To this day the two reviews I wrote for Riley's Jerky back in November of 2008 continue to be among the most widely read here on Best Beef Jerky, which suggests that the brand enjoy's something of a cult status.
For one, Riley's Jerky is difficult to find in stores unless you live in Northern California. Travelers who stop at a gas station and discover it, later try to find it in their hometown, only to discover it's not around. They therefore run a Google search and find this website instead.
So to that effect, Britt Burkholder, the guy who took over when Riley himself passed away, sent me samples of their other flavors to take additional advantage. And the company has launched a website of their own, and hope to soon get online ordering in place.
Beef, water, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt, sodium benzoate), cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, white pepper, onion powder.
The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a seasoning blend, with a light bit of that cayenne pepper. I can get just tad bit of saltiness, and bit of spicy tingle in the background. Overall, a very light surface flavor.
The chewing flavor starts with a good deal of natural meat flavors, an increased saltiness, and a little bit more of the cajun seasoning.
For being advertised as a cajun style beef jerky, it seems to hold up to that billing. I do get an easily noticed seasoning that could pass with the "cajun" description. It has a moderate amount of heat of which I'd place on my personal hot scale around "medium". Those with lesser tolerance for hot foods might see this as "medium-hot". But I can also pick up the cayenne flavor, the garlic, and even a bit of the black pepper.
The cajun seasoning seems to be well saturated into the meat. There's actually only light surface flavor to enjoy; it's mostly into the meat itself. I can suck on a piece before chewing and get just a hint of what's to come. It's when I start chewing that all the flavor comes out.
The natural meat flavors are easily noticed and enjoyed in this. It has a cooked flavor, almost like beef stew meat.
The soy sauce marinade is not as easily noticed in this Cajun variety as opposed to the Original variety. Perhaps the cajun seasoning masks much of it. But I can detect its unique flavor in the latter part of chewing as the seasoning wears off a bit.
The level of saltiness in this seems high. It could also be the cajun seasoning exacerbating the saltiness. The nutrition facts label shows a moderately high sodium content.
Overall, the flavor that seems to dominate this jerky is the cajun seasoning blend, with its strong cayenne, garlic, and salt flavor. The natural meat flavors are a close second, being very easily noticed as well.
These are slices of whole meat, cut into chunks, comparable to beef stew meat, in small pieces.
This is a dry jerky, with a dry surface feel. These pieces are hard with no flexibility. Tearing pieces apart with my fingers is difficult, though some pieces are shaped in such a way they can be torn with some effort. Chewing is tough.
The chewing texture starts out feeling dry and hard, almost like putting a rock in my mouth. Each piece has to be sucked on for several seconds to just soften it up a bit. Only then I can bite down and get this to chew. About another 20-25 seconds later, it renders into a soft mass. At that point, it feels just like a real piece of meat, more like eating a chunk of stew meat, or roasted beef.
I don't see any signs of fat on these chunks, nor any gristle or tendon. I do, however, experience a fair amount of stringiness in the chewing. But I don't really encounter any unchewable wads of tissue.
It's very clean eating also. I don't get any residue on my fingers, and the smaller mouth-sized chunks doesn't require me to tear apart.
Riley's Jerky currently sells this Cajun variety via mail-order at a price of $4.40 for a 3oz package. If you bought four packages, the shipping comes to $7.00, for a total of $24.60. That works out to a price of $2.05 per ounce.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $2.05 per ounce price, this jerky seems to provide a good value. I'm getting a lot of snackability for its good overall flavor, it's real-meat chewing, though tough consistency. Still, that price is a little higher than what you'd pay for major brands of jerky at the grocery store, yet I think it's a better flavor and quality.
As a cajun style beef jerky, at the same $2.05 price per ounce, it's also a good value. I do get a good sense of this having a strong cajun flavor, with a moderate amount of heat, and a good taste of cayenne pepper. I think it's a better cajun flavor than what I'd expect from the major brands of jerky.
I'm giving this a good rating.
This Cajun variety from Riley's Jerky offers a pretty good cajun seasoning blend in that it has a strong flavor, a good deal of heat, and seems to represent the description "cajun" pretty well. It also offers a strong natural meat flavor, one comparable to roasted beef, or beef stew meat.
But it's a very tough jerky. It's definitely something you have to suck on for several seconds before chewing. That's not bad if it could only have more surface flavor. As it is, the surface flavors are light enough that it makes me want to chew right away. Some people enjoy tough chunky jerky like this. I certainly enjoy the flavor of this jerky once I get it to soften up and chew. But I prefer something softer.
Thinking about this further however, this could make for an ideal weight loss snack. It contains no sugar, only 1gm of carbs per package, it's very high in protein, and I'm guessing the tough chew will burn off about half of the calories in this.
As for my recommended beer pairing, I'd go with a lighter-bodied porter. The dark roasted malt should match the dark roasted meat flavor. Try the Stone Smoked Porter, or the or the Sierra Nevada Porter.
Where to buy: