One the newest jerky brands on the market is Chef Craig's Beef Jerky. A product of CJM Products, it's based out of West Kingston, RI.
It's the idea of Craig Mitchell, who a few years ago, had sent me samples of his own homemade jerky, with the intent of launching a business someday. Mitchell received his Culinary Arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, and has been cooking professionally since 1978.
As of this review, the only flavor Chef Craig's offers is this Original.
Beef, brown sugar, soy sauce, hot sauce, liquid smoke, browning sauce, worcestershire sauce, black pepper, steak seasoning, red pepper, lemon pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder, chipotle chile pepper.
The first thing I taste from the surface of these pieces is a saucy sweetness with some smokiness mixed in. It's almost like a sweet & smoky combination of worcestershire, soy sauce, and au jus (think French Dip). A light burn begins building.
The chewing flavor brings in a natural meat flavor, but with some citrus-like tanginess. The burn continues to build up.
For being the company's Original flavor, it's anything but plain. In fact, it's very flavorful, with a well-seasoned marinade that tastes much different than many other brands. The tanginess in the chewing livens up the snacking, while the natural meat flavor satisfies the carnivore in me.
It also has a moderate level of heat in this, something I'd rate on my personal heat scale as "medium" (level 3 out of 5). But I don't really taste much of the chile pepper flavor, perhaps just a faint bit reaching through the heavier saucey-seasoned marinade.
The flavor of this jerky seems to build up higher as the chewing goes on. When I put a piece into my mouth, the flavor starts out low and gradually increases with each chew. You could suck on a piece without chewing, and almost get the same effect. There's enough flavor in these meat slices that you can get a lot of it without chewing.
The level of saltiness in this feels moderate, maybe a touch above.
Overall, what you're going to get is a well-seasoned marinade with a very saucy flavor, much like a trio of worcestershire, soy sauce, and french dip au jus, along with a noticeable natural meat flavor, a nice tanginess in the chewing, and moderate amount of heat.
These are slices of whole meat, sliced into bite-sized pieces of medium thickness. There's a fair amount of smaller sized bits too.
This is a dry jerky with a slightly sticky surface feel. These pieces have a good deal of flexibility, and seem slightly rubbery.
The chewing texture starts out with that slight rubbery feel, and offers a light bit of chewing resistance. A few chews into it and it starts to soften. It begins to take on a very meaty resemblance, and by the time its chewed down to a soft mass, it feels very much like a piece of steak cooked medium-well.
I don't see much fat on these pieces and found no gristle or tendon. I don't encounter any stringiness, but felt a few pieces of unchewable tissues. It's mostly all meaty.
In terms of clean eating, it's mostly clean. My fingertips do collect a light bit of stickiness, but not enough to require a licking or wiping before touching my keyboard.
Chef Craig's Beef Jerky sells this Original variety from its website at a price of $28.00 for package of 10 (each package is 1.75oz). Shipping is $5.95. That works out to a price of $1.94 per ounce.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.94 per ounce price, it's a good value. I'm getting a great overall flavor, with a good meat consistency and good chewing texture. Compared to major brands of jerky sold in stores, it's priced about the same, but provides much better flavor and a little better chewing.
This Original beef jerky from Chef's Craig's tastes far from ordinary, packing in a lot of good flavors. It has a very tasty marinade, more like a combination of worcestershire, soy sauce, and french dip au jus, but with a good deal of sweet and smokiness mixed in.
But then it adds a nice natural meat flavor with a citrus tanginess. Throw in a touch of chile pepper flavor and a moderate level of heat, and it creates a very impressive flavor profile, and not overly salty
The meat consistency is overall good. It starts out with a light rubbery feel, but manages to chew down to a steak-like texture. It's very meaty with little to no stringiness or unchewable tissues. Collecting together the tiny bits of meat can provide something of a hindrance, but overall not that bad.
For me, it was the impressive flavor that opened my eyes and made me think, "Wow, this is great!"
My recommended beer pairing for this, go with a porter, such as the Sierra Nevada Porter, or the Stone Smoked Porter.
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