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.


Beef, water, salt, sugar, flavorings, lemon pepper, sodium nitrite. Sprayed with potassium sorbate to maintain freshness.


The tastes I pick up from the surface of these pieces is a moderate level smokiness, a slight sweet flavor, and a moderate level black pepper flavor. In the chewing, I get a good deal of natural meat flavors, and some saltiness.

If I were to chew a piece immediately after putting it into my mouth, I still get the same smokiness, but I think the natural meat flavors are less pronounced. It seems like this is a jerky that needs to be sucked on for about 5-10 seconds first to get the full flavor throughout the chewing.

My initial thoughts as I continue to sample this jerky is that's its indeed very good. It's has a good deal of flavor intensity, and a very tasty natural meat flavor.

And that natural meat flavor is perhaps the dominant flavor of this jerky. It has a flavor very similar to a sirloin cooked medium, with a well defined smoky color. There's also a kind of smooth, buttery flavor as well that seems to provide some level of irresistibility.

There's also a good deal of black pepper flavor that sits in the background. I think it provides the second-most dominant flavor. Actually, I don't really notice the black pepper right away after popping a piece into my mouth; it seems to slowly fade into view and eventually I realize that it's got a moderate-level aftertaste going. I think what happens is that the natural meat flavors have such dominance that all the attention gravitates towards it while the pepper slowly gains strength.

The salt intensity in this seems moderate. I'd rate it as the third-most dominant flavor of this jerky.

I can also pick up a garlic flavor.

As for the lemon pepper in the ingredients, I don't really pick up a lemon or citrus-like flavor.

Overall, it's a jerky that's dominated by a great tasting natural meat flavor, with a good smoky color, and with the black pepper and salt taking the second and third-most dominant flavors.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be strips of whole meat, sliced to a medium-to-thick thickness, and in lengths between 3-5 inches, and widths of about 1/4 inch.

There seems to be a fair amount of moisture in these strips, but still a dryness you'd expect in jerky. It's fairly easy to bite a piece off, and the chewing requires a bit of effort eventually tires out my jaws after a 4oz bag.

The chewing texture of these strips, once they hydrate in my mouth, has a very meaty, fibrous, steak-like character. I don't really get any mushy or mealy texture.

As far as clean eating goes, I do see a few meat fragments on my lap and desk, as well as some bits of pepper, but my fingers don't really pick up any residue.

I also see some small bits of fat on several pieces, but they're small enough that I don't really notice their flavor. I don't really find any wads of chewy membranous tissues left over in my mouth, and I haven't found any bits of tendon or gristle.

Snack Value

I paid $5.75 for this 4 ounce bag from Big John's website, which works out to a price of $1.44 per ounce, putting this into the average price range. This price includes the shipping.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this price, this has an excellent value. I get a great deal of snackability from its delicious flavor and great chewing texture. But take further note of that price. I'll have to check, but I'm not sure I've seen another jerky at such a high quality in taste and texture at such an affordable price.


I'm giving this a best rating.

I'm just really impressed with the flavor of this original variety from Big John's. It's got a great tasting meat flavor that dominates this jerky all throughout the chewing. That medium-level smokiness I get immediately from the surface is just a warning of such smooth and buttery-like meat flavors waiting ahead.

Even the black pepper works really well in this; it's doesn't attack you right away, it lets the meat flavors make its entrance, and then it fades into view and provides a heavenly contrast like a choir of angels singing over a herd of stampeding cattle.

The chewing texture in this is excellent, giving you that steak-like sense of eating real meat.

If there's any negative to note, it's that chewing a 4 ounce bag of this all the way through will leave your jaws feeling wore out. But that could also be a sign that you had some jerky you could not resist. But it's also worth noting that there's enough surface flavors in this jerky that you can suck on a piece first to prolong the snacking, and even soften the meat up before chewing.

And how can I not remind you of that snacking value? For the same price you'll pay on a 3.5oz bag of Oberto jerky, you can buy this 4oz bag of Big John's and get some really good tasting jerky, and not even have to leave home.

And for my recommended beer pairing, I'd go for a dark, smoky, porter.

Rating: Best

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  1. Just tried this one based on your review. Absolutely love it. Your review was spot on. I also order the teriyaki flavored and am looking forward to trying it.

  2. I've been a fan of Big John's for a long time and am really happy to see them reviewed on this site. Their product really is this great, and I love seeing others confirm what I've enjoyed over the past few years. Not only is their jerky this great, but their customer service is first rate as well. Your review PERFECTLY describes why I love this jerky, and why I haven't bought any other jerky (except some elk and venison) since finding Big John's. Now I'm going to have to try it with some beer.

  3. I read a similar review about six months ago raving Big John's. If you have not yet tried it do yourself a favor and get a sampler pack. I did, and since have ordered three more pounds. This review mentions the value of a 4 oz package shipped, but they offer a significant discount for larger quantities which really ups the ante once you have actually tasted it. It should also be noted that they offer an extra discount for the troops. If you need something to fill out a care package this is it!

  4. I found out about Big John's Beef Jerky in June of 2008. I've ordered from them at least once a month since then. Great jerky, amazing value for price. I like that they offer a lower salt version of some of their flavors for those that have sodium issues. Of their flavors I like the teriyaki best, followed by the original.

  5. I"m a Big John Beef Jerky fan have ordered from them 4 or 5 times.It's the best jerky at the best price I have found and they send your order quickly.They will send out special sales to you every so often if you set up a account,and also have a loyalty discount.

    Bill in Okla.

  6. I already knew Big John's Beef Jerky was the best, that's why I picked Big John's Beef Jerky out of a whole range of suppliers to start selling it in Belgium and Holland. I was also very glad to have packed a bag of Original in my backpack for a snowboarding holiday -- excellent during those dull moments on the ski elevator.

  7. Big John's Original Beef Jerky Rated Best:

    Checkout the 5-Star rating our Original flavor received by a well
    respected website dedicated to rating/reviewing jerky brands:

    We're celebrating 5-Star "Best" rating:
    Enter the coupon code "best" to get 5% off on any order of
    $20 or more*. (Expires March 8th)

    Looks like they got my e-mail :)

  8. Not only is the jerky delicious, but the customer service is great. They mixed up my order one time and sent the wrong flavor. This wasn't a total loss because you can't really go wrong with it- I ate it anyway. However I did send a heads-up email letting them know a) they shipped the wrong thing and b) I ate it anyway and it was delicious. I got a quick response that apologized and offered me free replacement jerky even though I'd already consumed the mis-shipment. Well, who can argue with that?

  9. Try to avoid ordering their Fiery Hot flavor. I made the mistake of getting a sampler pack a couple years ago and have since been hopelessly addicted. It is like crack--I tear open a Fiery Hot 1LB bag and, without exaggeration, it somehow disappears after 2-3 sittings over 12 hours. Oh the delightfully agonizing bite of cayenne... The inside of my mouth screams in pain, eyes teary and entire body sweating as if in withdrawal.

    And somehow all I can think of is consuming more.

  10. Best jerky hands down. Just tried their new Fiery BBQ, which may be my new favorite. Its definately, hot, but it has a sweet, smokey BBQ flavor that makes it very hard to put down. Damn good all the way around!

  11. just got my 2nd order from Big Johns...tried the lo-so firey hot and I am **** hooked. Of course along with the original that the rest of the family has gotten hooked on.

  12. This is truly great beef jerky. The low-sodium version is distinctly less salty, but I actually like it better because you get more meat flavor. Try both -- you may be surprised, and your blood pressure may like you again!

  13. I found out about Big John's Beef Jerky several years ago and have been hooked ever since. I find the 1 LB bags too much to eat by myself so I typically like the 1/2 LB bag specials. Keeps in freshness and lets me get enjoy different flavours

  14. Is it true that their jerky quality has gone down? Because I looked at the BBQ review and it said that it had recently.

  15. My original flavour order arrived at my office about 20 mins ago and now I'm not getting any work done snacking on it. Quality of the first (quickly disappearing) bag is excellent, so I would expect the complaint you saw in the other thread was just a one-off. The other bags all look top-notch too. Amazing stuff.

  16. Just received my order of Big John's Beef Jerky today. I got three 1.75 oz packages of the Fiery Hot, Fiery BBQ, and Teriyaki flavors. I have to say that the jerky does grow on you but I found it to be very dry. The Teriyaki and BBQ had an interesting individual taste but the Fiery Hot tasted very smokey. I actually couldn't finish it. The delivery and packaging of the jerky was excellent, I must say. I disagree that the jerky is of the Best Ratings but I'm going to reconsider my decision after reordering from Big John's, getting the Original, BBQ, and Fiery Teriyaki flavors.

  17. Best jerky on the planet hands down. I have been ordering for 2 years now and every flavor is robust but does not drown out the taste of perfectly smoked meat. Lifelong customer for sure.