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National Jerky Day is upon us, and to celebrate, many of us will be heading to our local convenience to pick up a pack of Jack Links, Oberto, or other generic jerky brand. Why stick with the standards when you can celebrate with some top-of-the-line jerky makers? Premium jerky is a huge trend as a post-workout or on-the-go snack, and companies are getting increasingly creative with the meat they’re dropping on us.
Four of these high-quality jerky brands (Krave, Epic, Three Jerks, and Chef’s Cut) have already started to take deep roots in stores. They’ve got out-of-bounds flavor and are way more succulent and scrumptious than your typical gas station jerky. Here’s my guide to picking out the cream of the crop from these jerky masters to level up your experience for such a worthy day.
Recommended: Sesame Garlic Beef Stick
Krave has already been making a splash with some flavorsome, Asian-inspired jerky products, but they’re taking it up to the next level with some new meat sticks. Each one is blended in with a starchy vegetable, like sweet potato or white beans, for some added texture to keep the sticks succulent. While some are drier than others, you’ll be getting some dope flavor in each bite that few other jerky brands can replicate. To me, the new Sesame Garlic Beef Stick is the one to go for if you’re trying Krave’s sticks out for the first time. It’s got deep teriyaki-style flavor and has a snap that’s more effortless than a real sausage. The other flavors are worthy as well, of course.
Recommended: Venison Bar and Wagyu Stick
Epic is not shy about going to infinity and beyond when it comes to innovative meat sources for jerky. These guys have bison, salmon, turkey, and even venison jerky bars, pieces, and sticks for y’all to sink your teeth into. Epic’s meat offerings are easier to bite into than an In-N-Out burger patty, which is insane for jerky to begin with. Their flavors do honestly need a little work, though, since some, like the salmon and bison jerky, are still a little too gamey and smoky for a first-timer to savor. The wagyu jerky is also a little bit of a letdown since it doesn’t have the fattiness or rich, beefy flavor you’d expect from something called “wagyu beef,” but it’s still incredibly delicious. Epic has hit the mark with their venison jerky, though, which is simply seasoned to let the natural flavors of the deer speak for themselves. It’s probably the closest to traditional jerky from the 1800s that you can find in any market, so grab a piece if you want to bite into a part of history.
Recommended: Teriyaki and Maple Bourbon Churro Jerky
Whereas some premium jerky brands go for exotic meats, Three Jerks goes straight for the best cut of all: filet mignon. Each pack of jerky is made with this melt-in-your-mouth cut of beef, giving it some extra lusciousness that you don’t expect in standard beef jerky. Some of the flavors need a little reformulating, like the Hamburger and Memphis BBQ jerky products that honestly just taste like cardboard. The Teriyaki jerky, however, was one of the best pieces of meat I have ever put in my mouth because of how buttery and rich it was. For a piece of jerky, that’s pretty damn impressive.
Recommended: Honey BBQ Chicken and Buffalo Chicken Jerky and Meat Sticks, Bacon Jerky
I’m not gonna mince words here: if you want the cream of the crop when it comes to jerky brands, it’s definitely Chef’s Cut. Not only do they have a wide variety of jerky types, but most of them are on point when it comes to the flavors they want to evoke. The Honey BBQ chicken sticks and jerky pieces that Chef’s Cut offers would have Shaq yelling out “BBQ Chicken Alert!” because of how close they taste to the real deal. The Buffalo chicken is just as good, and has the same texture as a buffalo wing fresh out of the deep fryer. How Chef’s Cut pulls that off with dried chicken, I honestly don’t know.
What blew my mind even more than that is a product you NEED to go and buy right now: Bacon Jerky. These dried pieces of smoky and crispy pork belly are literally just strips of bacon under the guise of jerky. The applewood flavor tasted more like apple pie to me, but the Sriracha and maple bacon jerky flavors were both absolute fire. This is a game-changing jerky product, folks, and you’re gonna want to hop on the bacon jerky train and experience it for yourself.
While Chef’s Cut may be my personal favorite premium jerky, I’d definitely check all four of these brands out, since they’re all good representatives of what a high-quality dried meat product should be like. Try one out for National Jerky Day, and you won’t be able to go back to gas station meat sticks again.