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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.

What is Jerky?

Jerky is made up of very lean meat which has been salted and cut into strips and then dehydrated to prevent spoilage.  The salting process not only contributes to its rich flavor, but also helps kill bacteria during the dehydration process. Jerky has been around for thousands of years, and has been 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. 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.

Why is it called Jerky?

Jerky, whose origin comes from the Quechua word ch’arki, simply means dehydrated, salted meat.   But the simplicity of its word derivation does connote the gourmet evolution of jerky, much more than touting its nutritional benefits.

What kind of meat is used?

Depending upon the part of the world where the actual jerky is made determines the kind of meat used, which ranges from beef, goat, lamb, deer, bison, crocodile, ostrich, salmon, alligator, tuna, horse, and even camel.

How is Jerky prepared?

The 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.

Is Jerky nutritious?

Jerky is not only a high protein food, it’s a high protein food leader. Athletes and bodybuilders listen up! The USDA states that 100 grams of beef Jerky provides a whopping 30 grams of protein, which is far superior to the same gram for gram protein content of two hard boiled eggs (100 grams) which comparatively provides only 12 grams of protein!  But the benefits do not end there!  Jerky is also a low carb, low fat, low cholesterol food, jam packed with vitamins and minerals.

A regular 28 gram portion of jerky boasts a nutritional profile of 9 or more grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 1 gram of carbohydrate. Given its high protein content, beef jerky is viewed as a superior healthy and nutritious low calorie snack, which is compatible with low carbohydrate and Paleo diets. Jerky is also an excellent source of sodium, which is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in maintaining normal fluid balance as well as normal muscle and nerve function. Just be careful not to eat the over-processed, unhealthy jerky that's easily available at gas stations these days.

Let's look at the numbers! One ounce (28 grams) of artisan-made beef jerky roughly contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 116
  • Protein: 9.4 grams
  • Fat: 7.3 grams
  • Carbs: 3.1 grams
  • Fiber: 0.5 grams
  • Zinc: 21% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 12 % of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 9% of the DV
  • Folate: 9% of the DV
  • Iron: 8% of the DV
  • Copper: 7% of the DV
  • Choline: 6% of the DV
  • Selenium: 5% of the DV
  • Potassium: 4% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 4% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 3% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 3% of the DV
  • Niacin: 3% of the DV

As you can see, a typical portion of Jerky is also 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. 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?

All jerkies are not 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.