The Jerky Gift Guide
Few things will stuff a stocking better than good ol’ jerky. This holidays, look no further than these awesome American makers.
Biltong // Brooklyn Biltong // Brooklyn, NY
In South Africa, biltong is a way of life. Everyone makes the salty sweet meat treats, but Brooklyn Biltong’s founder Ben was lucky: his Granddad’s was the best in town, and he spent his childhood filling paper bags with handfuls at his family’s Pretoria butcher shop. While you and your buddies suffered through Slim Jims, Ben snacked on juicy, rich strips of air-dried goodness. He still makes it the old way: marinated with spices and slowly cured, not dehydrated, and never heated so it stays supple and chewy, even though it’s built to last, staying fresh on pantry shelves or stuffed in saddlebags for a long road ahead — as if you can wait to dig in.
Maple BBQ Jerky // Field Trip Jerky // Brooklyn, NY
Barbecue is site-specific. Hot coals aren’t exactly TSA-approved. But jerky is a moveable feast: have meat, will travel. Field Trip is made for carnivores on the go. Started by three ski bums looking for a healthier, heartier fuel pre-, post- (and during) long days on the slopes, where mountain lodge sustenance is scarce, and usually covered in nacho cheese. Grass-fed beef, a kiss of smoke, a sprinkle of sugar, and no MSG or preservatives make this a perfect way to sate your grill cravings anywhere you go. Good luck passing the 3-ounce rule, though.
Hawaiian Style Jerky // Chudabeef Jerky Co. // Long Beach, CA
Flavor is an afterthought with store-bought jerky. You’re lucky if it’s edible — let alone made out of recognizable cuts of real meat. And cracked-pepper shrapnel or a sprinkling of cayenne is often the best you’ll do when it comes to fancifying this fill-station feed. We appreciate jerky’s quick and dirty boost of energy, its clean protein, and the primal, utilitarian aesthetic of a pure, dried hunk of meat. But we ain’t survivalists. Pamper us a little. Chudabeef does: two-dozens grams of protein per package to keep your caveman cravings happy, with a slightly sweetened marinade of orange juice and pineapple to satisfy your more evolved tastes.
Buffalo Wing Jerky // Long Beach Jerky Co. // Long Beach, CA
It seems so simple on paper: meat plus time equals jerky. And the feed-lot’s worth of cured sticks and slabs and shredded snacks crowding gas-station counters and grocery-store munchie aisles attest to how easy it is to make beef jerky. Anyone can do it — and everyone seems to. But any old neanderthal can toss a steak on a grate and call it grilling; it takes a master to hone such elemental methods into art. Long Beach Jerky’s founder’s grandad was one such pro. His jerky was a legendary Christmas tradition, and the recipe hasn’t been altered since. Thick-cut brisket, tangy citrusy wing sauce — perfection in a pouch. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Teriyaki Brisket Jerky // Chops // New Haven, CT
Jerky was born of necessity — spoil-proof sustenance for long, backcountry rambles. And most these days still tastes that way. A chewy chore, not a choice: old cows, sunbaked into last-resort protein fuel. But can jerky be a treat? When it’s done right: USDA choice brisket, fresh and tender as a quality steak, popping with pepper and pineapple juice, tangy and tender and, dare we say, even refreshing. Fresh from the saddlebag or, as we like it, skewered with a few chunks of pineapple and chared quickly on the grill.
Five Spice Turkey Jerky // Pure Provisions // San Francisco, CA
Road trips do strange things to our stomachs: spinning down that ribbon of highway, we sit motionless for hours, but feel famished by the time our exit sign appears. And while we should, we know, be fueling healthy (and getting enough sleep, and signaling lane changes with ample distance, and keeping both hands on the wheel at ten and two…) our floor mats are soon swamped with candy wrappers and soda cups and that rawhide totem of the lonesome road, gas station jerky. So the boys behind Pure Provisions invented this, the biodiesel to your greasy unleaded: lean, clean protein infused with a beguiling mix of spices like anise and clove. Try with a good Thai beer — frozen, in the “bai wuh” way, if you can find it. Just make sure to pull over first.
Korean BBQ Jerky // True Gentlemen’s Jerky // San Diego, CA
The ultimate low-brow meat snack trades its trucker hat for a stovepipe, and its mysterious, gas-station munchie-rack provenance for real-deal butcher-counter cuts from local SoCal cows. Spiced with sesame, chile, ginger, and a bit of smoke, then sliced into finger-friendly pieces so you don’t feel like a leather-gnawing caveman — but packaged with a spool of floss, just in case you can’t resist. Even gentlemen go wild sometimes.
Biltong // Braaitime // Keansburg, NJ
South Africa’s Dutch settlers sun-dried meat and vinegar to pack on their tramping treks across the blazing plains, and that power-packed protein snack is still a staple there today. Trade a sunny boulder for a family-owned, state-of-the-art drying facility in New Jersey — but keep that time-honored blend of coriander, vinegar, salt, pepper, and all-natural grass-fed beef — and you get this peasant prosciutto, richer and meatier than run-of-the-mill jerky.
Applewood Bacon Jerky // Chef’s Cut // New York, NY
While T-ballers stuff their cheeks with bubblegum and old-timers chew tobacco (both with the tooth decay to prove it), we’d rather something manlier — and meatier. And because the only thing worse than wads of gum and tobacco juice on the dugout bench is a cast-iron skillet splattering grease, here’s bacon ready to eat: hand-cut, uncured, and applewood-smoked until thin and crispy. Snack solo, or top a cheesedog — pop in the broiler for extra crunch.
BBQ Spare Rib Jerky // Lawless Jerky // Santa Monica, CA
If your local watering hole is the frontier type, from its sun-burnt swinging doors to its boot-buffed brass rail, drinks mean whisky, and bar snacks mean a nameless tub of mystery meats. Let’s not get too stylish with our mustaches and plaid, but those munchies could use some cleaning up. Tip your ten-gallon to these, cooked in the classic Sichuan rib sauce of tangy ketchup and salty soy, spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, and balanced with a drizzle of honey. Foodie-fied, but far from hifalutin.
Lamb Ch’Arki // Ranchline All Natural // Roswell, NM
Lots of jerky companies tout their paleo roots, but it’s hard to imagine ancient Incans messing around with nitrates and MSG. But a time-traveling hunter-gatherer wouldn’t miss a beat scarfing a ribbon of Ch’Arki — the real thing, from its 800-year-old Quechua name to the Peruvian-raised lambs it comes from.
Victorious B.I.G Jerky // Righteous Felon // Philadelphia, PA
Snack time is the meal most ruled by the gut, not the conscience, in which we unthinkingly reach for the quickest, and often worst for us comforts. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, they say, and the same’s true for rumbling bellies. That’s why we love jerky: Soulful and satisfying, but morally righteous too: just quality protein. Despite its gangster-tinged aesthetic, this is wholesome stuff: pasture-raised black angus, dry aged for 21 days, then cured with Victory Brewing’s Storm King stout for a satisfying roast-coffee kick.
Pho Beef Jerky // Lawless Jerky // Santa Monica, CA
Some foods aren’t really, technically street food — but we wish they could be. Take pho. You need a big table, and plenty of napkins, for all the spooning, splashing, and slurping that the best bowls require. thats why we swooned for Lawless’s remix: all the flavor of the best broths, in a pocket-size bite, drool-worthy but splash-free. And while some pho comes with a side of mystery meat — is that tripe or tendon? — this jerky is made with real grass-fed beef, no fillers and no flavor-boosting nitrates or MSG. Just a little brown sugar, real pho herbs like anise, cinnamon, and cloves, and of course, a big pinch of jalapeño. No napkin needed.
Machaca // People’s Choice Jerky // Los Angeles, CA
From an unlikely *ranchería* (downtown LA) but a no-surprises pedigree (a four-generation Angeleno butcher dynasty) comes this extra-traditional dried, shredded beef, the secret to many a sauce and scrambled *huevo* north and south of the border. Whole cuts, marinated, slow cooked (and we mean sloooow, *hombre* — five hours at least), get pulverized into a rich, spicy, filling cure-all, perfect for snacking on, jerky-style, or stirring into any dish for a stampede of flavor.
Island Teriyaki Pork Jerky // Fusion Jerky // San Francisco, CA
Fed up — and under-fed — with cardboardy bland or overly sweet energy bars while climbing Kilimanjaro, Fusion’s founder KaiYen Mai decided to make her own, the caveman way. Real meat, and little else. American-raised, Asia-infused, these soy-soaked pork strips are soft, chewy, paleo protein; the perfect boost for a summit push, or post-hike hammock reward.
Mojo Jerky // Savage Jerky Co. // Lawrenceville, Georgia
When it comes to road eats, while a rare few gas stations are diamonds in the oil, so to speak (think great hole in the wall taco stands like Fuel City in Dallas or De Amigos in Pescadero), most, of course, are food deserts. Stomach rumbling, gas tank low, a fluorescent oasis beckons — while the car drinks its fill, you muse over hypnotic slushie machines and mystery tubs of no-name jerky. Their road trip grumbles unsated, the Georgia buddies behind Savage decided to make their own. Their classic, Mojo, is beefy with a slight kick of lime and cilantro. Good enough to gnaw as is, but save a slice for your end-of-the-road drink, to replace your bloody mary’s gringo celery stalk with a touch of gaucho swagger.
Chef’s Cut Turkey Jerky // Chef’s Cut // Naples, FL
Spice up your snacking day-of or day-after with these protein-packed paleo munchies. Made from all white breast meat with no nitrates or corn syrup, and beguilingly spiced with a chef’s secret blend, including tongue-kicking horseradish, tropical sweet tamarind, and plenty of cracked black pepper.
Chipotle Adobo Jerky // Three Jerks Jerky // Venice, CA
Those unlabeled tubs at western fill-’er-ups bristling with spicy snacks are a road-trip staple, but one thing’s for sure: the meat therein’s a mystery. Not so with Three Jerks. Their lean, flavorful, buttery smooth jerky is all top-notch filet mignon. That highfalutin cut comes down to earth, though, with a gritty, Mexi-Filipino mix of smoked peppers and sweetly puckering, vinegary adobo.
Real Steak Jerky // Chipotle Cracked Pepper // Naples, FL
Indigenous people helped tip off early european settlers on jerky, after pioneers recognized the need for a protein fuel that could be readily available during exploration.
Fast forward a couple centuries and two golfing buddies, Dennis Riedel and Blair Swiler finally decided to apply their natural tendency to slice to pieces of choice USDA meat. Unlike almost any other Jerky makers around, the two opt to use premium flank steak, marinating it in Chipotle (smoked jalapenos) and fresh cracked pepper. The result is a tender jerky that breaks away from the pack and makes a solid companion for another wilderness essential….beer.
SlantShack Jerky // Bronx Pale Ale Beef Jerky // New York, NY
Sure, Jerky and “Mantry” can be a cliché, but when we stumbled across (no comma) Dave Koretz and Josh Kace using sustainably raised grass-fed beef from Vermont Highland Cattle Company and craft beer for this artisan meat treat, we took notice . This dried and true rubdown includes a blend of locally sourced Bronx Pale Ale and Tin Mustard. Tear into a bag of this dehydrated goodness, while rehydrating with an ice cold brew and seeking refuge from that convenience store stuff.
Stripling General Store // Pork Jerky // Cordele, GA
For 45 years the Stripling’s team has been raising fresh whole hogs out back and selling hand-crafted sausage out front of their original country general store. Family built over three generations, this roadside stop’s peppery pork jerky is far from general, outmatched only by the store’s slogan “You Never Sausage A Place”.
Buffalo Strips // Gary West Meats // Jacksonville, Oregon
Other than the fact they don’t have to root for the Jaguars, the folks of Jacksonville, Oregon are thankful that they have one of the nation’s best jerky makers. Since 1966, Gary West Meats has been quietly shrinking, smoking and straight west coastin’ premium cuts of meat into hand-crafted strips of heaven. The product still adheres to the local recipes of the original pioneer town, using simple local ingredients and smoking over Pear and Hickory wood. If it’s Christmas morning… hide…this…now.
Phở Jerky // Side Project Jerky // Philadelphia, PA
Yes, Phở Jerky.
Blue Ox Jerky // Troy, Michigan
Widely known for beating on weaker gas station jerky and fleecing it for its lunch money since 2011, Blue Ox is a divine bovine garnish to beef up a Stu’s Bloody Mary to be shared with the boys.
You might enjoy Mantry because we send jerky.