Buying Guide
By K.B. Gould
on 3.14.14
Photo by Henry Phillips

Last year, during our Month of Beef, we surveyed 10 of the best beef jerkies. Some, like Slim Jim and Jack Links, are made for cheap and easy road trip snacking. But others are more like a fine wine or well-made craft brew — although typically more expensive, these artisanal jerkies contain levels of complexity not found in the average gas station variety. They’re meant to be savored, not inhaled, moving them away from “pantry staple” and toward “birthday present” on the “frequency of jerky consumption” spectrum. Think of key words like “wholesome,” “hormone-free” or “filet mignon”. But as is the case in any group testing, we missed a few solid options. Now, we want to rectify that mistake with this beefy refresher of three more great artisanal jerkies.

MORE BEEF TO CHEW ON: Learn All About the Four Main Beef Cattle Breeds | A Guide to Lesser Known Cuts of Beef | The Perfect Burger Patty

Jerk’n Pickle

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For the first few bites, it’s almost crunchy, but the hardest of the three jerkies eventually melts in the mouth. Not only do the folks at Jerk’n Pickle use choice Angus, they also use vegetable juice, giving the meat a tasty broth-like flavor. For those concerned about animal rights, Jerk’n Pickle raises their cows on-pasture without antibiotics and hormones. The only downside is that it’s not made from 100 percent grass-fed beef, but if that’s your main concern, you’re probably the type to buy jerky, anyways.

Field Trip

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You know the story: three friends get bored of the corporate world and quit their day jobs to pursue X. In this case, X happened to be Top Round, USDA approved artisanal jerky. Chewy enough to give the jaw a work out, but tasty enough that you don’t care, Field Trip makes three flavors: the smoky Original No.3, the sweet and spicy Honey Spice No. 11 and the distinctive Teriyaki No. 23.

Three Jerks

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The first thing you notice about filet mignon jerky is that it’s really, really soft. Although purists might call blasphemy, the cut lends itself well to jerky, yielding a tender, buttery texture that’s more savory than sweet. Like many of the other artisanal jerky brands, the Three Jerks make their products without MSG, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite or any artificial ingredients. Although it comes in three flavors — Original, Memphis Barbecue and Chipotle Adobo — we recommend the Original, which doesn’t mask the flavors of the meat. You wouldn’t smother your filet in A1, would you?