Snack Review: Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky (Original Flavor)
Call me old school, but I abhor the use of “Gourmet” and “Jerky” in the same sentence. Not that I’m trying to question the marketing practices of the owner of Jeff’s Gourmet Beef Jerky, but eating something “gourmet” makes me sound more like a skinny, well trimmed Frenchman who uses words like “preposterous” while wearing a monocle and drinking something with “au” or “con” in the prefix.
And lets get one thing straight: I am far from such a personality. No, I may not be a 6-foot-3 wrangler with my own horse and and six shooter, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a serious jerky made for a seriously badarse cowboy wannabe. Despite my objections to the “gourmet,” in the products name, however, I can’t take issue with much when it comes to Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky, which lives up to its billing and more by kicking the crap out of most stuff you find in stores and (I am ashamed to admit this) Maverick stations.
Jeff’s Gourmet Jerky is the brainchild of Jeff Richards, a former restaurant owner who has been perfecting his recipe since the 1970s. And when I say “perfecting,” I’m not exaggerating. The flavor of this jerky is like anything I’ve ever tasted. The jerky comes in four flavors, including Old Fashioned Original, Sweet Teriyaki, Black Pepper and Sea Salt, and Jalapeno Carne Asada.
To understand good beef jerky you have to have quite a bit of average jerky, and you’ve got to be able to enjoy the “regular” flavors offered by jerky makers. Fortunately I have quite a bit of average, store-brand “original” jerky around my apartment. I ate Jeff’s Jerky side by side with a bag of Lowry’s Cattleman’s Cut brand, and the difference in taste, texture, and intensity of flavor could not have been more night and day. The Lowry cut was stiff and chopped up, displaying a good deal of gristle. It’s flavor had none of the smoke flavor the bag promised (natural or artificial) while it carried very little depth of sweetness. The predominant flavor was salty, and not in a balanced way. I could live with it, but it wasn’t anything special.
Jeff’s Jerky was. I may hate the term “gourmet,” but you could tell this stuff was hand crafted. The first thing that struck me was its intense aroma. Beef jerky usually doesn’t carry with it such a strong aroma, but I swear this stuff smelled like it had just come from a basting in a smoker. In smelled heavily of American style barbecue and Worcestershire sauce, but there was something “Asian” about the smell as well – what I can only assume came from the soy sauce and sweet chili sauce used in the marinade. They say (who ‘they’ are, well, don’t ask me) that one of the first components of taste is smell, and Jeff’s got me right away. Texturally the jerky was fairly flexible, more so than most store brands. It had less gristle than most brands, but there were some strands of dried fat that came off as a bit stringy. Moisture level was solid.
The flavor was, in a word, ridiculously freaking good. OK, I lied, that’s three words – but you get the point. Most of the time a store brand jerky will hit you with an overpowering brown sugar sweetness and/or excessive saltiness, but the flavor notes in Jeff’s Jerky were more complex than any “regular” flavor jerky I’ve ever had. For one thing it tastes more sweet than salty. There’s also a moderate and pleasant undercurrent of smoke flavor, and even a little black pepper and spiciness to balance out the sweetness and saltiness. The interesting thing about the sweetness is its complexity. It’s not a pure Worcestershire or teriyaki style sweetness – it’s almost fruity in a sense(think pineapple juice) without losing any of the umami presence of the other flavoring components. Words, I think, fail me when trying to do it justice, but its terribly addictive and damn good.
All that being said, this jerky isn’t for everyone. I really had a hard time getting past the post-chew texture. It didn’t seem to dissolve in my mouth like most jerky I’ve had, and had a weird chewiness that I am ashamed to admit was comparable to paper (please don’t ask me how I know this). Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Jeff sent me this jerky for review. Now, if given the chance to purchase it on my own I definitely would, but if you’re not a jerky nutcase like myself, the price may make you think twice. Lets face it, there are a lot of people who snack on jerky solely because their “Men’s Health” magazine subscription tells them too, and if you’re that kinda guy, than it might be tough to bust out the $20.95+ s/h for three 3 oz. bags. If, however, you want to rock your jerky wold and splurge on something special, than I can’t recommend this stuff enough.
Pros: Exceptional flavor has notes of sweet, salty, umami, fruity, and just about every other food adjective known to man, woman and child. Nice moist texture. All American. No nitrates. OMG WHAT AN AWESOME SMELL.
Cons: Eating something "gourmet." Expensive. Seemed a little fattier than most cuts. Not found in stores. Has an "off" chew. Possibly admitting that I chew paper on a regular basis.
Price: Free sample (See pricing options at Jeff's website
Overall GrubGrade: 9.25/10
More Info: Jeff'sGourmetJerky.com
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