Saturday, January 31, 2009

Big John's Beef Jerky - BBQ

Big John's Beef Jerky - BBQLast week I posted a review for Big John's Beef Jerky - Original, and gave it a "best" rating. I wanted to follow up with a review of their BBQ variety. The Big John's brand belongs to SME Foods, LLC out of York, PA.

It's run by a husband and wife team of Bill & Renee Lenzer, who met each other while working for Pizza Hut. Renee's father John was a jerky aficionado and developed a killer recipe. Bill, on the other hand, never cared much for jerky until he tried his father-in-law's stuff. That's when he became a fan, and came up with the idea of turning it into a business. Big John's Beef Jerky has been around since 2002, and is growing quickly.

The company smokes their jerky over hickory wood chips for a full 14 hours, and also offers a "Fiery Hot" and "Teriyaki" varieties.

Friday, January 30, 2009

KC's Old Style Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

KC's Old Style Beef Jerky - TeriyakiKC's Old Style Beef Jerky is produced by KC's Old Style, Inc., out of Vancouver, WA. According to the brand's website, it's staffed by a small four-person business headed by a guy named KC Mittleider.

It's not clear to me where this meat was inspected and handled. The packages are not marked with a USDA Establishment Number, and after searching through the USDA Establishment Directory, I couldn't find anything that matched on the name. The package only says that it was made in Orchards, WA, which happens to match the business' address. I'm left wondering if KC manufactures this jerky out of his home? I put a call into him to get more information, and left a message. I haven't heard back yet.

According to the company literature, they smoke their jerky with a blend of Hickory and Northwest Alder, and then run it through a flavor tumbler.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dollar Tree Greenbrier Beef Jerky - Original

Dollar Tree Greenbrier Beef Jerky - OriginalThe Dollar Tree chain of discount stores sells this package of jerky depicted here. But if you look at the package, there's no brand name on it. If you look at the back of the package, it says it's distributed by Greenbrier International. Greenbrier does all the importing and sourcing of products sold at Dollar Tree stores.

And Greenbrier is a subsidiary of Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. This is basically Dollar Tree's store brand jerky. I think the reason why there's no brand name on it is because Greenbrier also distributes products for other discount stores; I'm guessing this allows those stores to carry the same package without having Dollar Tree's name on it.

It was actually manufactured by Mirab USA, a large private labeler of beef jerky. Mirab makes jerky for hundreds of store brands. This particular jerky is a chopped & formed style, and appears to be the same jerky that Mirab makes for other stores, including Rite Aid, and Walgreens, which I've reviewed earlier.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BS Brand Beef Jerky - Original

BS Brand Beef Jerky - OriginalBS Brand Beef Jerky is a small jerky manufacturer based out of Midland, TX. It was started by a guy named Billy Stewart, who started out making jerky for himself and his friends. And like with many other rags-to-riches jerky manufacturer stories, demand grew for his jerky and he decided he had something on his hands worthy enough to start a business on.

In addition to this original variety, BS Brand also offers a Jalapeno variety (review coming soon), as well as Tex Mex, and Barbecue varieties.

Stewart makes his jerky out of his own USDA approved facility, where it's all hand made, hand cut, and where even the bags are filled by hand. With so many hands touching this jerky, it's good to know its a USDA approved facility...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Jerky Guy - Teriyaki

The Jerky Guy - TeriyakiThe Jerky Guy is a brand belonging to a company called Better Than Yours, Inc., based out of Jackson, CA.

It was started by Jon Beltran, the "jerky guy" himself, about 27 years ago after experimenting with jerky in his backyard smoker. After perfecting a basic recipe , he approached an old co-worker who had built up a reputation for developing a really mean teriyaki sauce. Beltran was able to get that recipe and incorporated it into his beef jerky.

I had talked to Beltran over the phone about his products, and he describes this particular teriyaki as a Hawaiian style. He said one time after handing out samples to some Japanese people, they looked up at him in amazement and wondered how he was able to get true teriyaki flavor in a jerky.

And having grown up with a Japanese mother, and actually living in Japan for a short while, I'm very intrigued by this claim.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Walnut Grove Market Beef Jerky - Original

Walnut Grove Market Beef Jerky Walnut Grove Market is the store brand of Longs Drug Store. Longs Drug Store is a chain of 500+ drug stores across Calfornia, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. The name "Walnut Grove Market" probably comes from the company being headquartered in Walnut Creek, CA, a town that was historically known for its walnut groves.

Just last Fall, Longs Drug Store was purchased by CVS Caremark.

Longs Drug Stores doesn't make its own jerky. It's actually made by Jack Link's. Walnut Grove Market also offers jerky in a peppered, and teriyaki variety.

I note that the "Best By" date on this is Feb 2009, just a week away from this review.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big John's Beef Jerky - Original

Big John's Beef Jerky - OriginalBig 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.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Route 66 Beef Jerky - Green Chile

Route 66 Beef Jerky - Green ChileLast week I published a review of Route 66 Beef Jerky - Original, and wanted to follow up with a review of their Green Chile variety.

Route 66 is a brand produced by Old Santa Fe Trail, Inc., based out of Albuquerque, NM. They've been making beef jerky since 1988, right off the old historic Route 66. Their jerky is made from their own USDA approved facility, staffed with a small crew of 9 people.

The company says that this green chile variety was made using chiles from the Hatch Valley of southern New Mexico. According to Matthew Chavez, the company's founder, Hatch is the chile capital of the world, saying that the people there have such a keen sense for chiles, they can taste one and tell which side of Interstate 40 it grew from.

It sounds like I'm in for a real treat.

Friday, January 23, 2009

365 Organic Beef Jerky - Teriyaki

365 Organic Beef Jerky - Teriyaki365 Organic is the store brand of Whole Foods Market. And Whole Foods Market is of course is the largest natural food store chain.

The beef jerky that Whole Foods Market sells under this brand is made by Intermountain Natural, LLC, out of Idaho Falls, ID. They're a meat processor that private labels organic jerky for brands, including Trader Joe's, Golden Valley Natural, and Jerky Direct. You can click those links and read all the reviews I've written.

While organic jerky always conjures up thoughts of real beef jerky, the way folks would have made it centuries ago, the fact is that all the organic jerky I've had thus is anything but. It's tasteless stuff, with a chewing texture that's clearly unnatural.

So why I do bother reviewing organic jerky? And why do I bother reviewing the same jerky from Intermountain Natural, brand after brand after brand? Well because it's yet another brand, and because people want to know about that specific brand.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Safeway Beef Jerky - Peppered

Safeway Beef Jerky - PepperedLast Saturday I posted a review of Safeway Beef Jerky - Original, and mentioned that I had also picked up the peppered variety, and well, here it is.

I actually found this at a Vons grocery store, here in my area. Vons is owned by Safeway.

Safeway doesn't make their own jerky, this is made by Mirab USA, a producer of private labeled jerky, and which I believe is technically the third largest producer of beef jerky in the USA, behind Oberto and Jack Link's. Mirab makes most of the store-branded jerky in the States.

It's worth noting that this review sample is actually out of date. The "Best Before" date on this package is "20 Dec 08". I bought this package on 13 Jan 09, about 24 days after it expired. Obviously my local Vons store is having difficulty selling their own store brand jerky. I forgot to check the freshness date before buying this. The photos below show some white powdery stuff on the pieces, which I think is some kind of mold. This is obviously not a fair review.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Jerky Guy - Black Pepper

The Jerky Guy - Black PepperThe Jerky Guy is a brand belonging to a company called Better Than Yours, Inc., based out of Jackson, CA. The jerky itself is manufactured by Jerky Snack Brands, out of their Minnesota facility. But Jerky Snack Brands uses the proprietary recipes of The Jerky Guy.

And The Jerky Guy himself is Jon Beltran, who about 27 years ago experimented with making jerky in his backyard smoker. Then he approached a friend who apparently had a secret recipe for awesome teriyaki beef, and was able to recreate that into a teriyaki jerky. I'll be reviewing the teriyaki later.

The packaging for this black peppered variety says it offers "The flavors of black pepper, garlic, and wine, just to name a few...", and that it'll give me a taste experience that I will not forget. Considering how bad my memory is getting these days, and depending what this stuff tastes like, that could be good or bad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Route 66 Beef Jerky - Original

Route 66 Beef Jerky - OriginalRoute 66 Beef Jerky is a brand produced by Old Santa Fe Trail, Inc., based out of Albuquerque, NM. It's a small operation employing nine people. They've been making jerky since 1988, and make it from their own USDA approved facility. If you find yourself travelling down historic Route 66 in Albuquerque, you can stop at their store and buy some.

Like many other gourmet brands, they market their jerky as being "all natural, with no preservatives". In addition to this original variety, they also offer peppered, red chile, and green chile varieties.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Richland Valley Beef Jerky - Peppered

Richland Valley Beef Jerky - PepperedRichland Valley is a brand of jerky belonging to Core-Mark International, one of the world's largest distributors of goods to convenience stores. Their jerky is most commonly found at truck stops and gas stations all across the country.

I had contacted Core-Mark to learn more about this brand, and while they acknowledged owning this brand, they wouldn't say anything else, arguing that they didn't know who I was. Even though I explained who I was and my purpose for asking, they couldn't say anything without executive approval, and without me jumping through several hoops.

My guess is that the Richland Valley brand of jerky is something they created to offer their convenience store owners an array of goods in a packaged bundle, and at a lower cost than if they included Oberto and Jack Link's.

The actual manufacturer of this jerky is Jerky Snack Brands, of Minong, WI. However when I talked to Jerky Snack Brands, they said they no longer make jerky for this brand.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DC China Meat Products - Fruit Flavored

DC China Meat Products - Fruit FlavoredDC China Meat Products, based in Montclair, CA, is a company that produces meat snacks for Chinese-Americans. They make their stuff out of their own facility.

The concept of "fruit flavored" jerky sounds a bit strange, but it's quite popular in China. Chinese-style jerky, which is usually marketed as "dried beef", often comes in a fruity flavoring, usually strawberry jam. American snackers are don't often think of jerky being fruit flavored, but then again we're tempted these days by lemon-pepper jerky, or chili-lime.

This package doesn't mention strawberry flavoring however, and in fact the ingredients list doens't mention strawberry. It only says "fruit punch".

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Safeway Beef Jerky - Original

Safeway Beef Jerky - OriginalGoing through my local Vons grocery store, I found this package of Safeway branded beef jerky, and bought it, along with the peppered variety. Vons is owned by the Safeway chain of stores.

Mirab USA, a large private labeler of beef jerky, is the actual manufacturer of this stuff. Most grocery store chains that offer their own branded beef jerky usually get it from Mirab.

My local Vons store must not sell very much of this jerky, because the "best if eaten by" date on this is just a month from now. I hope it still tastes fresh.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Richland Valley Beef Jerky - Original

Richland Valley Beef Jerky - OriginalRichland Valley is a brand that I've been seeing in gas station convenience stores lately, but one that I knew nothing about. So picked up this original variety as well as a peppered variety, and sought about doing some background review.

The long story short, it's owned by a company called "Core-Mark Holding Company, Inc.", which is a subsidiary of Core-Mark International, a massive food distribution company that services convenience stores and grocery stores all over the world. The "Richland Valley" brand of jerky is their unique brand. It's likely used as part of a "package" of foods they offer to convenience stores.

The back of the package shows that this brand is distributed by "Richland Valley Merchandisers", but a Google search comes up empty on this company. However, that company has the same mailing address as Core-Mark Holding Company.

Core-Mark doesn't make their own jerky, this particular package of jerky was manufactured by Jerky Snack Brands, of Minong, WI. I did put a call into them, and they used to make this jerky for Core-Mark, but not anymore.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rite Aid Beef Jerky - Honey BBQ

Rite Aid Beef Jerky - Honey BBQA couple of days ago I posted a review of "Rite Aid Beef Jerky - Original", and wanted to follow up with this Honey BBQ variety. When I purchased that original variety, I also purchased this Honey BBQ, just so that I could offer my readers with reviews for at least two varieties of jerky under this brand.

As I said in the previous review, Rite Aid doesn't make their own jerky, it's private labeled through Mirab USA, who seems to private label jerky for hundreds of retailers. It appears that Mirab makes the same exact jerky for Rite Aid's chief competitor, Walgreens. However, Walgreens doesn't offer a Honey BBQ variety.

Also worth noting is that the Rite Aid Original variety I reviewed a couple of days ago had a sticker on it that said "FREE 10% More", giving me 3.85oz of jerky in a bag that was normally 3.5oz. But this Honey BBQ doesn't have that sticker.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jack Link's Beef Steak - Teriyaki

Jack Link's Beef Steak - TeriyakiI've seen this line of "Beef Steak" offered by Jack Link's, but have never tried them before. I finally broke down and bought this Teriyaki variety a couple of days ago.

Best I can tell, this is not a whole muscle meat snack, but more like a chunked-formed concoction. It has a rather appetizing aroma, similar to a nacho cheese & jalapeno flavored beef stick.

I can see how these things would market well to truckers and convenience store addicts. They're very easy to open, just peel away the top layers of plastic. They're very thick, very meaty looking, and moist. The visual presentation alone is something that would appeal to manly snackers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rite Aid Beef Jerky - Original

Rite Aid Beef Jerky - OriginalRite Aid is a well-established chain of drug stores covering the entire United States, and it too sells its own brand of beef jerky.

But as with other retailers, it doesn't make its own. This stuff is made by Mirab USA, the largest beef jerky private labeler. Many months ago I talked to a public relations person at Mirab to confirm that the beef jerky they make for one retailer is the same beef jerky they make for another. The answer was "yes", but that they offer four grades of jerky, and each customer gets one of the grades.

Rite Aid appears to be getting the chopped & formed grade, which by the way is the same grade that it's chief rival, Walgreens, is getting. I've reviewed Walgreens Beef Jerky before, though not this original variety, and sure enough this stuff from Rite Aid looks exactly the same.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cactus Jerky - Teriyaki

Cactus Jerky - TeriyakiCactus Jerky is not just a newfangled type of vegan jerky, it's the actual name brand name of this product, owned by Cactus Jerky, Inc. of Corona Del Mar, CA. I found this at a Whole Foods Market last October, and if you recall I wrote a review of the "Hot & Spicy" variety.

And in that review, I gave it a "dog treats" rating, saying that it's just rather "bleh!". This teriyaki variety is a package that I had sitting around since that time, but was just waiting for a reason to open it up and review, and maybe hoping the sweeter teriyaki flavor might make this more palatable.

Cactus is certainly not a new idea in cuisine. Hispanic cultures have long enjoyed "nopales" and "nopalitos", generally sliced into small strips, and pickled in salt & vinegar. They're actually rather tasty with soft chicken tacos. But as a jerky? Well like I said, maybe the teriyaki flavoring will make this palatable.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pacific Gold Beef Jerky - Hot & Spicy

Pacific Gold Beef Jerky - Hot & SpicyPacific Gold is a brand that's been around since 1985, originally under a company called Pacific Sun Industries, based in Hayward, CA. It grew rather quickly based on getting their teriyaki beef jerky into the Price Club chain of warehouse retailers. In 12 years they eventually grew to 300 employees, and had created a cult following throughout the west coast.

In 1993, when Costco took over Price Club, the Pacific Gold brand became a familiar sight to meat snackers shopping in Costcos all over the USA, and quickly found itself a key competitor of Oh Boy! Oberto. And Oberto, desiring to dominate the warehouse market, eventually purchased Pacific Gold in 2002.

While Oberto still markets the teriyaki jerky that made Pacific Gold famous, the recipe has changed greatly since then, but still seems to enjoy its base of loyal followers. Oberto also now uses the Pacific Gold brand to experiment with niche markets, with unique flavors like its American Style Kobe, and Turkey Tenders.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

DC China Meat Products - Dried Beef

DC China Meat Products - Dried BeefDC China Meat Products is an American company based in Montclair, CA that focuses on making meat snacks for asians living in the USA. They make jerky at their own facility. Their products are mostly sold in asian food stores. A couple of months ago, I reviewed their Curry Dried Beef.

I found this package of "regular dried beef" while perusing a 99 Ranch Market one day. 99 Ranch Market specializes in Chinese groceries. "Dried beef", interestingly, is what jerky is called in asian communities. Asians do use the word "jerky", but they use it to describe American-style dried beef. The stuff I'm reviewing here is the chinese-style.

In the photos below, notice that this dried beef is encrusted with furry fibers. These are meat fibers infused with flavoring and then adhered to the meat surface. It's pretty typical with chinese style dried beef.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Whole Foods Market Beef Jerky - Sweet & Spicy

Whole Foods Market Beef Jerky - Sweet & Spicy365 Organic is the store brand that Whole Foods Market uses for most of its products. This is the first beef jerky that I've reviewed from them, previously I reviewed their turkey jerky, "Fajita" and "Bar-B-Que".

And like their brand name suggests, the packaging carries the USDA Organic symbol as well as the "certified organic" symbol from Quality Assurance International.

Whole Foods Market doesn't make their own jerky, it's actually made by Idaho Falls, ID-based Intermountain Natural, LLC, a jerky manufacturer that specializes in making private labeled jerky for natural and health food stores. Intermountain also makes the store brand for Trader Joe's, as well as their own house brand Golden Valley Natural.

Intermountain Natural also makes the Jerky Direct brand, and interestingly, I had reviewed Jerky Direct's Organic Beef Jerky - Sweet & Spicy, and which I suspected has the same ingredients and same nutrition facts as this stuff.

Ingredients

Organic beef, organic evaporated cane juice, water, organic soy sauce, organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt, organic cayenne pepper, organic paprika, natural smoke flavoring, organic black pepper, organic onion powder, organic garlic powder.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a moderate level sweet flavor, followed by a light cayenne pepper taste and a slight spicy tingle. The flavors I find in the chewing is pretty much the same, maybe just a bit more sweet, and a touch of salty.

My initial thoughts on this jerky as I continue chewing is that it's pretty much on par with the Jerky Direct version of this variety, being similarly sweet and similarly spicy. And it's also on par with much of what Intermountain Natural makes, with nary any natural meat flavors, and a light to medium flavor intensity.

For being advertised as a sweet & spicy variety, I'd say it does live up to that billing. I'm getting a moderate level sweetness all throughout, from the surface flavors and in the chewing. I'm also getting a decent amount of spiciness from the cayenne pepper. But it's not hot, I'd probably rate is as a mild-medium, and after having eaten several pieces, it seems to strengthen to a medium.

The natural meat flavors, as I reported above, are pretty much absent in this. I don't taste anything resembling beef. I don't really pick up the natural smoke flavoring either. But considering this is free of preservatives, it does have a fresh taste.

The level of salt intensity in this seems light. I think the spicy burn from the cayenne might be confused for a salt burn.

Overall, this jerky is dominated by the sweet flavor, while the spicy cayenne pepper provides the second-strongest flavor. Perhaps the saltiness can be the third-most dominant flavor, but it's actually not a strong flavor at all.

Meat Consistency

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

This seems to be a soft and tender style of jerky, having a decent amount of moisture, but if bent tends to crack and break easily. It's easy to tear apart, and easy to chew.

The chewing texture is right on par with jerky made by Intermountain Natural, somewhat meaty, but with enough mushiness that reminds you that this meat has gone through some kind of tenderization.

In terms of clean eating, I get a faint bits of cayenne pepper remaining on my fingertips, but nothing visible falling on my lap.

I found just one piece with a visible chunk of fat (see photos below), however as I ate other pieces I could feel some coating of fat across my tongue and the roof of my mouth, telling me there's more fat here than what meets the eye. But I didn't find any chewy connective tissues.




Snack Value

I paid $5.99 for this 3 ounce package at a Whole Foods Market in Irvine, 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, at this price, it has a fair value. I find some snackability in this but not to any great amount. It's something I could eat if put in front of me, and I'll go ahead and reach for more, but it's not anything I'd go back and buy more of. There are other brands of jerky more snackable than this at a lower price.

As a sweet & spicy variety, it's a decent value, but at the $2.00 per ounce price, I'd still question the value this offers. You do get a good deal of sweet & spicy flavor, but at this price it doesn't seem like a good value.

Perhaps it's best value is that of an organic beef jerky. But that's largely an ideological quality for those who find it important to eat food made from 100% natural ingredients. You're not going to get any taste benefits from this being organic, however. Just some peace of mind.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

I think it has enough snackability to warrant it, though it's probably at the lower limits of being average. Basically, it does what I would expect a jerky to do, that is be snackable, and stand up to its advertised flavor. It has a moderate level flavor intensity with its sugar and cayenne pepper, and it doesn't taste bad. And it has enough sweet and spicy flavor to justify being called "sweet & spicy".

Aside from that, there's isn't anything else here to write home about. The fact that it doesn't offer any natural meat flavors means that this jerky has to rely on it's flavorings to earn high ratings, and considering this only offers sugar and cayenne pepper for taste means that it doesn't impress.

While it's easy to tear apart and chew, the chewing texture is not that great.

Try a brown ale as a recommended beer companion to this jerky.

Rating: Average

Where to buy:
  • At any Whole Foods Market

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oh Boy! Oberto - Thick Cuts - Brown Sugar & Honey

Oh Boy! Oberto - Thick Cuts - Brown Sugar & HoneyThis bag of "Thick Cuts" is from Oh Boy! Oberto, but you can't find it in any stores, with the exception of their factory store in Seattle, otherwise you'll have to find it online, and good luck!

It's sold only in one pound bags, and considering it's low price, and high volume, it's likely a lower grade of meat than what Oberto normally offers. The biggest issue with one-pound bags of jerky is that you have to pay $15 to $50 to buy a bag, and then you better hope the jerky is snackable enough, or else you might end up not eating it all.

Interestingly, this jerky isn't manufactured by Oberto, it was private labeled through Lucksen Trading Company, a jerky maker in Arcadia, CA, who operates as "KMB Foods", making such brands as Cactus Jacks, Pacific Coast, and Cattlemen's.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Walgreens Beef Jerky - Chile Limon

Walgreens Beef Jerky - Chile Limon"Steakhouse" is the store brand of jerky at Walgreens Drug Stores. I saw this particular variety of Chile Limon while perusing the meat snacks section at my local Walgreens the other day, and was intrigued.

First, the package is stamped "Limited Edition"; I don't know for how long Walgreens has been offering this Chile Limon variety.

Second, the meat consistency appears to be whole muscle instead of the chopped & formed that they use in their other varieties. I had previously reviewed Walgreens' Teriyaki and Black Peppered varieties, which both received "dog treats" ratings from me. But because this appears to be a whole-muscle jerky, I wondered if this stuff might be any better.

Mirab USA is the company that actually made this jerky, the same private labeler that made Walgreens' chopped & formed jerkies. When I pulled this package off the shelf, I noticed that Walgreens' teriyaki, black peppered, and original varieties are still chopped & formed. I thought it was interesting that this limited edition Chile Limon uses a different meat consistency.

Ingredients

Beef, water, brown sugar, salt, maltodextrin, red pepper, black pepper powder, citric acid, paprika, lime juice solids, monosodium glutamate, garlic powder, chile jalapeno flavor, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces includes a moderate level sweetness, some chile pepper flavor, a slight lime flavor, some saltiness, and a slight spicy burn tingling in the back of my mouth. In the chewing, I taste a bit more saltiness, and a slight smoky flavor.

My initial thoughts as I continue to sample more pieces is that there seems to be more surface flavor than chewing flavor. If you start chewing these pieces immediately upon putting them into your mouth, the surface flavors are there throughout the chewing. But if you suck on each piece first, and then chew, you won't find much chewing flavor.

For being advertised as a "chile limon" variety, I do indeed pick up a chile pepper taste, though not a strong one. It's probably a moderate level taste. The spicy burn from the chile pepper is also noticeable, but one that I'd rate on my hot scale as a medium. It's probably more like medium-hot to those who don't tolerate spicy foods. Some pieces are more spicy than others. And I also do pick up a weaker, but still noticeable, lime flavor. I'd say it does it's job living up to its advertised flavor.

For a moment I thought I may have detected some natural meat flavors, but after focusing in on that notion, I lost the taste. And after haven eaten several pieces, I haven't really found any that gave off a natural meat flavor, even to a slight amount. I think you might find the smoky mesquite flavor in there, but don't confuse that for being a meat flavor.

There's also a strange, but still very light, aftertaste that I can't quite describe.

The level of saltiness in this is moderate.

Overall, the flavor that dominates this jerky is the chile pepper flavor with its chile pepper taste and burn together. The second-strongest flavor probably goes to the sweetness, while the saltiness takes third. The lime flavor, while noticeable, doesn't really have any kind of dominant presence, it's just there to help color the overall flavor.

Meat Consistency

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

It's largely a "soft and tender" style of jerky, with a slight bit of moisture noticeable in the touch. It's very easy to tear apart, and easy to chew.

The chewing texture has a definite mushiness to it, and not really all that steak-like. While a few pieces seemed to have a more fibrous character to it, even they were still noticeably mushy.

While these pieces didn't really leave any residue on my fingers, they seem to crumble apart fairly easily. Looking at my lap, I don't see any meat fragments however, but I found a couple of chile pepper seeds landing on my desk as I tore some pieces apart. There's also a lot crumbled pieces in the bottom of the bag.

A few pieces had some visible bits of fat, but overall it seems fairly lean. I did find some pieces to contain something chewy in the way of connective tissue, but I didn't necessarily see it, only felt it. I can't really tell you what it was.




Snack Value

I paid $2.99 for this 3 ounce bag at a Walgreens store in Menifee, CA. That works out to a price of $1.00 per ounce, putting this on the border between cheap and average. Walgreens will also discount this to $0.83 per ounce if you buy two packages.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, it's a good value. I do pick up some good snackability in this with its good flavor intensity, moderate flavor complexity, and easy-to-eat consistency. The combination of chile peppers, sugar, salt, and lime flavors actually makes this taste good.

As a chile limon variety, it's a great value, because at this low of a price you're getting some good chile lime flavor. It's more weighted towards the chile pepper than the lime, but you'll still taste the lime. If that's the flavor combination you love in a meat snack, you'll get it here.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

Even though I said I like the flavor of this jerky, I still had to ask myself if this is an above-average jerky compared to all the beef jerkies I've reviewed, and I kept coming back to "no". It's basically very snackable, and it does live up to its advertised flavor, but then again that's the basic standard I would expect any jerky to be.

In terms of going beyond that, I couldn't find anything. While it is easy to eat, which itself is a positive, I found the chewing texture to be largely mushy, and that cancels each other out.

And I couldn't really find any natural meat flavors either.

On the other hand, Walgreens is positioning this jerky on its low price. It's other jerky varieties really missed the mark on taste and consistency, but this Chile Limon variety is actually decent.

My recommended beer variety with this jerky is a hefeweizen or wheat beer.

Rating: Average

Buy this online:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jedidiah's Jerky - Habanero Chipotle

Jedidiah's Jerky - Habanero ChipotleJedidiah's Jerky is a brand of Jedidiah's Jerky and Gourmet Snacks of Laughlin, NV. It's a family run business headed by David Coffey, who's been in the jerky sales business since 1984 with various other brands, and who's father was also in the jerky biz.

This particular habanero chipotle variety was just recently released last month, and is part of Jedidiah's "Premium" line, which includes six other varieties, all of which I've reviewed here. However, as of this writing the habanero chipotle is not yet listed on Jedidiah's website. I guessing you can still call them on their toll-free number and get it.

I'm noticing more jerky brands coming out with varieties that include the word "habanero" or "chipotle", or in this case both. The quest for firey hot jerky seems to have a unique following among the hot sauce community. Several hot sauce fan sites include reviews for spicy hot jerky. And since the habanero pepper is one of the hottest peppers around, I'm bracing myself for a serious tongue-scorching.

Ingredients

Beef, salt, sugar, monosodium glutamate, paprika, spices, garlic, sodium nitrite.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface include a moderate sweet flavor, some chipotle flavor, a good spicy tingle, a garlic flavor, and a moderate salt flavor. In the chewing, I taste some heavier salt flavor, the natural meat flavors, and a chile pepper taste.

My initial thoughts as I continue chewing is that this jerky has a lot of taste intensity, which I've found to be consistent with all of Jedidiah's Premium line of jerky. And like the rest of that Premium line, this jerky has something of a BBQ flavor to it. I'm not sure what ingredients create that flavor, but if you can imagine eating a steak basted with BBQ sauce, and then grilled, it's a similar taste.

As for that spicy hot, it's got a decent burn but is not all that hot. On my scale, I'd rank it as medium. Though I'm used to eating spicy foods, so that might be a medium-hot to some of you.

So does this taste anything like habanero chipotle? Well on the surface of these pieces I can get a well-defined smoky-chile flavor which does seem to resemble chipotle. I don't necessarily get much of that flavor in the chewing. As for tasting the habanero pepper itself, all I can say is that I do taste a chile pepper flavor in the chewing, aside from the chile burn. I can't say that it tastes specifically like habanero, it could be any kind of chile pepper. But it's clearly a chile pepper flavor.

The natural meat flavors are evident, but you're not going to get a strong one. It's just enough to rise up above the other flavors and be enjoyed. I can also taste some the fat in this meat. There is some visible pieces of fat on this jerky, but it tastes like there a good deal of marbilization that you may not be able to see.

I mentioned tasting a moderate sweet flavor in this. That perhaps contributes to the overall BBQ flavor, I can taste it about half-way through the chewing.

There's also a good deal of garlic flavor in this also, which perhaps also adds to the BBQ-like flavor. I can taste it on the surface, all the way through the chewing, and it leaves behind an aftertaste.

The level of salt intensity seems moderate to high. I think it's actually around moderate, but it might seem high only because the flavor gets exacerbated by the spicy hot burn from the habanero chipotle.

I think I can even detect some black pepper in this.

Overall, primary flavor of this jerky is that BBQ sauce-like flavor, with the natural meat flavors being second-most dominant, and the salt being third-most. While the chipotle, and chile pepper flavor is clearly identifiable, along with its burn, I feel that the BBQ, meat, and salt still comprise the dominant flavors overall, from the surface and all the way through the chewing.

Meat Consistency

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

This is probably more similar to a "soft and tender" variety of jerky. I found most of the pieces to have a moist feel, while a few seemed more dry. But overall, it seems easy to tear apart, and easy to chew.

The chewing texture is mostly steak-like once you chew it long enough. The more moist pieces are a tad mushy. But overall, it's a good, meaty texture.

In terms of cleanliness, this jerky tends to leave a bit of chili powder on my finger tips. But other than that, I'm not getting much residue or meat fragments on my lap.

I do see a fair amount of fat on this jerky, and can even taste it. Where I can't see any fat, I can still taste it, perhaps meaning there's a good deal of marbilization. For the most part however, I don't really see this as spoiling the flavor. It actually enhances it, giving it a more beef-like flavor. But I didn't find any chewy connective tissues like tendon or gristle.




Snack Value

Jedidiah's sells all of their Premium varieties of jerky from their website at a price of $6.99 for a 3.5 ounce bag. 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, and at this price, it's a good value. I found this to be very snackable with its flavor intensity and flavor complexity, as well as being easy to eat and having a good chewing texture. I actually like the BBQ-like flavor, the light-but-identifiable meat flavors, and the well-noticed chipotle flavor.

As a habanero chipole variety, it's another good value. I do indeed taste something on the surface of these pieces that resembles chipotle, and in the chewing I can taste something that resembles chile peppers. I can't say that it has the unique flavor of habanero, all I can say is that it's some kind of chile pepper. For all I know, it may just be some kind of red chile, or jalapeno. But it definitely offers a medium-level burn.

Rating

I'm giving this a best rating.

Flavor intensity is the first thing that comes to mind with this jerky; it has a ton of flavor in each bite. And there's the flavor complexity too. I can identify several different flavors in each bite, from the sugar, the garlic, the meat, the fat marbilization, the salt, the chipotle, the chile pepper, and even some black pepper.

And then the fact that I can still taste the natural meat flavors, is particularly what strengthens the "best" rating. What you have here is a jerky that starts with a natural meat flavor, adds a BBQ-like flavor, packs in a lot of flavor intensity, and complexity, and on top of that stands up to its advertised flavor.

And if that's not enough, it's easy to eat, and has a good chewing texture.

If there's any negative in this, the salt intensity is somewhat on the high side. But I'm not totally certain of that. The saltiness is definitely a major flavor in this jerky, but it may feel more salty due to the burn from the chiles.

My beer recommendation is to try a hefeweizen or wheat beer.

Rating: Best

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Snackmasters Turkey Jerky - Range Grown Original

Snackmasters Turkey Jerky - Range Grown OriginalSnackmasters is a brand of jerky that operates out of Ceres, CA in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. It got it's start in 1982, not making beef jerky, but turkey jerky. The company claims to be the first ever commercial producer of turkey jerky. Since then they've added beef jerky to their line up, and have slowly built a cult following in central and northern California.

The company claims to use no preservatives and no artificial ingredients in any of their products. This particular line of jerky dubbed "Range Grown" represents turkey and beef raised without growth hormones, antibiotics or animal proteins, and fed a diet free of pesticides and herbicides. They also offer a line of regular jerky, in which the animals were presumably fed these deadly chemicals .

I haven't been able to find Snackmasters here in southern California, though the company's website does show retailers down in this area. It's just not available in the major grocery outlets. It was a client of mine who discovered my interest in jerky, and presented me with a couple packages of Snackmasters as a gift.

Ingredients

Range grown solid turkey breast meat, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, liquid smoke, honey, vinegar, black pepper, spices.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a light soy sauce flavor, a slight sweet flavor, and faint smoky flavor. In the chewing, I pick up a heavier smoky flavor, some of the worcestershire sauce, some salty flavor, and some black pepper flavor.

The first thoughts that come to mind is the worcestershire sauce seems to play heavy role in the overall taste of this jerky. In fact, I'll go ahead and peg that as the dominant flavor of this variety. This jerky has a moderate flavor intensity; it provides a decent amount of flavor throughout the chew, though the surface flavors are on the light side.

I don't really pick up any of the natural turkey flavors. I mean going through the first piece, I actually forgot I was eating turkey. I tried to focus in on the meat flavors in the subsequent pieces, but I just couldn't find anything that tasted like turkey.

The level of salt intensity seems moderate.

I'd say the second-most dominant flavor of this jerky is the black pepper. I don't really taste much of it on an individual piece basis. But after having eaten several pieces, it's flavor comes on in moderate strength. If you just evaluate this jerky's taste on a single piece, I'd probably give the smoky flavor as the second-most dominant taste.

And so I'll just go on and say the smoky flavor is the third-most dominant flavor of this jerky.

The soy sauce only seems apparent as a slight surface flavor. It's probably there in the chew, except the worcestershire sauce seems to overpower it.

Overall, it's a good tasting jerky, mostly represented by the worcestershire sauce, but seemingly without any natural meat flavors.

Meat Consistency

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

This is a dry jerky, cracking and breaking apart with just a moderate amount of bending. For the most part, tearing apart a piece is fairly easy, and it seems to chew fairly easy as well.

The chewing texture is quite meat-like, though I can't really say that it's turkey-like. But it does have a fibrous, meaty feel to it as I chew through it. It's not really chewy at all.

It seems to be fairly clean eating, I didn't pick up residue on my fingers, though I noticed a few pieces of black pepper falling off.

The meat seems pretty lean, I didn't find any pieces of fat, tendon, or gristle.




Snack Value

Snackmasters sells this range grown turkey jerky from their website at a price of $7.99 for a four ounce package. 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, at this price, it's a good value. I do find a moderate amount of snackability in this with its moderate flavor intensity, it's worcestershire and black pepper flavor, and good chewing texture. A price of $2.00 per ounce might seem high for turkey jerky, but free range meat, including organic meats, are always priced higher.

As a turkey jerky however, it's a poor value. I just don't find any turkey meat flavors in this. If you consider the nutrition facts label below doesn't show any health advantages with turkey versus beef, then you're not really getting anything unique with having turkey jerky. If you're going to buy this jerky, buy it purely for general jerky snacking.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

I do find this range grown turkey jerky with a good overall flavor, a good chewing texture, a moderate flavor intensity, and a moderate snackability. But I just don't get the feeling that those positives combine together to make this jerky above average. It's definitely a different taste than what I'd find in the mass-market brands, but then again, I keep feeling unimpressed.

If it could start with a strong natural turkey meat flavor, and then color it with the worcestershire and black pepper, then I'd feel more inclined to give it a higher rating. But without any natural meat flavors, all it has working for it is the worcestershire and black pepper. And while those two components always make for tasty jerky, if that's all a jerky has going for itself, it's really just average.

Interestingly, I had previously reviewed Snackmasters' range grown beef jerky, which I gave a "good" rating to. I said that it did well with its seasonings and marinade, despite having no natural meat flavors. For some reason, I just can't find the same situation with this turkey jerky. They both actually have the same ingredients. Maybe the beef jerky had a more intense flavor, or maybe it's just this particular batch of turkey, or maybe it's something about turkey meat that doesn't lend itself well to this recipe.

I don't know, I'm just not as impressed with this turkey jerky than I was with the beef jerky.

For my beer recommendation, I stick with a simple brown ale.

Rating: Average

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Umpqua Indian Foods - Original

Umpqua Indian Foods - OriginalUmpqua Indian Foods is the name of a meat snacks brand owned by the Cow Creek Band of Indians, based out of Roseburg, OR. The Cow Creek are best known in that area for their Seven Feathers casino, but also generate revenue through several companies, including Umpqua Indian Foods.

The company has been making beef jerky since 1998, selling it locally in nearby towns. Since then they expanded their processing capabilities, and unveiled a new logo, and are now trying to market their jerky as a gourmet product, getting into the Harry & David catalogs, and on such websites as Jerky.com.

Umpqua claims that they use only pectoral meat, which comes from the cattle shoulder, explaining that this creates a more tender and moist jerky. That's in comparison to the round meat, which most jerky brands use.

Ingredients

Beef, water, maple sugar cure (salt, cane & maple sugars, dextrose, sodium nitrite), black pepper, garlic.

Taste

The flavor I pick up from the surface of these pieces is only a bit of saltiness. In the chewing, I get a heavier salt flavor, a faint bit of natural meat flavors, and a spicy tingle in the back of my mouth.

My initial thoughts on the flavor is how bland this tastes. It's largely a salty flavor, and not really much else.

That level of sodium noted on the nutrition facts label shows that is only lightly salted, but it has higher taste intensity. It's the dominant flavor of this jerky overall. That's probably because this jerky doesn't any other taste to offer.

It does have some natural meat flavors, but it's light. Considering there's little other flavor to compete against (aside from salt), you'd think the flavor would be more clearly identifiable. It is apparent, but it just doesn't come across as being a strong flavor. I'd call it the second-most dominant flavor of this jerky, but that's largely because doesn't have much other flavor to offer.

And as for that third-most dominant flavor, there really isn't any other dominant flavor.

Even though garlic is listed in the ingredients list, I can't say I sense any garlic, not even as an aftertaste.

The black pepper has a faint taste, and one that I can only detect as an aftertaste over several pieces. Otherwise, I can't taste it on just one piece. That's probably what gives me that spicy tingle in the back of my mouth.

For the most part, all I'm tasting is salt, and some light meat flavors.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, cut into widths of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and lengths of about 3-4 inches.

This is a dry jerky, perhaps even very dry. That's noteworthy because Umpqua Indian Foods claims that their use of pectoral meat is supposed to make this extra moist and tender. Rather, it's moderately brittle; just a little bit of bending causing it to crack and break apart. As for being tender, what I can say is that's it's easy to break apart, and easy to chew.

The chewing texture is rather steak-like once it hydrates in my mouth. Because of how dry and brittle this jerky is, it crumbles apart into several small bits as I chew, but eventually reconstitutes into something like a well-done steak.

It's very clean eating, leaving no residue on my fingers, and no fragments falling into my lap.

It's also very lean. I found no amounts of fat or chewy connective tissue.




Snack Value

I originally obtained this jerky from Jerky.com, but they've since removed it from their offerings. Otherwise, Umpqua Indian Foods sells this from their website at a price of $5.99 for a four ounce bag. That works out to a price of $1.50 per ounce, making this an average priced buy.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, it's a fair value. It provides some snackability, but not a lot. I find the taste to be rather bland and uninspiring. Of course, that's a subjective statement based on my preference. You might find this jerky to have a great taste. It does offer a great meat consistency, and good chewing texture. If you were to purchase this at a higher price, its snacking value decreases.

But considering the $1.50 price per ounce is similar to a package of Oh Boy! Oberto original, and that it has a similar taste to Oberto original, you won't go wrong buying a package; you just won't get the gourmet jerky that Umpqua Indian Foods is pitching this as.

Rating

I'm giving this a fair rating.

While it has some snackability, it's just not a lot. The taste is rather bland, and uninspiring. I could definitely eat this stuff and be ok with it, it's just not something I'd consider to be a treat.

The original varieties of jerky offered by most brands are usually basic in taste, but this is about as basic as jerky gets. Most original varieties still offer more taste interest than this, and so for that matter this jerky rates below average.

At least it still scores some points with its great meat consistency and good chewing texture.

My recommended beer variety for this jerky is an IPA.

Rating: Fair

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Diva Chocolates - Kickin' Cocoa Bean

Diva Chocolates, LLC is a food retailer that specializes in combining chocolate with meat. It started out in 2006 with two women who discovered the joys of dipping their steaks into a batch of brownie mix. They launched their company with a line of chocolate grilling rubs, and then a year later introduced "chocolate beef jerky".

The beef jerky line includes two varieties, this "Kickin' Cocoa Bean", and a "Mocha Java", that I reviewed earlier. I'm guessing by the word "kickin'" in the name, this stuff is supposed to be spicy, or hot.

Diva Chocolates doesn't make their own jerky, it's actually jerky from a processor called California Jerky Company, who apparently makes the "Bach CUC" brand, which I think may be a vietnamese name.

Either way, the package label claims that this is "the first jerky designed for those seeking new adventures in chocolate!". We shall see...

Ingredients

Beef, sugar, seasoning blend (dehydrated onion flakes, salt, coriander, cacoa nibs, garlic powder, paprika and other spices), water, salt, citric acid. Treated with potassium sorbate solution.

Taste

The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a moderate level sweet flavor, a slight soapy taste, a slight black pepper flavor, and a slight salty flavor. Going into the chew, I taste a wee bit more salt, and some more black pepper.

Being that Diva Chocolates says this Kickin' Cocoa Bean variety "puts the KICK back into eating chocolate", my initial impression of this is "where's the chocolate?" The ingredients list suggest the only chocolately taste would come from the cacoa nibs, but after eating a few pieces already, I don't really taste anything of the sort. I did find one small piece with a larger concentration of cacoa nibs, and did get a chocolatey taste. But for the most part, you're not going to taste any chocolate in this. What I taste is a peppery, sugary, beef jerky, similar to many other jerky brands.

That soapy taste I described above continues to show up on the surface of every piece. I don't know where it comes from, perhaps the potassium sorbate? I've had a lot of jerky with potassium sorbate and I never I got this flavor before. I find it unpleasant, and grabbing too much of my attention. It eventually wears off the longer I suck and chew on a piece.

The natural meat flavors are not very evident in this jerky, I'd almost say that I can't taste any of it. That's a stark contrast from this brand's other variety, "Mocha Java", which I found to have a moderate-level natural meat flavor. I'll also note that the meat used in this Kickin' Cocoa Bean variety looks much different than that used in the Mocha Java. This stuff is far more reddish in color, while the Mocha Java is a very dark brown color.

As far as being spicy, I don't really see this as any more spicy than your standard black peppered jerky. It does have a moderate level black pepper taste, particularly after haven eaten several pieces. As far as being "hot", it's not. I'd rate it as mild on my hot scale.

The level of sweetness in this jerky is significant, it's probably the most dominant taste of this jerky. But it's not a chocolatey sweet, it's just normal sugary sweet.

The other spices mentioned in the ingredients list are not well detected. I can sense a slight garlic aftertaste, but I can't really find the onion or coriander. I do see bits of coriander seed, but they are small enough and so few that I haven't been able to bite into one. I also spotted a lone red chile seed.

The dominant taste of this jerky is the sugary sweet flavor, with the second-most dominant taste being the black pepper, followed by that pungent soapy surface flavor.

Meat Consistency

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

It's mostly a dry jerky, but still with a bit of moisture. If bent with the grain, it tends to crack apart rather quickly. I find it easy to tear apart, and moderately easy to chew.

The chewing texture is very meaty, fibrous, with a steak-like character. It's probably a touch on the chewy, rubbery side, but that's just being picky.

In terms of clean eating, I don't really get any residue on my fingers, but each time I bite or tear off a piece, I'll get a black pepper chunk falling off.

I can see some smaller bits of fat here and there, and some pieces with a good deal of marbilization. But I didn't find anything chewy in the way of tendon or gristle.




Snack Value

I paid $5.95 for this 2 ounce package from Diva Chocolate's website. That works out to a price of $2.98 per ounce, making this a very expensive jerky.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, it's a weak value. While I do find this jerky to be snackable, with its flavor intensity, good meat consistency and good chewing texture, it doesn't necessarily stand out to justify this high price. It's just a snackable jerky, and you can find snackable jerky in your local grocery store.

As a chocolate flavored jerky, or more appropriate a "Kickin' Cocoa Bean" jerky, it's a poor value. I don't get any chocolate or cacoa nib taste in this. It doesn't taste much different than Wal-Mart's black peppered jerky.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

That rating is based on this being a standard black peppered jerky. It has a moderate snackability with it's sweetness and black peppery flavor, combined with its relative chewing ease and good chewing texture.

It could've had a better snackability but that pungent soapy flavor I keep getting from the surface of these pieces tends to keep me from craving this to any larger degree. I'm also disappointed that I can't taste any natural meat flavors in this like I could with the brand's Mocha Java variety.

Worse yet, this doesn't stand up to its billing as a chocolate, or cocoa bean variety. I thought I was going to experience a world where chocolate meets beef, but it seems the chocolate decided to stay home. Maybe I need the more well-adapted tongue of a chocoholic to find the chocolate flavor in this. Being a jerky snacker, my tongue looks for the jerky flavor.

Still, as a black peppered jerky, it's about on par with much of the mass-market brands. You just have to decide if it's worth paying $2.98 per ounce for this stuff.

My beer recommendation is a Young's Chocolate Stout, you'll get more chocolatey flavor this way.

Rating: Average

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