There are more jerky options out there than ever before. With a unique combination of flavors, textures, nutritional values, and types of meat, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for when you reach for these delicious snacks.
If you’re ready to become a jerky expert, continue reading this guide. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about the different types of beef jerky out there on the market today.
Distinguishing Between Types of Beef Jerky
There are a few different criteria used to distinguish between beef jerky types. You can break them down between:
- Protein source
And, of course, there are also beef jerky alternatives that are perfect for those who don’t eat meat or who only eat certain types of meat. You can even make your own unique types of jerky at home.
The Different Beef Jerky Flavors
In actuality, you can make beef jerky that tastes like pretty much anything. Everyone from world-class chefs to home cooks has been innovating with jerky flavors for years.
However, most beef jerky flavors will fall into three categories: mild, sweet, and spicy.
Mild Jerky Flavors
Beef jerky’s most basic flavor is a simple salt and cracked black pepper. The flavor of pepper makes for delicious jerky that can complement a variety of meat types.
There is an incredibly wide audience that enjoys mild jerky due to its easy palatability. Some popular mild jerky flavors include:
- Sea salt and cracked pepper
- Plain peppered
- Mild classic
- Garlic black pepper
The best beef jerky is best made with high-quality beef, like the kind found at Nivebeef.com.au.
Sweet Jerky Flavors
Surprisingly, a bit of sugar pairs incredibly well with beef and other meat. Sweet flavors can range in intensity from just a touch of sugar to completely candied jerky.
One of the benefits of adding sugar to your jerky is the lovely weight and texture it adds to the meat. Ingredients that are commonly used for this purpose include:
- Brown sugar
- Pure cane sugar
- Corn Syrup
These sweeteners can make flavors such as teriyaki, which has been an extremely popular jerky flavor for decades. Other sweet flavors you might come across include honey glazed and orange honey teriyaki.
Spicy Jerky Flavors
Cracked pepper may add a bit of spice to the classic mild jerky, but you can really up the ante. Usually, different kinds of ground pepper help to add heat. Some common ingredients that spice up jerky include:
Sometimes, the heat really gets dialed up to an 11. Flavors like the California ghost pepper and Carolina reaper can make some seriously spicy jerky.
Common flavors you might come across include:
- Nashville hot
- Wild heat
- Sweet and spicy
- Hot and spicy
The Different Types of Jerky Textures
The texture of the jerky you enjoy can be as unique as the person making the jerky. Strips of jerky can range from tough and leathery to soft and supple depending on how they’re processed.
Some ingredients that help to soften jerky include texturizing elements such as sugar or vinegar.
Jerky is also softened with tenderizing machines and longer marination times. Cooking and drying times also play a large role in determining jerky’s texture.
The Different Forms Beef Jerky Can Take
Surely you’ve seen Slim Jims and jerky strips. These are a few examples of the different forms beef jerky can take. The two types of beef jerky forms are actually known as whole muscle jerky and chopped and formed jerky.
The meat industry processes these types in different ways.
Whole Muscle Jerky
Whole muscle jerky is made from full, solid pieces of meat. Big chunks of beef are sliced into smaller strips. These strips are then marinated, cooked, dried, seasoned, and packaged.
This is the most common type of jerky out there. Many different cuts of beef can make jerky, but the top round is the most commonly used.
Chopped and Formed Jerky
You’ll sometimes see chopped and formed jerky called restructured jerky or chunked and formed jerky. To process this form, jerky strips are chopped up and reformed into the desired shape, usually a tube.
This form of jerky was originally made to help utilize cheaper cuts of meat. However, modern jerky companies have begun to use higher quality meats in their restructured jerky.
Choosing the Right Protein Source
Obviously beef is the protein type used for most jerky. However, beef can come from a variety of different places. Where your protein comes from can change the flavor of your jerky.
Most commonly used in beef jerky production, corn-fed beef is bulkier with a more fat-to-muscle ratio. This creates a richer flavor, as well as a buttery texture.
Unless otherwise stated, most of the beef jerky on the market comes from corn-fed cows
Grass-fed cattle are, as the name suggests, raised on grass. Extra grain is sometimes added to these cows’ diets, but they feast on mostly grass.
However, if you’d prefer completely grass-fed cows, you can look for 100% grass-fed or Grass Finished labels.
In order for beef to be USDA-certified organic, cattle must consume 100% organic feed. It must also be antibiotic-free and raised in a natural environment.
To determine the source of your protein, be sure to check the label of your protein.
Beef Jerky Alternatives
In addition to beef, jerky can be made from a variety of different things, including meat-free alternatives. Things like marinated and dehydrated carrots, dried mushrooms, and meat alternatives like tofu or soy.
Other types of meat jerky are also growing in popularity. This includes turkey, which has become especially popular in recent years.
Find the Perfect Beef Jerky for Any Palate
Now that you know more about the different types of beef jerky, you’re sure to find the perfect one for your tastes. From tough, spicy beef jerky to soft, sweet turkey jerky there is something out there for everyone.
To learn more about beef and other recipes, check out the rest of our blog. We’ve got the dish on every type of dish out there!