Friday, March 6, 2009

Jawbone Beef Jerky - Peppered

Jawbone Beef Jerky Having been around since the 1950s, the little Jawbone Canyon Store serves off-roaders, bikers, hikers, and residents of the upper Mojave Desert of California. Scott Spencer, who bought the store in 1998, had sold various brands of beef jerky but decided he wanted to offer something unique that carried the brand of his general store.

This line of Jawbone Beef Jerky is what resulted, comprising of four varieties, the Original, which I reviewed earlier, this Peppered, along with a Hot, and Teriyaki. It's manufactured by KMB Foods of Arcadia, CA, the makers of Cactus Jacks Beef Jerky. Spencer says he chose KMB because they use fresh-never-frozen beef.

In my review of the Original variety, I said the meat appeared to be the same as that used in the Buffalo Bills Dead Meat, and the Oh Boy! Oberto Thick Cuts, both of which also use meat from KMB Foods.


Beef, sugar, water, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, liquid smoke, sodium nitrite.


The first thing I taste off the surface of these pieces is a medium level sweetness, which is followed by a slight black pepper flavor that slowly increases in strength. I pick up a slight bit of saltiness. When I start chewing, I taste some of the natural meat flavors, and a bit more saltiness, while the black pepper flavor increases in strength as I bite into the cracked pepper corns. After swallowing I can detect a light garlic aftertaste.

For being a peppered variety, the black pepper in this is clearly identifiable. I can taste it on the surface and in the chewing, and across several pieces it builds up a strong aftertaste.

But the taste that seems to dominate the chewing is the natural meat flavor. However, it's a light flavor. Unlike the Original variety, where I said it had a light-to-medium intensity, this seems mostly light, yet it still rises above the other flavors and lasts throughout the chewing.

In that review of the Original variety, I also said the natural meat flavor had a slightly stale, or slightly turned taste. I still find that same taste in this Peppered variety, which is consistent with the Buffalo Bills Dead Meat and Oh Boy! Oberto Thick Cuts. I have no idea how KMB Foods processes the meat for this jerky, and for all I know it could be as fresh as Spencer says it is. It just has that unique taste that seems to follow KMB Foods across all of the brands it produces. Either way, it's a light flavor that I only notice while analyzing the taste carefully.

The sweetness is also quite dominant in this. I'd rate it as the second-most dominant flavor. It's thick enough on the surface that it will last throughout the chewing. I can suck on a piece for several seconds before chewing, and it will take most of the sweetness off, but it's still there in a significant amount when I start chewing.

The black pepper is also strong, but I think it falls behind the sweetness.

The salt intensity seems medium in strength, but not strong enough to overtake the natural meat flavors, sweetness, and black pepper. The garlic is noticeable in the chewing, but very light. It's more noticeable as an aftertaste.

Overall, what you're going to taste in this jerky is an immediate sweet flavor on the surface, with some shades of black pepper and salt mixed in. As soon as you start chewing, you'll pick up that light natural meat flavor, while the black pepper builds its strength, and the sweetness mixes into the meat. It finishes with a black pepper and garlic aftertaste.

Meat Consistency

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

It seems like a semi-moist jerky, but it could very well be called dry. There's a noticeable moisture in this in meat. The pieces appear and feel wet, but that's the sugary glaze on top. This jerky is quite easy to tear apart with my fingers, though somewhat chewy to eat.

The chewing texture starts out chewy, feeling like a chunk of rubber, but quickly breaking down as I chew. It probably takes about 15 seconds of chewing before it loses that chewy feel, and at that point it takes on a steak-like texture cooked medium. This Peppered variety seems to have a better texture than the Original variety I sampled, however, I'm sure it's just a variation from one batch to another. This particular sample of Peppered doesn't really come across as mushy, gummy, or crumbly at all.

Despite the sugary glaze on the surface of these pieces, my fingers don't pick up any residue when handling this jerky. However, the liberal dosing of black pepper falls off of each piece as I tear apart, or bite off, and gets all over my desk and lap.

I found one piece with a sizeable chunk of fat, but didn't find any spoiled taste. I also found quite a bit of gristle on these pieces, about half of the pieces had it. But most of this gristle was quite thin in size and I couldn't feel it in the chewing. However, one piece had large piece of gristle that gave off that sensation of chewing a dried rubber band. Aside from that, I didn't find much in terms of chewy sinews or tendon.

Snack Value

Jawbone Canyon Store sells this peppered variety for a price of $7.00 per 3.65oz bag. That works out to a price of $1.92 per ounce, putting this in the average price range, but at the upper end.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this $1.92 price per ounce, it presents a decent value. I'm getting a good snackability out of this, it has a good overall taste, it's easy to eat, and the chewing texture was good, though the volume of gristle is something to make note of. I think the $1.92 price is perhaps a tad high compared to what you're getting in return.

But if you evaluate it as a peppered variety, it's a good value at this price. I'm getting a lot of black pepper taste in this. Better yet, you're getting a lot of black pepper taste in a jerky that has a good overall taste, and good chewing texture.


I'm giving this a good rating.

I think this Peppered variety from Jawbone Beef Jerky provides a stronger overall flavor compared to their Original variety, mostly through its strong black pepper seasoning. A few other touches, like the medium-level sweetness, and light meat flavors help make this jerky a little bit better than the mass-market brands. But adding the strong black pepper is enough to push that up into the "good" rating.

There's still a quality to this jerky that makes it comparable to the mass-market jerkies. I keep comparing this to Jack Link's Peppered jerky, in terms of its liberal dosing of black pepper, and rubbery initial chewing. But this Jawbone brand is better overall in that it has the light natural meat flavors, the noticeable sweetness on the surface, and is not gummy like Jack Link's can be.

For what Scott Spencer wanted to do, which was offer a better jerky to his customers, I think he got it, and I think his customers will notice it. But at the same time, I don't think they'll analyze this jerky as closely as I've done, let alone compare it to a hundred other brands, and for that reason they'll look forward to visiting his store and getting something they can't find anywhere else.

A good beer variety to pair up with this is a light ale, kolsch, or blonde ale.

Rating: Good

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