Thursday, May 7, 2009

Black Forest Bison - Gunsmoke Bison Jerky

Black Forest Bison JerkyBlack Forest Bison is a small family operated bison ranch just north of Colorado Springs, CO. It's been in operation for six years, dedicated to raising all natural grass fed bison. They sell steaks, roasts, ribs, sausage, and jerky.

It appears their jerky is quite the popular item, having won awards at the National Bison Association for this Gunsmoke Bison Jerky, along with a Scovie Award for their Caliente Canyon Spice, and at the Fiery Foods Challenge Zest Fest, for their Double Black Diamond Bison Jerky.

This Gunsmoke Bison Jerky appears to be the closest thing they have to a "regular" variety. I have samples of their other varieties, which I'll be reviewing throughout this month.


Bison, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, water, salt, spices.

The soy sauce and spices are noted on the package as being organic, but note this product is not USDA certified organic.


The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a salty flavor, followed quickly by a worcestershire flavor. In the chewing, what I taste first is some natural meat flavors, followed by a more defined worcestershire flavor.

I'd say the primary flavor of this jerky overall is the worcestershire sauce. On the surface, I can detect it easily, but it's not until I start chewing that I can taste the full flavor of the worcestershire.

The second strongest flavor goes to the saltiness. I'd rate it as high in terms of intensity, but not quite "too salty" for my tolerance.

The natural meat flavors are noticeable, but light. I noticed it more with the first piece I chewed. In subsequent pieces, the aftertaste built up by the worcestershire and saltiness seemed to push the meat flavors off of my palate to where it became more difficult to detect. It's easier to detect if you suck on a piece for 20 seconds or more, and then start chewing.

The soy sauce listed in the ingredients is noticeable, but seems to blend into the worcestershire flavor. I think the worcestershire is still the stronger flavor of the two. In many other brands I reviewed containing soy sauce, often times that flavor won't appear until the latter end of chewing, after the other flavors have worn off. I checked that in this jerky, and sure enough it does become more defined at that point, but it's still more represented as a saltiness than a soy sauce flavor.

Overall, what you're going to taste in this jerky is largely a worcestershire flavor and a saltiness. The meat flavors are noticeable, but light enough that you'll likely miss it if you're not looking for it carefully.

Meat Consistency

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

It's a dry jerky, and dry to the touch, though the photos I took below might make it seem moist. Tearing pieces apart with my fingers vary from easy to a little tough. Chewing is the same, with some being easy to others being rather chewy.

The chewing texture has a very steak-like feel. Once chewed down to a soft mass, it feels similar to a steak cooked medium-well. Initially, a piece has a tad bit of rubbery resistance. Most of these pieces have enough chewiness that over the course of eating the entire contents, my jaws are feeling somewhat worked over.

I don't find any chunks of fat on these pieces, though a couple pieces have some marbilization (see close up photo). I don't find any pieces of tendon or gristle, while I found one piece with some chewy sinews. It's mostly all lean meat.

In terms of clean eating, the pieces tore apart with nary any fragments falling on to my lap or desk, and no residue picking up on my fingers.

Snack Value

Black Forest Bison sells this Gunsmoke Bison Jerky online at a price of $11.00 for a 3.5oz package. If you were to purchase 3 packages (each a different variety), the shipping costs would amount to $10.50 (if sent to my home town). That works out to a total price of $43.50, or a per ounce price of $4.14.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $4.14 price per ounce, it's a weak value. While I do get a lot of snackability from this, for it's good overall flavor, and good meat consistency, that's still a very expensive price to pay for general purpose jerky. If all you want is good jerky to snack on, I just don't see getting an equal value in return for that high of a price.

As a bison jerky, also at the $4.14 price per ounce, it fares better at a fair value. Bison is going to be pricier than beef to start off with, and this is a ranch that focuses on grass-fed bison, and uses organic ingredients, which may be important to some of you. That might make it a worthwhile value.

But to all-purpose jerky snackers, the real reason for choosing bison jerky over beef jerky is to experience the unique flavor of bison. However, the natural meat flavors in this are light and often difficult to find. In that sense, it's difficult to justify paying $4.14 per ounce, for something that tastes very much like beef jerky.


I'm giving this a good rating.

This Gunsmoke Bison Jerky has a good overall flavor, and good overall meat consistency, enough so that I think it's definitely above the average rated jerky brands I've reviewed. Particularly nice is the strong surface flavors allowing me to suck on a piece for several seconds before chewing. That actually helps soften up the meat to ease the chewing, and even helps me notice the natural meat flavors a little bit more.

But as a bison jerky, I didn't get enough of those natural meat flavors to enjoy what makes bison jerky unique. Most jerky snackers are not going to analyze this as I did here, and in that sense, I think they're going to see this as largely the flavors of worcestershire and salt, in a good meat consistency.

Still on its own merits, it's highly snackable with a pleasant flavor, and good chew.

My recommended beer pairing for this, a porter.

Rating: Good

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