Who doesn’t love beef jerky? It’s a convenient and satisfying snack that adheres to all of the high-protein diets happening these days. There are even vegan options. Speaking of options, with so many out there how do we know which is the best beef jerky?
While yes, beef jerky can be extremely satisfying, keep in mind that there can be potential downsides to eating too much. If you are a fan of beef jerky, salami, hot dogs, and other cured meats, you may be putting yourself at risk for manic episodes, according to a new study. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered an apparent link between the consumption of nitrate-cured meats and hospitalization for mania, an elevated mood characterized by hyperactivity, euphoria, and insomnia. Manic episodes, which are associated with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, may last for weeks or months and can lead to delusional thinking and risk-taking behavior. Researchers seeking to find what factors, other than genetics, cause these abnormal mood states were surprised to find a peculiar dietary link.
But hope is on the horizon. Texas A&M meat scientist Wes Obsurn, Ph.D., is working on a way to make these meats without curing them at all. With substances linked to cancer, Osburn has been studying the idea of a novel amino acid alternative curing system for meats, like beef jerky. Just this past year, he received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to determine the feasibility of something like this. Obsurn’s team says meat companies are really interested in seeing where this goes, because lots of research is still up in the air about it all, and there may be some upcoming USDA rulings that may not be in their favor regarding current “uncured” products put out on the market.
Some beef jerky’s are made chewier than others. Some are sweet, some are smokey, and some are smokey and sweet. Choosing the right beef jerky for you really depends on your preference. Luckily, StudyFinds has done the research for you in finding the best beef jerky to satisfy your savory snack cravings. Find out below what brands 10 experts recommend. If we’ve missed one, please leave them in the comments below!
The List: Best Beef Jerky, According to Foodies
You’ve more than likely seen Jack Link sitting on your gas station’s shelves, it’s a hometown favorite. Only around since 1985, it’s a go-to for jerky lovers. The Daily Meal can contest, “It’s quickly and convincingly become the go-to product for jerky connoisseurs. The original Jack Link flavor has its place on the Mount Rushmore of beef jerky for good reason. It’s legendary in every sense of the word and remains a staple on grocery store shelves in America. You’d be hard-pressed to find a store that doesn’t sell Jack Link’s, which no other brand on this list, except Slim Jims, can say. The cherry on top? The taste of Jack Link’s is as impressive as its stock.”
Jack Link’s Jerky is more on the tender side, which some snackers prefer. Taste Of Home says that “tearing a strip apart in the Test Kitchen, Josh Rink notes Jack Link’s top-notch texture. ‘Each strip has a nice thickness and is tender,’ he says. ‘It has some chew but it’s not tough.’ But this jerky is much more than a crave-able, rippable texture. The flavor here is nicely balanced with notes of smoke, sweetness, and black pepper—something akin to barbecue flavors per Josh. Jack Link’s jerky isn’t overly salty, so it’s an option you can snack on without glugging water after a strip or two.”
Another fun fact is that Jack Link is the actual owner’s name. He started selling his jerky locally in Wisconsin. “Jack Link’s is one of the most popular brands of beef jerky out there, with sales reaching more than a billion dollars on an annual basis. This brand’s story began when Jack Link started selling meat treats locally in Wisconsin in 1986. Over the last 35 years, their beef jerky has gone from a regional favorite to a snack that is available from sea to shining sea,” states Mashed.
Country Archer keeps up with the health-conscious times with the natural ingredients they pack into their jerky. It is also gluten-free, which isn’t always the easiest when searching for a satisfying snack. “We love Country Archer’s commitment to artisanal, hand-crafted jerky. It ensures that each bag is made with the best ingredients, like 100% grass-fed beef, and no health-harming preservatives or artificial additives. If you’re gluten-free, you probably realize how difficult it is to find a pack of jerky that isn’t made with soy sauce. Luckily, Country Archer’s original flavor is completely gluten-free thanks to using tamari instead of soy sauce. Like Field Trip, Country Archer eschews nitrites and nitrites of every kind—both artificial and natural,” says Eat This, Not That!
You will never be bored with Country Archer, as it has eleven different flavors. That is more flavors offered than most brands. “The brand offers a zero-sugar option and is certified gluten-free, too, helping it rise to the top as one of the most inclusive jerky brands on the market right now. A 2.5-ounce bag costs $7.99 on the Country Archer website, a price point that’s fair and makes the jerky even more desirable. It doesn’t have the brand recognition of a company like Jack Link’s or Krave, but Country Archer should not be overlooked,” adds The Daily Meal.
With its dedication to being gluten-free and low sugar, 99 Boulder’s review comes as no surprise. Being low in sugar the flavor wouldn’t be extremely strong, but they are still satisfying and versatile with its eleven flavor options. “Although we have a penchant for dry savory jerky over the tender sweet stuff, Country Archer stood out with the best texture and flavor of the sweeter jerkies in our test. It doesn’t have a super strong flavor or too much sweetness to it, but it’s a good balance between rich meatiness and smoky flavors. If you like chewy, tender jerky with a touch of sweetness, then Country Archer is a great choice. The Original flavor has 5g of sugar per one-ounce serving.”
Tillamook has the perfect combination of sweetness and smokiness. “No one is immune to the charms of a sweet and salty snack. It’s why we love salted caramel and even crazy treats like chocolate bacon bark. If this is a combo you can’t resist, pick up a pack of Tillamook Country Smoker Simply Crafted Old Fashioned Beef Jerky. Ripping open a bag, you’ll get a powerful aroma. The strips are reddish and can be easily ripped apart—though they still have a nice chew to them. Take a bite and you’ll get notes of salt, black pepper, and molasses,” says Taste Of Home.
Tillamook is a great choice if you want an easy chew, and not feel like you’re going to pull a tooth out. “The texture is the biggest selling point. It almost gives the impression of being homemade with its meaty, fibrous texture. You can easily rip this jerky apart with your teeth and howl at the moon like an animal. ‘This is meat,’ said Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling. A simple, yet profound statement. Tillamook beef jerky feels natural. It’s a chewy, delightfully slow snack that maybe could use a bit more flavor,” adds Sporked.
Tillamook is known for its outstanding cheese and they sell some of the best ice cream you can find. It is no wonder that their beef jerky made the list. “Tillamook – Old Fashioned beef jerky is “all natural” smoked jerky that has just seven ingredients. The smoke flavor is subtle, but we don’t doubt that it’s real,” writes Mashed.
Men’s Journal listed People’s Choice as their number one choice for best beef jerky. Skeptical at first, they couldn’t deny its perfect texture. “It’s by far the highest-rated beef jerky on Amazon. But this jerky deserves its moniker. From taste to texture, People’s Choice is also our pick for the Best Jerky. Zero sugar. Zero carbs. Very low in sodium and fat. Packed with 16g of protein (Original flavor). It’s made of all-natural, extra-lean beef with no additives or preservatives, and no MSG or gluten. Handmade in Los Angeles since 1929, People’s Choice is still a family-owned business. And we respect its un-gimmicky, no-frills packaging and approach. You simply can’t find a better beef jerky.”
People’s Choice was born in Los Angeles in 1929. Throughout the years, they expanded their flavors adding more delicious options. “While all of the flavors People’s Choice sells are worth trying at least once, their Carne Seca line is the cream of the crop. Drawing inspiration from the diversity found in the city of Los Angeles, these flavors are stupendous. Hatch Green Chili will win you over in one bite but somehow Limon Con Chile is even better. After you finish off the bag, you’ll be licking each of your fingers to make sure you don’t miss even a single speck. If you find that most beef jerky flavors are too boring or too similar, give People’s Choice a try,” adds Mashed.
People’s Choice is perfect if you love sweet jerky. It has the most sugar of jerky brands. “We want to note in fairness that People’s Choice does slice their jerky very thinly (which is ideal when it’s tough) and that there were few crumbs or small pieces in the bag. That’s probably someone’s idea of an ideal jerky. They make a Keto-friendly no-sugar version, but we like the flavor of this sugared version better, points out Your Best Digs.
The meat alternative industry has grown a lot in the last few years. If you are looking for a vegan option for beef jerky, Louisville Vegan Jerky is a great choice. “Louisville Vegan Jerky has been around for a decade, though, perfecting its soy-based jerky. The result is a meat-free and protein-rich snack with all the texture, saltiness, and flavor of the real thing. Flavors of Louisville Vegan Jerky include Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, Buffalo Dill, and more. All are gluten-free, but anyone with a soy allergy should avoid this vegan option since textured soy protein is the main ingredient,” explains The Spruce Eats.
Louisville’s jerky vegan, it’s also gluten-free, which is a combination that’s hard to come by. The Daily Meal describes it to a tee, “The Louisville Vegan Jerky Company is not the one-trick pony it might initially appear to be — they’re a real player in an industry dominated by bona fide meat companies. Founded in 2012 by Stanley Chase III, Louisville is a budding jerky star that shouldn’t slip past your radar. Their GMO-free meat is small-batch and made by hand using ethically sourced ingredients from local Kentucky businesses. With an admirable five flavors available, including General Tso’s, Smoky Carolina BBQ, Perfect Pepperoni, Maple Bacon, and Smoked Black Pepper, Louisville has a taste for every palate.”
You can purchase Louisville Jerky as a subscription making it a great gift option. “This vegan and vegetarian jerky is made of textured soy protein. Free of gluten, cholesterol, and trans fat, it has 21 grams of protein and just 4g of total fat per bag. The sampler pack includes Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, and Smokey Carolina BBQ flavors. Non-GMO certified, it’s made in small batches, by hand, using freshly sourced Kentucky ingredients,” writes Men’s Journal.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Ways To Cook Bacon
- Best Philly Cheesesteaks
- Best Chicken Fingers in America
- Healthiest Meats for Your Diet
- Taste Of Home
- The Daily Meal
- Eat This, Not That!
- 99 Boulder
- Men’s Journal
- Your Best Digs
- The Spruce Eats
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.