Big John's Beef Jerky is a brand of SME Foods, LLC out of York, PA. The company has been around since January 2002.
It all got started by the husband and wife team of Bill & Renee Lenzer, who met each other while the two were employed by Pizza Hut. It turns out that Renee's father, John, had a knack for making jerky, and it wasn't until Bill tried some of his jerky that Bill also became a jerky lover.
Both Bill and Renee got John's backing, and turned his unique recipe into the business of today. The company says they smoke their jerky over hickory wood chips for a full 14 hours.
Beef, water, salt, sugar, flavorings, lemon pepper, sodium nitrite. Sprayed with potassium sorbate to maintain freshness.
The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a moderate level smokiness, a slight sweet flavor, and a moderate level black pepper flavor. In the chewing, I get a good deal of natural meat flavors, and some saltiness.
If I were to chew a piece immediately after putting it into my mouth, I still get the same smokiness, but I think the natural meat flavors are less pronounced. It seems like this is a jerky that needs to be sucked on for about 5-10 seconds first to get the full flavor throughout the chewing.
My initial thoughts as I continue to sample this jerky is that's its indeed very good. It's has a good deal of flavor intensity, and a very tasty natural meat flavor.
And that natural meat flavor is perhaps the dominant flavor of this jerky. It has a flavor very similar to a sirloin cooked medium, with a well defined smoky color. There's also a kind of smooth, buttery flavor as well that seems to provide some level of irresistibility.
There's also a good deal of black pepper flavor that sits in the background. I think it provides the second-most dominant flavor. Actually, I don't really notice the black pepper right away after popping a piece into my mouth; it seems to slowly fade into view and eventually I realize that it's got a moderate-level aftertaste going. I think what happens is that the natural meat flavors have such dominance that all the attention gravitates towards it while the pepper slowly gains strength.
The salt intensity in this seems moderate. I'd rate it as the third-most dominant flavor of this jerky.
I can also pick up a garlic flavor.
As for the lemon pepper in the ingredients, I don't really pick up a lemon or citrus-like flavor.
Overall, it's a jerky that's dominated by a great tasting natural meat flavor, with a good smoky color, and with the black pepper and salt taking the second and third-most dominant flavors.
These appear to be strips of whole meat, sliced to a medium-to-thick thickness, and in lengths between 3-5 inches, and widths of about 1/4 inch.
There seems to be a fair amount of moisture in these strips, but still a dryness you'd expect in jerky. It's fairly easy to bite a piece off, and the chewing requires a bit of effort eventually tires out my jaws after a 4oz bag.
The chewing texture of these strips, once they hydrate in my mouth, has a very meaty, fibrous, steak-like character. I don't really get any mushy or mealy texture.
As far as clean eating goes, I do see a few meat fragments on my lap and desk, as well as some bits of pepper, but my fingers don't really pick up any residue.
I also see some small bits of fat on several pieces, but they're small enough that I don't really notice their flavor. I don't really find any wads of chewy membranous tissues left over in my mouth, and I haven't found any bits of tendon or gristle.
I paid $5.75 for this 4 ounce bag from Big John's website, which works out to a price of $1.44 per ounce, putting this into the average price range. This price includes the shipping.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, this has an excellent value. I get a great deal of snackability from its delicious flavor and great chewing texture. But take further note of that price. I'll have to check, but I'm not sure I've seen another jerky at such a high quality in taste and texture at such an affordable price.
I'm giving this a best rating.
I'm just really impressed with the flavor of this original variety from Big John's. It's got a great tasting meat flavor that dominates this jerky all throughout the chewing. That medium-level smokiness I get immediately from the surface is just a warning of such smooth and buttery-like meat flavors waiting ahead.
Even the black pepper works really well in this; it's doesn't attack you right away, it lets the meat flavors make its entrance, and then it fades into view and provides a heavenly contrast like a choir of angels singing over a herd of stampeding cattle.
The chewing texture in this is excellent, giving you that steak-like sense of eating real meat.
If there's any negative to note, it's that chewing a 4 ounce bag of this all the way through will leave your jaws feeling wore out. But that could also be a sign that you had some jerky you could not resist. But it's also worth noting that there's enough surface flavors in this jerky that you can suck on a piece first to prolong the snacking, and even soften the meat up before chewing.
And how can I not remind you of that snacking value? For the same price you'll pay on a 3.5oz bag of Oberto jerky, you can buy this 4oz bag of Big John's and get some really good tasting jerky, and not even have to leave home.
And for my recommended beer pairing, I'd go for a dark, smoky, porter.
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