Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ray's Own Brand - Hickory Pepper Beef

Ray's Own Brand - Hickory Pepper BeefRay's Own Brand is a line of beef jerky produced by the husband and wife team of Raymond Cattaneo and Nina Marie. The business has been around since 2003, based out of San Luis Obispo, CA.

The Cattaneo's beef jerky business follows their successful barbecue service, Cattaneo BBQ Service, which they've been doing since 1971 across the central coast of California. Ray's grandfather was William Cattaneo who started Cattaneo Bros. Beef Jerky, and since the age of 9 has been working in the meat smoking trade.

Ray's Own Brand makes their own beef jerky at their facility in SLO. Ray oversees the individual batch processing, while Nina Marie directs all business operations.

The Cattaneo's jerky business benefits from a growing interest in "artisan jerky" across the central coast of California, an area long known for its wines and cattle ranches.


Beef, water, cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, garlic, sodium nitrite.


The first taste I get is a shot of black pepper, considering there's plenty of it to be seen on these pieces. Next I get the taste of natural meat flavors. Then comes a salt taste. With some chewing, I pick up the tanginess in the meat, which is likely the cider vinegar marinade.

For being a hickory smoked variety, I do get a smoky aroma and taste from this. But not being an expert on smoke woods, I can't say that I distinctly recognize this as hickory, as opposed to mesquite, applewood, or pecan. There's also plenty of flavor in this that's the hickory smoke taste blends into the background.

But as a peppered variety, there is a good taste of black pepper to be enjoyed. Considering how much pepper is visible on these pieces, there's a strong taste but I don't consider this too much taste. It's enough to taste the pepper right away and give you a good aftertaste.

But the natural meat flavors is what steals the show. It's got a "sharp" beef taste, where the flavors are easily distinguished from the other flavorings. By softening up a piece in my mouth for several seconds before chewing, I can get a stronger meat taste. The "tanginess" I described is likely the result of these pieces being so thick cut, allowing the cider vinegar to remain protected inside the meat fibers.

As for the other seasonings, the saltiness is quite defined in this, but I don't consider it too salty. If anything, the natural meat flavors and black pepper seasoning does well to compete against it. The garlic listed in the ingredients list is not easily identified, but after eating several pieces, I can get a slight garlic aftertaste.

Overall, this jerky has an excellent taste, highlighted mostly by its natural meat flavors and its tangy character. The hickory smoked quality is rather lost, but the black pepper still makes a good showing.

Meat Consistency

These are cuts of whole meat, sliced into very thick slices, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This jerky is very dry, and will tear apart if bent with the grain. The only way to eat this is to bite down on a grain, and pull it off like string cheese. Tearing a piece off is fairly easy on the larger pieces, but the small piece depicted below was rather tough. Once you get a piece off, chewing is not too bad.

I don't really see any tendon or gristle on these pieces, but I do find some membrane within the meat that remains in my mouth as a small chewy ball, but can be easily swallowed.

Overall, the meat consistency is great, though you might make a case on the toughness.

Ray's Own Brand - Hickory Pepper Beef

Ray's Own Brand - Hickory Pepper Beef


Ray's Own Brand - Hickory Pepper BeefI'm giving this a best rating.

As with other varieties of Ray's Own Brand, it's the natural meat flavors that really win me over, particularly with its tangy character. Moreover, as a hickory smoked peppered variety, it does a good job of standing up to those flavors, though more so as peppered than hickory smoked.

And while I found that these pieces do require some effort in tearing apart, it isn't really all that bad, particularly since I've had much tougher. The great taste of this jerky will erase all of that away.

And in case you like oxymorons, I find this to be a "meat lover's jerky", it really emphasizes the all the goodness that comes with eating beef, it's natural meat flavors, it's thick cut, it's smoky aroma, and that sprinkling of cracked pepper.

As for my beer recommendation, something fruity, like a lambic, would go well considering this jerky is void of any added sweetness.

Rating: Best (5/5)

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  1. I am a Cal Poly Rugby player and Ray's Hickory Peppered Jerky taste like a peppered steak it is so thick and flavorful! It keeps us going strong all practice long.

  2. Just tried buying some and your prices are now out of date. The shipping at this retailer is very high making it very expensive overall.