Jerky used to be the kind of tough, bland snack chewed only by survivalists, truckers and your neighbor who hangs dead deer upside-down in his garage. Now artisanal jerky makers are popping up all over the country, boasting their dehydrated meat’s health benefits, unique flavors and jaw-pleasing tenderness. Here are 8 great jerkies we’ll be packing on our next camping trip.
SlantShack Jerky: Bronx Brewery Pale Ale
Bronx Brewery Pale Ale and whole grain mustard give this jerky a hoppy and tangy kick. SlantShack’s dried meat is made with 100 percent grass-fed beef in Northern Vermont and pairs great with pretzels and beer.
Three Jerks Jerky: Original
Three words: filet mignon jerky. Three Jerks makes a few yummy varieties of prime-cut beef jerky, but we prefer the Original. The thick-cut meat is so melt-in-your-mouth tender that there’s no need to fuss it up with additional spices.
EPIC: Hunter & Gatherer
Paleo-friendly Epic is tackling the trail mix industry with its Hunter & Gatherer snack packs. Each pack contains a handful of peppery beef jerky alongside dried berries, nuts, toasted coconut or a combination of all three. We loved the texture contrast between the flaky coconut and the tough jerky.
Jerk N’ Pickle: Jalapeno
Jerk N’ Pickle may be our new favorite jerky. Made in small batches in Belmont, Calif., the natural Angus beef jerky is marinated in celery juice, soy sauce, carrot juice, hand-brewed Worcestershire-style sauce and spices. We literally could not stop sniffing the Jalapeño jerky bag, which was like sticking our noses into a big bowl of roasted peppers. We also loved the Hot Teriyaki flavor, which left us with a cool, after-swallow burn.
Sweet Meat: Classic
Nashville, Tennessee’s Sweet Meat makes two kinds of organic jerky: Classic and Mango Chipotle. We’re partial to the Classic flavor, which has a subtle infusion of teriyaki and soy sauces. It’s super moist and not overly salty—a classic of the cured meat genre.
Yes, you read that correctly: Pho jerky. Lawless takes this jerky’s essence from Vietnamese noodle soup. The mild meat is flavored with cilantro, mint, star anise, cinnamon, jalapeño and more. Lawless makes additional Southeast Asia-inspired flavors like Japanese Curry and Sweet Sriracha. Plus it’s the only jerky company endorsed by the Humane Society.
Field Trip: Honey Spice No. 11
Field Trip’s Honey Spice combines a lot of familiar flavors to make one addictive snack. The soft, all-natural jerky gets its sweet from brown sugar, pineapple juice and apple juice and its heat from Frank’s RedHot and cayenne pepper.
Krave: Basil Citrus (Turkey) and Garlic Chili Pepper (Beef)
Krave makes eight varieties of beef, turkey and pork jerkies, all with intense and memorable flavors. Our favorites were the oddly refreshing Basil-Citrus Turkey, which was speckled with chunks of the leafy green, and the Garlic-Chili Pepper Beef, which was embedded with crushed red pepper flakes. But there’s a reason you don’t see pork jerky that often: It has a gummy texture and tastes like… dehydrated raw pork. We’ll leave that one to the truckers.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep