It’s no secret that Beef Jerky is a beloved snack for many around the world. These finger-licking lean slices of cured meat are an excellent treat after an intense workout session, during road trips, or convenient on-the-go snacking. But if you’ve ever wondered, “What exactly is beef jerky,” “how is it made?”, or if even it is good for you, your Google searching skills have led you to the right place.
This article covers beef jerky in detail and much more.
So, let us dig in right away.
What is Beef Jerky?
Jerky gets its name from the Quechua word "ch'arki," which literally means dried, salted meat. It comes from trimmed slices of beef typically made from cured meat which is then dried out for hours over low heat to get rid of bacteria and moisture and prolong its shelf life. While manufacturers use various marinades and seasonings to accentuate flavors, salt remains the primary second ingredient, serving as a natural preservative.
Because of this, jerky can survive longer periods without spoiling, making it a highly convenient and portable snack food for travelers. This nutrient-rich meat is not just loaded with flavor but is also low in fat and high in lean protein so that you can indulge without the bulge.
History of the Snack
While many believe that it was the Native Americans who discovered the “jerky” hundreds of years back, others claim that it was introduced by the Inca tribe, Quechua sometime during the 1500s. Though the pioneers of the recipe are still a matter of debate, this tried-and-true recipe has been handed down through the generations.
It is said that the Native Americans were consuming a dehydrated beef product when the Europeans first arrived in the New World. They realized that this product could be conveniently stored and had long-term shelf stability. However, at that time, the Native Americans referred to jerky beef as "pemmican," which they used as an additive for animal fat or crushed dehydrated fruit. They taught the Europeans how to cut the meat into thin strips and the entire jerky-making process including variations of different recipes. With this newfound recipe, beef jerky quickly became a snack of choice as the settlers started consuming dried meat more than ever before.
The popularity of jerky skyrocketed during North America’s expansion. Because of its portability and long shelf life, traders prized it as a nutrient-rich snack that they could take with them in areas with little access to food supplies.
As the industrial age approached, businesses realized the potential in beef jerky products at a mass scale. Today, people all over the world enjoy eating beef jerky as a snack.
How Is It Made?
While everyone loves beef jerky, few might know how it’s made. Here are four essential steps.
Jerky is typically made from thin beef slices with uniform thickness. The first step calls for trimming off any excess fat because the oils tend to remain even after the meat has dried out and could cause it to spoil too soon. Therefore, it’s best to always select lean meat that is free of marbling.
In this step, artisans use their tried-and-tested recipes to infuse their signature flavors into the meat. Whether it is a marinade, dry rub, or brine, the prominent ingredient remains salt that will act as a flavor enhancer and a natural preservative to lengthen its storage life.
After the meat is primed for drying, jerky makers arrange the strips on racks with equal spacing between them so that they cook and dry at the same rate. While the drying techniques can vary, the key to perfect beef jerky is ensuring it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, after which it can continue dehydrating at a lower temperature.
After cooling off, the dried jerky can proceed for packing. To help ensure longevity and preserve freshness, manufacturers frequently use sealed plastic bags and sometimes vacuum-sealed bags.
When Is It Eaten?
Although jerky is a versatile food that you can eat at any time of the day, most people prefer to eat this protein snack at these times.
For campers and other outdoor enthusiasts, if there's an ultimate snack on the move, it has to be jerky. Whether you need to re-energize or grab a bite before hitting the trails, beef jerky is the ideal travel companion you need.
- Breakfast on the go
There will always be times when you're running late and have to miss breakfast. With beef jerky, you no longer need to arrive hungry at your first meeting of the day. Keep it in your car and enjoy it as you travel to work.
- As a post-workout snack
Exercise burns energy, so you're hungry after the workout. Jerky is a protein-rich snack that you can eat to stave off hunger and replenish your energy so you can keep moving.
Benefits of Beef Jerky
Although many believe that jerky is junk food, the truth is quite the opposite. It is a delicious and healthy snack, making it ideal for travelers, dieters, and everyone else.
Here are some benefits of beef jerky.
Whether you're trying to shed pounds or bulk up, Beef jerky will help you fulfill your daily protein requirement. Since it is high in protein, it contains the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscles.
Longer Shelf Life
Beef jerky is not only delicious but also convenient to carry for camping, hiking, or anywhere else with limited access to food. One reason it is highly popular among outdoorsy folks.
Meat lovers can indulge without dread because there isn't much fat in beef jerky. This is because the product is essentially dehydrated lean meat.
The Bottom Line
Now, if someone asks you, "What is beef jerky?" or "what are the benefits of beef jerky?" You have all the necessary knowledge to sound like an expert on the subject! However, if you’re still unsure, you can always share this article with them.
As the article explains in detail, Beef Jerky isn’t only a healthy snack, but it also tastes great and can be consumed anywhere and anytime of the day.