Smoky Mountain Beef Jerky is a brand of Magnolia Jerky, LLC, based out of Knoxville, TN. Magnolia Jerky, LLC appears to be a subsidiary of Magnolia Provisions Company, Inc., based at the same address. Magnolia Provisions is a meat processor offering steaks, chops, burger, etc.
The Smoky Mountain brand apparently started out as "Jay's Jerky", originally created by a guy named Jay Thomas back in 2000. Jay was making jerky out of his home and selling it with a partner. Eventually the jerky became popular, and he couldn't keep up with demand. That's when he hooked up with Magnolia Provisions, a meat processing company.
I talked to a representative at the company, who said the Jay's Jerky brand technically doesn't exist anymore, it was renamed to Smoky Mountain, because they found the brand sells better, particularly because it's associated with Tennessee, the location of Magnolia Provision. But Smoky Mountain is the same exact jerky as Jay's Jerky. The company still shows the "Jay's Jerky" label on its website, but the representative says it's all the same jerky they make.
Magnolia describes this particular Original variety as having a "good traditional jerky flavor. Lightly seasoned to allow the true beef flavor to come through."
Beef, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper, spices.
The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a strong worcestershire flavor, followed by a light black pepper flavor, and some saltiness. Overall, a moderate flavor intensity off the surface.
The chewing flavor starts with a sharper saltiness, a noticeable soy sauce flavor, and a continuation of the worcestershire.
After eating a few pieces, it seems like the flavor component that dominates this jerky is the worcestershire. At least that's the flavor that seems to be most identifiable. I can sense some soy sauce in the chewing flavors, but the unique flavor of worcestershire still seems rise above.
There's also a well-noticed garlic flavor to this. In fact, I can see bits of roasted garlic stuck the surface. I nibbled on these bits and confirmed that it's roasted garlic.
Black pepper is also visible on these pieces in copious amounts. They do contribute to the overall flavor, though not as noticeable as the garlic. However, after several pieces they leave behind a moderate aftertaste.
As far as Magnolia Provisions saying that this jerky is lightly seasoned to allow the true beef flavor to come through", well that's not true. First of all, it's not lightly seasoned, but heavily seasoned. Second, I can't taste the natural meat flavors. I tried several pieces, and thought carefully at what I'm tasting, and I just can't find anything that resembles the flavor of "true beef". It could be in there, but the worcestershire and the seasonings are heavy enough that they drown out what natural meat flavors may be there.
Some pieces contain significant streaks of fat, and they do contribute a well-noticed fatty flavor.
The saltiness seems high, which is substantiated by the sodium content on the nutrition facts label.
I can also see scant pieces of red chile pepper flakes. I nibbled on a flake, and it provided zero flavor. So, the light burn I'm feeling in my mouth is perhaps a combination of a salt scorch and the black pepper aftertaste.
Overall, what you're going to taste the most in this is the worcestershire, followed by a moderately intense roasted garlic flavor, a good deal of saltiness, and some black pepper. You'll notice the soy sauce in the chewing, but probably more towards the latter part of chewing, as the other flavors wear off.
These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to a thin to medium thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.
This is a dry jerky, with little flexibility before cracking open. Some pieces have a slight bit of crunchiness to it. Tearing pieces apart with my fingers seems easy, while chewing varies from easy to moderately easy.
The chewing texture starts out feeling a little crisp, but still pliable. They chew down pretty quickly, however. Once down to a soft mass, they have a steak-like feel, fibrous, comparable to a steak cooked well-done.
Several pieces have some significant streaks of fat running through the middle, which may actually be gristle. They have a fatty flavor, but have the rubberband-like chewing of gristle. Other pieces have some small pieces of fat, more like marbilized beef. I do find a fair amount of stringy sinews in these pieces.
It can also be a little messy eating this jerky. It's quite dry, but it still seems leave bits of black pepper on my fingertips, and tearing a piece apart causes black pepper bits to fly off to my lap or desk.
Magnolia Provisions sells this jerky from its website at a price of $5.75 for a 4oz package. There's no bulk discounts on their jerky, however if you purchase $100.00 or more, they give you free shipping. Otherwise, it's a flat rate shipping fee of $8.99. So, if you buy four packages of this stuff, the total will come to $31.99. That's a per ounce price of $2.00.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $2.00 per ounce price, this offers a good value. I'm getting a lot of snackability from its great overall flavor, and good chewing texture, and fairly easy eating. The $2.00 price per ounce is still higher than mass-market brands you find at the store, but not that much more. Yet I'm getting plenty of snackability in return.
I'm giving this a good rating.
If I were to judge this jerky purely on taste, I'd give it a best rating. The combination of soy sauce, worcestershire, and black pepper is a common recipe, but the bits of roasted garlic easily seen on the surface adds enough "pop" to make this delicious. Even though I don't really taste the natural meat flavors in this, I find the seasonings and marinade to be quite good.
However, seeing significant streaks of gristle on so many pieces was a big turn off for me, and caused me to downgrade the rating to "good". It's not so much the flavor they contribute, but the rubberband-like chewing they create. Otherwise, the meat has a steak-like chewing texture, and is fairly easy to eat.
The level of saltiness is rather high in this, but I could overlook that for a great tasting jerky.
For my recommended beer pairing, my heart keeps suggesting a red ale.
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