Best Beef Jerky

Updated January 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
495 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best beef jerky

Last Updated January 2020

In Scotland, they have a saying, “A hungry man’s meat is long in making ready.” Jerky is the original “long in making ready” meat dish. Between cutting, marinating, and cooking in a wood smoker, it can take a couple of days to make good beef jerky. Even with dehydrators instead of wood-burning smokers, it still takes time. There are no shortcuts when it comes to jerky.

That time-consuming process is why packaged jerky is so expensive for such small amounts. Time is money, after all. That being the case, you want to get the best bang for the buck.

Jerky is a great trail snack, an easy choice when you’re waiting in a deer stand, on a fishing boat, or driving across the country. It can stave off hunger pangs when you know its hours until your next full meal and you don’t want to bloat on sugary snacks that add unwanted calories and inches to your waistline.

But which jerky is best for you? Keep reading this beef jerky buying guide and we’ll show you everything you need to know to chew, er, choose wisely.

A lot of top-shelf beef jerky is made from lean meat with little or no fat.

Key considerations

Product weight

The first thing to consider when buying jerky is the package size. Seek out the small print at the bottom of the package to determine the weight. Jerky is typically sold by the ounce. If the contents’ weight is less than five ounces, you should consider getting another bag or two. As any jerky maven can tell you, the stuff is incredibly addictive. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop, so stock up.

Resealable package

If you’re one of those iron-willed people who can stop eating jerky before finishing the whole bag, we salute you. If this is you, look for jerky in resealable packaging, which a number of manufacturers offer.

Where you snack

Are you eating jerky in public? If so, know that eating tough jerky that you really have to gnaw at can look a bit ungraceful at times. For these occasions, choose jerky that’s softer and easier to tear apart.

Original dry chewy jerky

Most jerky these days has a smooth, polished surface. But this brand hearkens back to the days of the cattle drive when jerky was smoked over a fire, coming out dry and hard so it would last a long time in your saddlebags. It’s salty, chewy, and not at all greasy.

Features

Chewiness

Jerky comes in different types of chewiness. Jerky that is touted as “original” may be tougher and stringier than other types. Jerky is a long-lasting snack: each bite may take several minutes to chew before you can swallow it.

Every brand is different, and the teriyaki flavored jerky from one company may be softer than the same flavor from another. Trial and error may be required to discover which jerkys have the chewiness you like best.

Texture

The physical texture of the jerky when you handle it is another important feature. Jerky is a finger food, so the texture makes a difference.

  • Smooth: Some jerky has a very smooth feel to it. It can also be somewhat slippery, which may cause you to drop it at the worst possible time.
  • Rough: Jerky that has a rough texture is easier to hang on to. It may also be harder to chew. It’s a trade-off.

Flavors

Which flavor, or flavors, of beef jerky you prefer is an entirely subjective issue. Everyone has their favorites. Fortunately, jerky comes in a lot of different flavors. Some of the most popular flavors are:

  • Original
  • Teriyaki
  • Pepper
  • Jalapeño
  • Hickory
  • Bacon
  • Barbeque
DID YOU KNOW?

It takes about 2 1/2 pounds of beef to make one pound of jerky.

Beef jerky prices

Beef jerky will generally set you back from under $1 per ounce to over $3 per ounce, depending on the quality and brand. Jerky that costs under $1 an ounce is often less like real beef jerky and more like cured sticks of meat.

Between $1 and $3 per ounce is the medium price range for beef jerky. Most brands of jerky will fall somewhere in this range. Spending over $3 an ounce is the high end of the jerky market. Beef jerkys in this price range are most often unusually spicy specialty varieties or high-quality “all-natural” offerings.

Properly prepared beef jerky should have almost no water in it. This is what gives it such a long shelf life.

Accessories

Resealable baggies: Solimo Sandwich Storage Bags
If your favorite jerky isn’t packaged in a resealable pouch, these Solimo sandwich bags from Amazon are an easy solution. Grab this box of 300 and you’re good to go.

Hand wipes: Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand and Face Wipes
A number of jerky brands are greasy, which is why you should have wipes handy to clean up once you’re finished gnawing. We like these antibacterial wipes from Wet Ones.

DID YOU KNOW?

Salt is added to beef jerky as a preservative. During the drying process, it also helps draw water out of the meat.

Tips

  • Take small bites. Don’t try to cram an entire stick of jerky in your mouth unless you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to chewing. Trust us on this one!
  • Commit to it. Jerky is meant to be eaten with your hands, teeth, and neck muscles.
  • Clean up after you snack. Bits of jerky have been known to get stuck between your teeth. Keep toothpicks or dental floss handy.

Solid chew with sweet teriyaki flavor

If you like teriyaki-flavored beef jerky, this is the brand for you. Just opening the bag gives you a good whiff of teriyaki and starts your mouth watering. Some people report that it has a little too much sugar for their taste, but others love it. The texture and chew are good without being too hard.

Other products we considered

If anyone knows jerky, it's the folks down in Texas. Buc-ee's Bohemian Recipe Garlic Beef Jerky comes in a resealable bag and has a great flavor. It's thick and chewy without being overly greasy. It's a great snack for anyone on a Keto diet. Everything is bigger in Texas, and Buc-ee's, with its wildly successful line of huge oversize gas station/convenience stores, has hit a home run with this jerky.

We also like Cattleman's Cut Original Beef Jerky. It has a little more sugar and carbohydrates in it than we'd like, but its peppery, wood-smokey flavor more than compensates for those excesses. This jerky has a lightly textured surface and is solid without being overly hard or stringy.

Most brand-name beef jerky has oil added to it to improve the flavor, which is why modern jerky is often greasier than old-school jerky.

FAQ

Q. Is beef jerky good for you?
A.
It depends on your personal dietary needs. It’s not bad for you, per sé, but it does have a lot of salt in it.


Q. Can I give jerky to preschool children?
A.
No. It’s too tough for them to chew, and they could choke on it if they try to swallow it. Wait until they’re older.
 

Q. How long will beef jerky last?
A.
Most store-bought beef jerky will last one to two years after the package is opened.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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