Lean, trimmed meat is chopped into strips for jerky, which is then dried to keep it from spoiling. Before the meat has finished dehydrating, salt is usually added during this drying process to stop the growth of some types of germs.
Jerky is a dried, salted meat snack that has its roots in the Andes Mountains of Peru. The word “jerky” is derived from the Quechua word “ch’arki,” which meaning dried meat. Modern processed jerky is frequently marinated, made with a spice rub or liquid, or smoked at low heat, typically under 70 °C/160 °F.
Sweeteners like brown sugar are frequently used in store-bought jerky. Jerky may be kept for months without any refrigeration and is ready to eat right out of the package. The final cured product must have the right protein to moisture content to guarantee maximum shelf life.
How to prepare beef jerky
Both farmed animals and game animals are used to make jerky. Beef, pork, goat, mutton, or lamb are among the farmed species used to make jerky. Game animals including deer, kudu, springbok, kangaroos, and bison are also included.
Before drying, the meat must have the majority of its fat removed because fat increases its chance of deterioration. These concerns have been reduced with the use of chemical preservatives and modern vacuum packaging.
To prevent bacterial growth when the meat is still wet during the crucial period, the meat must be dried as soon as possible. The meat must be sliced or pressed thin in order to dry quickly without using a high temperature, which would cook the meat.
Exhaust ports are used in industrial settings in big low-temperature drying ovens with numerous heater elements and fans to evacuate the damp air. Within a few hours, the meat is dried to the optimum moisture level thanks to the combination of swift air movement and low heat.
The raw, marinated jerky strips are arranged on racks made of nylon-coated metal screens that have been lightly oiled to make it easier to remove the meat. The rolling carts with the screen trays on them are stacked closely before going into the drying oven.
In addition to the traditional salted drying process, chemical preservatives like sodium nitrite are frequently used to make jerky. The most traditional method is smoking since it simultaneously tastes, preserves, and dries the meat. The most popular technique today is salting, which season the meat to enhance flavor while also preserving it.
The different types of Beef Jerky
Over the past few years, innovation in the beef jerky industry has blossomed. There are now more varieties of jerky available that you can have. The flavor, texture, form, nutritional content, and beef source can be used to distinguish between the various kinds of beef jerky.
- Mild Jerky Flavors – Original flavors typically have a base flavor of salt and black pepper and are milder. Original flavors are popular because of their mildness, which appeals to many people. Peppered beef jerky, which contains a significant amount of cracked black pepper, is a well-liked flavor in the moderate category. The most popular original flavors are garlic black pepper, classic, mild, and sea salt & pepper.
- Spicy Jerky Flavors – Mild to extremely spicy flavors could be classified as spicy. Ground chile peppers like jalapeno, cayenne, chipotle, and habanero frequently serve as the source of heat. Some of the spiciest jerky types are prepared with ghost pepper and carolina reaper jerky, two of the world’s hottest peppers. Hot & Spicy, Sweet & Spicy, Flamin’ Hot, Inferno, Wild Heat, Sriracha, and Nashville Hot are popular flavors of spicy jerky.
- Sweet Jerky Flavors- The flavors of sweet jerky range from a light sweetness to a full-on candied flavor. Sugar is frequently used in beef jerky because it gives the end product weight and texture. Beef jerky frequently uses cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, and corn syrup as sweeteners. The most popular sweet jerky flavor is teriyaki, which has long been a fantastic match for beef jerky.
- Soft Beef Jerky – Soft beef jerky is on the other end of the range. This type of jerky first appeared on the market in the early 2000s as new jerky producers attempted to reach more customers. Modern, more upscale flavors are frequently served with softer jerky.
- Old Fashioned Beef Jerky/Traditional Beef Jerky – Old-fashioned jerky has a rough, dry feel. Eating takes longer due to the level of dryness. On the other hand, while you chew, your teeth and saliva gradually breakdown the meat. The jerky gradually reveals more flavor as you chew it. Old-school jerky devotees adore cowboy jerky, often known as old-fashioned jerky. The more recent, soft jerky is abhorrent to them. These people are authentic fanatics of beef jerky.
The Nutritional Types
- Sugar Free Beef Jerky – The most popular new type of jerky is sugar-free. Those who want to cut back on sugar and carbohydrates in their diet might choose sugar-free beef jerky as a fantastic alternative. It can be a great low-carb snack for those following the Keto, Carnivore, Atkins, and other low-carb diets.
- Low Sodium Beef Jerky – Due to its natural preservation properties, salt is a crucial component of beef jerky. This indicates that beef jerky occasionally has a high salt concentration. For those who are sensitive to sodium for health reasons, this may be an issue. Thankfully, several manufacturers are making beef jerky with minimal sodium.
- Gluten Free Beef Jerky – There are many companies that produce gluten-free beef jerky. The most typical source of gluten in beef jerky is soy sauce. Check the ingredient list for soy sauce if you must avoid gluten.
The Protein Sources
- Organic – When beef is labeled as USDA organic, it signifies that it has only ever been given natural living circumstances, 100% organic feed, and no antibiotics or hormones. For beef jerky, all four varieties of meat are available. Verify the label to find out where and how the cows were raised.
- Corn Fed – The majority of cattle reared in the US begin their lives on grass and are finished on corn or grain. The high-sugar corn gives the cattle additional weight, improving the ratio of fat to muscle and enhancing flavor. Unless specifically noted, most of the beef used to make beef jerky is fed corn. Since corn-fed beef has a buttery, sweet flavor and melts in your mouth consistency, some individuals love the taste of it.
- Grass Fed – Grass-fed cattle are those that were reared on grass. Meat from cattle that were started on grass but received extra grain or were grain finished may be labelled as “grass fed.” Look for Grass Finished or 100% grass fed if only grass-raised beef will do for you.
- Chopped & Formed Beef Jerky – Restructured beef jerky is another name for chopped and formed beef jerky. Beef chunks are broken up and used to make this jerky. After that, the fragments are reshaped into strips for jerky. Because the pieces of meat were lower grade cuts with chemical binders, this type has a reputation for being of lower quality. But nowadays, it’s possible to produce jerky using beef that is of a higher quality and more natural ingredients.
- Whole Muscle – The meat used to make whole muscle jerky is cut into thick strips. From a huge chunk of beef, producers chop it into smaller pieces that will be marinated, cooked, dried, and packaged. This variety of jerky can be found in the most stores.
- Meat Floss – Chinese dried meat snacks called meat floss, also known as rousong or yul sang, have a light and airy texture. It is frequently sprinkled on top of cereal, tofu, rice, and soy milk. It can also be used as a savory meal filler.
- Meat Bar – The most recent beef jerky substitute to enter the market is the meat bar.
The meat bar is a chopped and molded food with extra components that falls somewhere between beef jerky and a power bar. The meat bar is becoming more and more well-liked among athletes, followers of the paleo diet, and meat lovers in general.
- Carne Seca – A beef jerky variant with tiny slices is known as carne seca. In the past, lemon and lime juice were used to cure carne seca after it had been air dried in the sun. Popular products from Northern Mexico and the American Southwest include carne seca.
- Biltong – As a fantastic substitute for beef jerky, biltong has become more widely available in recent years. Biltong is a dried beef snack from South Africa that is air dried after being vinegar-cured.
The greatest jerky is free of nitrates, additives, and fillers, which is what makes it so fantastic. Beef jerky is delectable, adaptable, and rising in popularity. These days, it comes in a huge variety of taste combinations and pleasing textures. Everyone can find something.