Jerky: A Starter Guide

Whether you're a fresh jerky padawan or a seasoned jerky jedi, it always helps to have a little background knowledge about the food you are consuming! That's why we put together this helpful guide for you to learn more about this delicious snack.

History of Jerky

Jerky has been around for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Egypt. Indigenous cultures in North and South America used the process of creating jerky as a matter of necessity as a means to preserve food without refrigeration for long trips.

  • What is jerky? Jerky is meat that has been cured and dried in order to reduce the moisture content. This is done in order to preserve the meat, so that it does not spoil.
  • Why is it called jerky? The word jerky comes from the Quechua word ch'arki meaning “dried, salted meat”.

The aspects that made jerky so useful in the past contribute to its popularity today: in addition to great taste, no preparation beyond initial curing, and long shelf-life, it's a healthy, protein-packed snack. It’s perfect for long trips, hiking, backpacking, and can even be kept in the car for an emergency.

Making Jerky

Meat and a curing solution are the two sole components necessary for making jerky. The curing solution is used to provide a better taste and a longer shelf life for the beef jerky and is responsible for the final color of the product. The curing solution also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. A curing solution commonly consists of water, salt, and sodium nitrite. The salt is used to dehydrate the meat, while sodium nitrite prevents the meat from becoming rancid and stabilizes its color. Sodium ascorbate can also be used to enhance the meat color. Once the curing solution is ready, the meat is prepared, soaked in curing solution and cooked until it is dried.

  • What is jerky made from? Jerky is made from animal meat such as beef, pork, poultry or fish and may contain other ingredients like salt, sugar, pepper, soy sauce, and various spices.
  • Why is beef jerky so expensive? When beef is cut and dehydrated, it loses a lot of weight because it contains 60-70% water. Thus, only a few ounces of jerky can be produced from a pound of raw meat.
  • What cut of beef is jerky made from? It is usually a lean cut of beef, such as round or flank steak, which has been trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips.
  • How is beef jerky made? It starts with cutting lean meat into thin strips — slicing the meat across the grain, as this makes the strips easier to chew. This is followed by marinating with salt and spices, such as soy sauce and teriyaki. The meat then needs to be air-dried at low temperatures until it's dry enough to store without spoiling.
  • Why does jerky contain salt? Salt is used to preserve beef jerky by drawing water out of the food and dehydrating it. The salting process not only contributes to its rich flavor, but also helps kill bacteria during the dehydration process.
  • How long should you marinate jerky for?  For the best flavor, make sure your jerky marinates for 12-24 hours. In this time, the meat absorbs all of the flavors and spices that you added.
  • How do you eat beef jerky? Jerky is a popular snack food eaten on its own. But it can also be used as an ingredient in many recipes.

Beef Jerky Nutrition

Beef jerky is high in various minerals, including zinc and iron, which are important for many functions, including immune support and increased energy levels. Jerky also provides small amounts of manganese, molybdenum, and pantothenic acid.

  • Fat in Beef Jerky: According to the USDA, one ounce of beef jerky contains 7 grams of fat; however, some healthier brands have less than 1 gram of fat per ounce.
  • Sodium in Jerky: Depending on the brand and flavor, a 1-ounce serving of jerky has about 300-400 mg of sodium. Salt is used to preserve beef jerky by drawing water out of the food and dehydrating it.
  • Sugar in Jerky: The USDA states that a single ounce of beef jerky contains 2.6 grams of sugar, but each brand and flavor will vary. Jerky can have sugar contents ranging from 0g to 9g per ounce.
  • Protein in Jerky: Depending on the brand and quality, one ounce of jerky can provide between 9 and 14 grams of protein. In comparison, an egg only has 6 grams of protein while a cup of milk has 8 grams.

Packed with nutrition, there are many health benefits to eating small batch, artisan-made beef jerky as a snack — especially for folks who want easy meal prep, want a convenient, mess-free snack, or need a fast way to add protein to their diet.

Are all Jerkies the Same?

Not all jerkies are created equal. As varied as the different kinds of meats used, so are the recipes. Today's production standards call for jerky to be marinated and seasoned with special spice rubs and smoked under low heat. Widely marketed commercial brands are typically sweetened. Depending on your tastes and nutritional demands, there is a brand of jerky tailored to your desires and needs.

It's easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer variety and amount of jerky to choose from these days — which is why we curated our subscription offerings to make snacking easy for you! Simply click here to look for a themed subscription box: you'll be able to try out a variety of themed surprises from Spicy Jerky, to Booze-Infused jerky, to Keto-Friendly Jerky and more!

Not sure what's good? Or maybe you want to try a bit of everything. Then you can't go wrong with our classic beef jerky subscription. Every month we curate and ship a new selection of high quality premium beef jerky flavors to your door.