper seasoning ranges from low to medium on a piece-by-piece basis, but you'll always find enough black pepper to identify in each piece.

But aside from that, I don't really taste much more. It's largely a bland jerky with respect to its flavor complexity. I keep wanting to find something else like garlic, or soy sauce, or something, that makes my brain work in conjunction with my tongue to provide an additional layer of appreciation.

I think this is probably the best stuff I've had from Intermountain Natural to date.

Try a brown ale with this.

Rating: Good

Buy this online:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alaska's Best Salmon Jerky - Regular

Alaska's Best Salmon Jerky - RegularWhile I've had lots of smoked salmon, this is the first time I've had something labed as "salmon jerky". Since I know very little about salmon jerky, I'm assuming it's the same thing as smoked salmon, except drier, and chewier.

The best I can tell, the Alaska's Best brand is owned by Trapper's Creek, Inc., based out of Anchorage, AK. Trapper's Creek was founded in 1988 as a shipper of smoked salmon.

Salmon jerky has actually been around for a very long time, maybe as long as beef jerky. It used to be called "squaw candy", or "salmon candy", where indians would take strips of salmon, soak it overnight in a sugar-salt brine, and then smoke it until it became hard. Today, there's actually a line of snack foods called "salmon candy" produced by several manufacturers, but is more sweet than "salmon jerky".

Ingredients

Wild Salmon, salt, brown sugar, corn syrup solids, natural flavoring, spices, garlic powder (contains: fish).

Taste

The tastes I get from the surface of these pieces is a fishy taste, with some saltiness. Maybe a very slight sweetness. In the chewing, I pick up a stronger smoked salmon taste, and a stronger saltiness.

This basically tastes like smoked salmon, just like you'd find anywhere else. Because it's drier than smoked salmon, there's less of a fishy taste than you'd find in smoked salmon. But it still seems to provide a lot of smoked salmon flavor.

I do however, get a fishy aftertaste in the back of my mouth.

It also seems to have a fresh taste, at least I don't sense anything stale in this.

I'd say that this is more salty than typical smoked salmon. The nutrition facts label shows 910mg of sodium which is very high for other meat jerkies. But since I do love smoked salmon, and because this jerky does provide a lot of that taste, the saltiness is something I can overlook.

I don't really notice much in the spices and garlic powder.

For the most part, this is just the great taste of smoked salmon, albeit with more salt.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, cut into lengths of about 6-8 inches, and widths of about 1/2 inch.

It's largely dry, but they do have a degree of oiliness on the surface and inside the meat. It's very easy to bite off a piece, the meat mostly separates by the grain. It's also very easy to chew. It's not anywhere near as moist as actual smoked salmon, but then again that's why they call this "salmon jerky".

And it chews just like real smoked salmon, just a little more dry.

In terms of cleanliness, it does leave a thin layer of oil on my fingertips. There's also tiny granules of sugar (I think it's sugar), on one side of these strips, which sticks to that layer of oil on my fingertips.




Snack Value

You can purchase this online from Climax Jerky in a sampler containing this regular, along with peppered, and teriyaki, at a price of $6.00 for a 2 ounce package. That works out to a price of $3.00 per ounce. Which for salmon jerky, is on the lower end of average priced.

For salmon jerky snacking purposes, it's a great value only because at that price, it's got a great smoked salmon flavor, in a form factor that makes it relatively clean to eat with your fingers. I found it very tempting to keep eating more.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

I'll have to condition that, however, by saying that I can't really compare this to other salmon jerkies, since I haven't had any other salmon jerkies. But I did get plenty of smoked salmon flavor, and found this very easy to bite off and chew. It was also rather salty, but I found the smoked salmon flavor to be so rich, that I easily overlooked the saltiness.

It also leaves behind a fishy taste in my mouth and a fishy smell on my fingers, but then again, I think that's to be expected with salmon jerky.

But still, I really enjoyed eating this, and couldn't resist eating more.

For a good beer recommendation, try a wheat beer.

Rating: Best

Buy this online:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jack Link's Organic Beef Jerky - Original

Jack Link's Organic Beef Jerky - OriginalHere in Southern California, I've yet to find Jack Link's Organic jerky. I mean, there's tons of Jack Link's regular jerky, but finding their organic line has been tough. And since a number of you have wanted to see more organic jerky on here, and even one person wanted to see more Jack Link's reviews, I sought about finding more organic stuff.

I finally found a bag of Jack Link's Organic while visiting Washington State earlier this month at a Greenfresh Market in Renton, WA. It carries the USDA Organic seal, and says that it's also certified organic by Oregon Tilth.

In the few brands of organic jerky that I've had thus far, there's isn't any kind of benefit in taste or texture that I can tell. It's mostly just an ideological thing, or religious thing, or political thing. I dunno, since I'm not necessarily into the organic thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wild Joe's Beef Jerky - Hot

Wild Joe's Beef Jerky - HotIf you've been following this blog over the past couple of weeks, you've seen the reviews I've done for Wild Joe's Beef Jerky. This "hot" variety is the last of their four varieties. The Wild Joe's brand seems to be associated with tons of flavor packed into each piece, but what I've found to be a strong soy sauce and salty flavor.

Wild Joe's Beef Jerky is produced by Wild Joe's Inc. at their own facility in Cincinnati, OH. It's a family run business that's been around since 1990 growing slowly but steadily.

This "hot" variety is one of two spicy varieties of theirs, with the "cajun" variety being the other. I didn't necessarily find the cajun variety to be all that hot, even though it did pack in a good deal flavor complexity. This "hot" variety also depicts a cartoon-like Wild Joe character blowing flames out of his mouth as if this stuff is a real mouth-burner. So, is this stuff actually hot?

Ingredients

Beef, water, soy sauce, smoke flavoring, garlic powder, black pepper, and coated with cayenne pepper.

Taste

The tastes I get from the surface is a strong soy sauce and salty flavor. A spicy tingle is brewing on my tongue right away. I can also taste the cayenne pepper. Moving into the chewing, I pick up stronger soy sauce, stronger saltiness, and some natural meat flavors. That cayenne burn continues to strengthen.

Like with the other varieties from Wild Joe's, this jerky is largely dominated by its soy sauce flavor. It's also a very salty jerky, which isn't too bad on a single piece, but after eating several pieces it starts wearing me down.

As for being advertised as a "hot" variety, I'd say this jerky does live up to that billing. On an individual piece basis, I'd say it rates as medium. But over several pieces, it builds up to a medium-hot. I think the saltiness of this jerky aggravates things to where it seems hotter than it actually is. It's hot enough to produce some moisture on my scalp, but not quite enough to make beads of sweat run down the back of my neck.

And like I said above, I can even taste the cayenne's unique flavor on this, and I'd rank the cayenne as providing the second most dominant flavor.

The natural meat flavors are there, but are light on taste. And for not having any added preservatives, aside from that found in the soy sauce, it still seems to have a fresh taste. I'll throw the natural meat flavors as the third most dominant taste.

The black pepper listed in the ingredients is not well identified, probably because it's masked by the cayenne. I can taste the garlic, however.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be whole slices of meat, sliced thin, and in small, medium, and large pieces.

It's a dry jerky, but still retaining a fair amount of flexibility. It eventually cracks and breaks if bent far enough. It's also easy to tear a piece apart, and somewhat easy to chew.

It has a pretty good chewing texture, resembling like that of a steak once a piece hydrates in your mouth.

It's somewhat clean, leaving little residue on my fingers except for traces of cayenne pepper, and leaving tiny meat fibers on my lap as I tear the pieces apart.

There's a fair amount of fat marbilization on these pieces, but no tendon or gristle to be seen.




Snack Value

Wild Joe's sells this hot variety from its website at a price of $9.00 for a 3.5 ounce bag, which works out to a price of $2.57 per ounce, putting it in the expensive price range. You can also buy it in an 8 ounce bag for $1.88 per ounce, which gets it down into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes it has a fair value considering the higher price. If you can get this at the cheaper $1.88 price per ounce, it's great value. It's mostly the strong flavor of this jerky, it's steak-like chewing texture, and relative ease in eating that makes it work well as a snack.

For being a hot variety, it's the same thing. If you can get this at a cheaper price, it'd be a great value. I definitely got a good sense of "hot" in this jerky, along with a good deal of cayenne pepper flavor.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

Overall, this has a great taste with its strong soy sauce flavor, strong cayenne pepper taste and hotness, natural meat flavors and the slight garlic notes. It also provides a great chewing texture and it's relatively easy to eat. I found it very snackable with its complexity of flavors and great meat consistency.

It's just too salty for my preference. If you're into salty jerky, then I think you'll see this as a "best" rated jerky.

Also, compared to other flavored varieties from Wild Joe's, this "hot" variety probably stands up to its advertised flavor the most. Not only does it provide a good deal of spicy hotness, but it also gives off a clear cayenne pepper taste.

I think a good beer to go with this is a creamy smooth stout to help sooth the spicy and salty burn.

Rating: Good

Buy this online:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tillamook Country Smoker - Chili Pepper & Lime

Tillamook Country Smoker - Chili Pepper & LimeLike many other people, I didn't really know that the company who makes the "Tillamook Jerky" is different from the company that makes the "Tillamook Cheese", but it's true. Tillamook Country Smoker makes the beef jerky that many of us know about, while the cheese is made by Tillamook County Creamery.

But the two do in fact share a history. Dick Crossley, a dairy farmer whose business is part of the Creamery cooperative, decided to start a side business making beef jerky using his father's recipe. He asked the Creamery if it would be ok to use the name "Tillamook Country Smoker", and received approval. The Creamery actually sold his meat snacks in their gift shop and their catalogs, and at one time became one of the Creamery's biggest sellers.

But as the Creamery expanded its cooperative to more farms, and built a brand that was recognized worldwide for its cheeses, it decided that there wasn't enough room for a meat snack to share the name "Tillamook". A cease and desist letter was served, and eventually a court case was heard, and in the end it was the meat snack that won. Tillamook Country Smoker continues to build a name for itself as a beef jerky brand, though if you ask me, I think it still owes a lot of thanks to the Creamery for having helped build that brand.

Ingredients

Beef, brown sugar, water, salt, spices, lime powder, garlic powder, oregano, citric acid, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I get from the surface of these pieces is a slight sweetness, a chili pepper taste, some of the spicy tingle of the chili pepper, and a slight smoky aroma. Moving into the chewing, I get a greater a degree of sweetness, hints of that oregano, a slight bit of salt, and more of the chili pepper burn.

It's a very flavorful jerky in that there's a good concentration of flavor, as well as a complexity of flavors. The sweetness is very apparent, as is the chili pepper, the salt, slight taste of that oregano, and the smoky aroma. There's some slight garlic and black pepper aftertastes as well noticeable after several pieces.

The natural meat flavors are not be found however. I can't really identify the meat flavors in this. I do sense the smokiness, but nothing that resembles the taste of meat.

For being advertised as a "chili pepper & lime" variety, I do get a good sense of chili pepper. Not only can I feel its burn on my tongue, but I can actually taste it too. But I can't taste the lime. I don't really find anything that shows up as lime, or even as citrus, or tangy, or sour, or even fruity.

I think the taste that dominates this jerky is the chili pepper with its taste and burn. I'd rate the hot level as being medium. It's just enough to give my scalp a tingling, but not enough to produce any drops of sweat running down my neck.

The second most strongest taste in this is the sweet, both from the surface and in the chewing. It's probably more appropriate to bill this jerky as a "sweet and hot" instead of chili pepper and lime.

The third strongest taste characteristic is the salt. The salt flavor in this moderate, despite the generous 650mg of sodium showing in the ingredients list.

Overall, it's a great tasting jerky with its strong chili pepper taste and sweetness. I like the hints of oregano in the background.

Meat Consistency

This is a whole muscle jerky, cut into pieces measuring about 1 inch by 2 inches.

It's a soft and tender jerky, being easy to tear apart and easy to chew. It doesn't really provide a steak-like chewing experience, rather it chews like a chopped & formed jerky, though it's not chopped & formed. It's not really steak-like, not really like hamburger-like.

It's a fairly clean jerky, leaving nothing on my fingertips, though pieces of chili pepper seeds tend to fall off on to my lap.




Snack Value

I paid $4.99 for this 3.25 ounce package at a Riteway grocery store in Renton, WA. That works out to a price of $1.53 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it has a great value. It's something I'd buy again. It offers a tons of flavor, and is easy to eat. Even though it doesn't offer a steak-like chewing experience, nor offer any natural meat flavors, I found the flavorings to be good enough to make this very snackable.

As a chili pepper & lime variety, it's a fair value only because you'll get a good sense of chili pepper seasoning, but nothing at all like lime, or citrus. I might be disappointed in having wasted money on something I thought would provide some tangy lime taste, but even then it's still a tasty jerky on its own merits.

Rating

I'm giving this a good rating.

First, I found this jerky to be very snackable with its great overall flavor and ease in eating. But it also won extra points for its strong concentration of flavor, and complexity of flavors.

But beyond that there isn't any "wow factor" to push it up to that best rating. Even though it offers no meat flavors, I can overlook that if the seasoning and marinades are exceptional. I do think the flavor is strong enough to make me overlook that. On the other hand, if it could have also provided that meat taste, I might be impressed enough to give it a best rating.

It also didn't totally live up to its advertised "chili pepper & lime" variety. It was just chili pepper, but no lime.

I think a light tasting, honey blonde ale would make a great companion beer.

Rating: Good

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Hsin Tung Yang - Fruit Flavored Beef Jerky

Hsin Tung Yang - Fruit Flavored Beef JerkyThe idea of fruit flavored beef jerky might seem like an oddity to us Americans, but it's a popular style of "dried beef" in asian markets. In fact, it's probably about as popular over there as the teriyaki flavoring is popular to jerky snackers here. Most of the fruit flavored jerky is flavored with strawberry.

Hsin Tung Yang is also probably the most popular, or at least one of the most widely available, brands of meat snacks in Chinese grocery stores. It got its start in Taiwan in 1967, it wasn't until 1979 that they opened up a USA-based subsidiary. Most of the chinese-style of beef jerky retailing in the States is from Hsin Tung Yang.

I've reviewed only one other strawberry flavored jerky before, and I found it to have only a faint sense of fruit flavors. I'm hoping to get a more fruitier taste with this one.

Ingredients

Beef, water, soy sauce, sugar, stawberry jam, green onion, spices, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I pick up off the surface of these pieces is a strong sweet taste, along with a "chinese food" aroma which is difficult for me to describe. Moving into the chewing, I can get a slight meat taste, and something more of a fruity flavor that does seem to resemble strawberry jam.

That sweetness is probably the most strongest flavor in this jerky, and is what I'd say dominates this jerky overall. That's only expected since this is billed as a fruit flavored jerky.

The strawberry jam flavoring is definitely there, but I'd say it's probably the second most strongest taste. I get it mostly in the chewing. Note that I said it tastes like strawberry jam, and not so much like fresh strawberries.

The third most strongest flavor is probably the meat flavors. The meat doesn't taste anything like American style beef jerky, it has that "chinese food" taste. I'm not sure what creates that flavor by just looking at the ingredients list, but I note that all of the asian brands I've had have this taste to it. It's not a bad taste, but definitely something unlike the American jerkies.

In terms of saltiness, it's not that salty at all, somewhat mild actually.

I don't really taste the soy sauce or green onion mentioned in the ingredients list.

Overall, it's a not bad tasting jerky, but one that I'm not all that excited about. I guess I'd have to grow up eating fruit flavored jerky in order to like it. But I think it does pass muster for being advertised as such.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a soft and tender style of jerky, being somewhat moist. It's very easy to tear apart, and very easy to chew.

It provides a steak-like chewing texture for the most part, but there's also just a bit of mushiness to it. It's a fairly clean jerky as well, leaving no residue on my fingers. While the pieces are covered in tiny meat fibers resembling something like "fur", these fibers remain stuck to the pieces due to the heavy sweet coating.

While I don't find any pieces of fat on this jerky, I do find a good deal of gristle. Every piece has a streak of gristle on it, providing a decent amount of rubbery chew.




Snack Value

I paid $1.69 for this 1.5 oz package at a 99 Ranch Market in Irvine, CA. That works out to a price of $1.13 per ounce, making this an average price buy, but at the lower end towards cheap.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it presents a great value. It's got a good deal of flavor intensity, and is very tender to eat, and even has a decent chewing texture. Though the proliference of gristle is a turn-off for me.

As a "fruit flavored" beef jerky is definitely has excellent value for being priced at this low. If for some reason you want a good deal of strawberry jam flavor with your beef jerky then I suppose you're going to get some good bang for your buck with this.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

While on paper, this jerky seems to score very well, I'm just not a fan of "fruit flavored" jerky. Yes, this jerky has a good deal of flavor intensity, it definitely lives up to advertised flavor, it's not overly salty, easy-to-eat, and offers a good chewing texture. I just find the overall taste to be undesirable, and that's just my personal preference.

On a factual note, the meat consistency is rather frought with gristle, which I feel is subpar with most of the jerky brands on the market. When I reviewed the "Hot Beef Jerky" also from Hsin Tung Yang, I again found some significant gristle. It seems that the company doesn't mind gristle in their jerky.

Or maybe rubbery gristle is something that chinese jerky snackers don't mind?

Probably a good beer to drink with this is a wheat beer (hefeweizen).

Rating: Average

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

World Kitchens - Teriyaki Beef Jerky, 3.5oz

World Kitchens - Teriyaki Beef JerkyDuring my visit up to Seattle earlier this month, I was walking through a QFC store to see what local brands of jerky they might have, and saw this 3.5 oz package of World Kitchens beef jerky. What really caught my eye was the pieces of meat viewable inside the package.

If you read my original review of World Kitchens that I did in May 2006, I gave them a dog treats rating. That was their "one pound" sized bag. The meat tasted somewhat rancid, as if it were mixed with some kind of internal organs, maybe liver, I dunno. I got the sense that it was a chunked beef jerky, because they were all small bite-sized chunks, but with other chopped stuff mixed in. The meat crumbled apart in my mouth, and didn't really give me a meat-like chewing satisfaction.

But this 3.5 oz bag had different looking meat inside. I'm not sure if the meat in this 3.5 oz bag is an updated meat consistency, or if it's always been different than their one pound bag. Nonetheless, it's a different jerky than the one I reviewed before.

Interestingly, there are two USDA Establishment numbers on this 3.5 oz bag, one for Knauss Foods, and another for Bruce Pac in Woodburn, OR. Bruce Pac is the actual distributor, and owner of the World Kitchens brand. This bag is also stamped, "Natural Style", where as the one pound bag I reviewed before doesn't have that stamp. But it's still stamped, "product of Brazil" on the bottom.

Ingredients

Sliced beef, water, brown sugar, sugar, salt, hydrolyzed soy protein, spice, papaya juice, vinegar, monosodium glutamate, powdered onion, powdered garlic, citric acid, soy sauce powder, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a medium level sweetness, and I think a hint of soy sauce flavor. Moving into the chewing, I can get more of a salty taste, and a pungent taste that resembles something of the ginger in teriyaki sauce.

Well, it's certainly a better jerky than the previous stuff I reviewed back in May 2006.

It doesn't have that liver-like meat taste that it used to have. In fact, it doesn't have any meat taste at all; I suppose that's better than tasting like liver. Well, I can taste some slight hints of meat, but it's something I have to think about to find.

In terms of teriyaki flavoring, I wouldn't totally consider this as having a teriyaki flavor. I can taste the sweet, and that pungent taste normally produced by ginger, and a slight bit of soy sauce. But I don't see those components marrying together as teriyaki. At least, if I were snacking on this as opposed to analyzing this, I wouldn't get the sense that I'm having teriyaki beef.

I'd say the dominant taste of this jerky is that pungent quality. I'm guessing that it's produced by the onion and ginger, or maybe in conjunction with another ingredient. But it's not a strong taste.

Coming in second, is the sweetness from the surface, and the third strongest flavor is that slight bit of soy sauce plus salt. And even in terms of saltiness, I don't really see this as being salty despite the 580mg of sodium per serving.

But all of those tastes are not strong. Overall, this jerky has a low-to-medium level flavor intensity. It doesn't taste bad, but it doesn't offer much enjoyment either.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slice of whole meat, sliced average thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This is a soft and tender style of jerky, with a slight bit of moisture. It's very easy to tear apart, particularly with the grain, and very easy to chew.

It has a rather mushy chewing texture, even the drier pieces tend to be more mushy than they are fibrous.

For the most part it's a clean jerky, leaving no residue on my fingers and no pieces on my lap. But I do note that there is a good deal of crumbled pieces sitting in the bottom of the bag.

I found no pieces of fat, tendon, or gristle.




Snack Value

I paid $5.49 for this 3.5 ounce package at a QFC store in Seattle, WA. That works out to a price of $1.57 per ounce, putting this in the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, this offers a decent value for the price. But that's about all it offers, a decent amount of snacking value. It offers a low-to-medium level flavor intensity, and a lackluster chewing satisfaction. But overall, it doesn't taste bad.

As a teriyaki variety, it offers a poor value because I didn't get a sense of teriyaki flavor. If you're looking to spend money on a jerky that will give you a strong teriyaki flavor, you're not going to get much mileage from this.

Rating

I'm giving this a fair rating.

I think this 3.5 oz bag of World Kitchens teriyaki beef jerky is a better jerky than their one pound bag. I don't know if their one pound bag still has the same jerky that I reviewed two-and-a-half years ago, or if it's just like the stuff in this 3.5 oz bag. But overall I'd consider it below average in terms of taste and meat consistency. First, it doesn't offer much taste with its low-to-medium level flavor intensity. Second, it doesn't live up to its teriyaki advertisement. And third, it has a mushy chewing texture.

I could overlook the mushy chewing texture if the flavor was exceptional. But considering this jerky is somewhat light on taste to begin with, it needs a quality meat consistency to help push this up to a higher rating.

While I wouldn't buy this jerky again, it's at least something I can still eat and not pass off to my dogs. Though, it wouldn't bother me to at least share it with them!

A good beer to have with this would be a brown ale.

Rating: Fair

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Climax Jerky - Smoked Elk

Climax Jerky - Smoked ElkElk is one of the exotic meats that the US Department of Agriculture allows to be sold as "venison". But unlike deer, which most of us think of as true venison, elk is not as gamey, and more like beef.

This package of Smoked Elk is from Climax Jerky, a family-run business based out of Dillon, CO. It's headed by Brooke Comai, who got it started in 1998 by selling bags of jerky atop Fremont Pass along the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Her family continues to sell their jerky up at that elevation to tourists and bicyclists braving the thin atmosphere.

This particular smoked elk happens to be the best selling jerky at Climax. It's a tenderloin cut of elk smoked with hickory, and is very moist. It actually needs to be kept refrigerated, even if the package has never been opened. In July 2007, Men's Journal magazine named it the best jerky in the entire country.

(And they must have eaten an awful lot of jerky to figure that one out).

Ingredients

Elk, seasoning (brown sugar, salt, sugar, spices, onion, garlic), water, vegetable dry powder (celery juice, sea salt, raw sugar, spices), lactic acid starter culture.

Taste

The tastes I get from the surface of these pieces is a slight bit of smokiness, a slight bit of sweetness, and a faint meaty aroma. Moving into the chewing, I pick up some saltiness, and a good deal of meat flavors. In the swallowing, I get some gamey taste.

First off, this isn't a jerky that you suck on and savor as there's little taste for that. This is largely a jerky that you bite off and chew right away. All of the flavor seems to be in the chewing.

And that flavor is the natural meat flavors, which dominates this jerky overall. I get a strong meat aftertaste as well. I'm not an elk expert, so perhaps I'm not credentialed to describe the quality of this elk. But I can tell that it's different from beef. The meat has that "gamey" taste to a slight degree, which I think is the result of elk meat being more densely packed with blood. That blood is probably what also gives this meat a slight sweet flavor.

And that slight sweet meat flavor tends to show up in greater degrees in certain areas of these strips. In a some bites, I almost thought there was some kind of fruit mixed in, like maybe raisin, or cranberry. But there isn't any, just pure meat.

And for being free of preservatives, this has a fresh taste, provided it's kept refrigerated until you open it.

In terms of others flavors, the garlic is noticeable and does give off a slight garlic aftertaste. I can also sense the aftertaste of black pepper. And there is also that slight sweetness off the surface. But for the most part, these flavors are all slight. It's the natural meat flavors that I taste the most.

There's also salt, but even the saltiness is not strong, maybe just moderate at the most.

After several pieces, I can feel a slight spicy bite in the back of my mouth. I don't know if that's the black pepper, or something else. This jerky is still mild in terms of spiciness.

Overall, it's a delicious jerky that punches out a strong taste of smoked elk meat, with hints of other spices, just enough to make the meat more interesting.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, sliced into widths of about 1/2 to 1 inch, and in lengths of about 4 inches. They are sliced very thick.

It's a very moist and tender jerky. It's almost like eating it straight off of a barbecue grill. And it's very soft to eat. It bites off as easily as a stick of string cheese, and probably about as easy to chew.

The chewing texture has a lot of that fibrous, steak-like quality, but it also has a mushy texture to some degree.

These strips have a lot of moisture on the outside, leaving some of it on my fingertips.

And they're also very lean, I didn't really find any pieces of fat, tendon, or gristle.

Climax Jerky - Smoked Elk

Climax Jerky - Smoked Elk
Snack Value

Climax Jerky sells this Smoked Elk at a price of $12.45 for a 4 ounce package. That works out to a price of $3.11 per ounce, making it expensive. You can get it at a lower $2.40 per ounce if you buy the larger 16 ounce package.

For general jerky snacking purposes, it's a fair value, but only because of the high price. All of its taste comes in the chewing, and you'd only enjoy this if you love the taste of elk. Otherwise, the soft and moist texture of this meat will have you eating through this so quickly, you may not gain much appreciation of the elk.

As an elk jerky, I think it's a much better value. You'd eat this purely to enjoy the flavors of elk that makes this meat so unique. And in fact, you're getting a lot of natural meat flavors. If you can discipline yourself to eat this slowly, and think about the flavors you're experiencing, then you can get plenty of bang for your buck.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

The strong taste of elk meat is what won me over with this jerky. Considering you'd pay a lot of money to acquire a bag of this stuff, getting a strong dose of the elk flavors is what you'd hope to get, and you definitely get it here.

The seasonings in this jerky are light, but that's better only because it adds some interest to the meat, rather than take over the meat entirely.

And then there's the unusually soft and moist consistency to this meat that adds to the overall pleasure of eating this.

Climax Jerky also offers this elk jerky in teriyaki, peppered, and spicy. I think the spicy might actually be more enjoyable, just because I seem to like everything spicy.

I think a great companion beer is some kind of porter.

Rating: Best

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