The Beef Chief checking in here. I've had a lot of people message me with a lot of questions regarding beef jerky. So I wanted to take the time to personally write this piece and address a lot of those questions. What it really is, where it came from, and some cool information on the process from start to finish. If you enjoyed reading the last post stick around to the end of this one too. I reckon you'll learn a fair bit. I did making it.
What is beef jerky?
Beef jerky is a nutritious meat snack food that's enjoyed all over the world because of its great taste, massive protein content, long shelf life and being a low processed natural food. It originated a long time ago from drying meat with fire and smoke to preserve for future eating.
The combination of heat and smoke from the fire added a distinct flavour that people still enjoy to this day.
It is typically brown and can be tough to chew. The taste can be strong as the drying process concentrates spices inside the beef.
There are many flavours and styles on the market.
Dry beef jerky has a very high protein content - close to 60% of the total weight.
What is beef jerky made from?
The best beef jerky is made with lean beef (trimmed of all the fat) cut into thin strips, marinaded or spiced with any number of flavourings.
You can use many different cuts of beef but the best for making jerky is something lean and free from connective tissue. Two good examples are Topside and Outside flats. These 2 cuts generally don't have much fat running through them and are cost effective. When traditionally prepared, the best beef jerky is a low processed food.
Where does it come from?
The WORD jerky comes from a Spanish-American word for burned meat "Ch'arki", a name derived from the Quechuan language of the Incas (which literally translates into "dried meat").
However, drying meat and fruit is one of the oldest methods of preservation known to humankind. No one knows the true origins of dried meat (jerky/biltong) but we have evidence that it was being produced en masse thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt and we can assume it was around long before then.
Traditionally salt and smoke was used to preserve meat - This left it very salty, but contained protein and nutrients that were now able to be preserved for later consumption, helping people survive in times of need. Over many years, various cultures have added spices to the mix to make it taste even better and that's exactly what beef jerky is today.
Traditionally hung in the sun or smoked over the fire, these days dehydrators do the job with a higher degree of control and hygiene than older methods.
It could be thought of as one of the most human and natural food experiences. Something we can truly share with our ancestors.
Is beef jerky raw?
Beef jerky isn't cooked like most beef, but it's not raw. Jerky is dehydrated. This is done via a combination of heat and air flow. This is a controlled process to extract water from the meat. Removing the water can take several hours and depends on a few factors. Thickness of the meat, marinade consistency (wet or dry marinades make a difference in drying time) and the desired end product. Beef jerky ranges from soft and moist, to hard and dry.
Is it safe to eat?
Bacteria and pathogens survive in water. Too salty and they die. Too little water and they dry up and die. Beef jerky is safe because it is dried past the point for pathogenic bacteria (the nasty ones) to survive on the meat. On top of that, beef jerky is heated as it dries and this helps to kill all bacteria that might be present on raw meat.
So yes, you can be sure that beef jerky is safe to eat.
How is beef jerky made?
Dehydration works by laying strips of jerky on a rack to allow the hot air to dry out all surfaces of the meat evenly. When it's on the drying racks, you wont hear it sizzle. In fact, jerky is dried at around 70 degrees. Each brand has their own style regarding temperature and duration and this is reflected in the end product.
It stays on these racks until the desired consistency is reached. Beef jerky must be dried to at least 50% of its original weight to be safe enough to eat. Typically, harder jerky will be dried to 35-40% of its original weight. This means that it can take up to 3kg of raw beef to produce 1kg beef jerky.
Drying can take up to 18 hours and depends on factors like meat thickness, marinade consistency, drying temperature and even the weather conditions!
At Beef Chief our jerky is dried so there's no moisture. It tears apart nicely and you can feel all the muscle fibres rip apart between your teeth. If you've opened a bag at the pub and it's soft, almost like a candied beef or wet leather, what you are getting is a higher moisture content beef jerky.
At Beef Chief, we dry our thick cut jerky till it's hard enough that you can tear pieces apart and see the individual muscle fibres spider-webbing. Our jerky takes more time to chew, it's more effort to work your teeth into, but your effort is rewarded with a long lasting flavour. While chewing and working work saliva into the meat you're extracting the marinade and all those juicy flavours from the beef.
This is something that sets Beef Chief jerky apart. Our flavour gets better the more you chew, and lasts longer than other jerky brands! You might get a sore jaw, but you WONT run out of flavour.
SOFT vs HARD jerky
If you've tried a few different brands of jerky you would have noticed they all vary in texture.
Some brands are softer and easy to chew. This style of jerky has a higher water content and can be eaten much faster. Sometimes you might notice the jerky is almost see through. This means it has been made with a meat paste and not meat strips. This meat paste is usually ground beef mixed with spices and preservatives. This paste is loaded into a jerky gun (a tube with a thin rectangular opening) and pressed into strips on the drying racks.
Hard jerky is more traditional and chews longer. This is generally what people think of when talking about beef jerky. Made with strips of meat that have been flavoured, this style sits on the racks longer and loses more water content. This is the type of beef jerky to buy if you want something that you can chew on for a while.
Hard beef jerky often uses less preservatives than soft jerky because the extra water removal stops bacteria from taking up residence.
What are the benefits of beef jerky?
Beef jerky is a unique food. Drying and heat are two natural preservatives of meat, so you can take beef jerky anywhere with you and have a high nutrition, protein packed, red meat snack. Compared to a protein bar or trail mix beef jerky has a much higher protein to carbohydrates/fat ratio.
For example; 100g Hot Cajun beef jerky consists of:
320 calories, 14g fat, 0g carbs, 58g PROTEIN
The best bits about beef jerky can be summed up by:
- High protein - 58g per 100g. That's 58%
- Long shelf life - Lasts over 12 months!
- Great taste - Especially Beef Chief jerky 🤤
- Can be taken anywhere - Nutritious snack when you're outdoors, in traffic or at home.
- Helps control hunger - Protein plays a huge role in hunger control.
Why does it cost so much?
A question I get asked a lot by new customers is: "Why is jerky so expensive?"
There's not just one factor in the cost of beef jerky.
- Quality of the beef: A great quality jerky starts with a premium quality beef. If it's cheap jerky, it's likely a low grade meat (or sometimes a meat paste). If you're buying a cheap jerky vs premium Aussie craft beef jerky the quality of the beef is instantly recognisable.
It takes 3kg of raw beef to make 1kg of beef jerky. You lose 2/3 of what you start with due to water loss during dehydration. So you need a lot of 🐃 to begin with.
- Drying the meat: Depending on the consistency of the marinade used to flavour the beef, the jerky can take anywhere between 10-18h to fully dry to the correct texture.
It's like running a big heater all day every day.
You could leave it in for not as long, but then you end up with wet jerky 🤢
- Quality of the marinade: Are you buying jerky made with generic sauces and powders made as cheaply as possible? Or are you getting handmade and creative recipes that are good enough to match the quality of the beef?
All of my flavours are hand made from scratch. My take on some classics, and some unique flavours you cant find anywhere else.
- You get what you pay for 😁
Hopefully that makes some sense of beef jerky Australia prices and can help you when choosing between what brands of jerky you want to eat.
Around Australia you'll find beef jerky associated a handful of activities:
- While having a drink - Have a squiz next time you're at the local and chances are you'll notice bags of beef jerky behind the counter. It's no coincidence. Beef and beer are a combo always destined for each other.
Traditionally preserved with salt, after a good chew you'd be reaching for a cold one. These days not all beef jerky is salty as preservation methods have become better understood and as tastes have developed over the years. If you like it really salty then try Gunpowder, but most of our flavours have low salt taste, like my smooth Smokey BBQ.
- Getting Outdoors: Hiking. Mountain biking. Rock climbing. Hunting. Camping. Boating. Fishing.
One big reason beef jerky is a massive hit with the fitness crowd is because its high protein per weight content. It's easy to take everywhere and it takes up less space and contains more protein then other perishable foods. You can eat some and reseal the bag and the jerky WONT spoil. You can leave it open and it wont go stale. It's perfect to keep with you and eat anywhere.
Anyone engaging in activities where protein, weight and space is a consideration will instantly see the benefits of a high quality beef jerky.
- Weight lifting - Beef jerky is great for all sorts of athletes. High volume training, resistance training, bodybuilders, powerlifters, everyday gym buff. Why? When training hard and heavy, protein requirements become of paramount importance and daily requirements can be massive for some people.
It can be difficult to eat enough protein without feeling bloated and stuffed. Cooked chicken breast. Containers full of ground beef. Piles of tuna cans stacking up on the bench. Beef jerky is exactly the same as the beef you could be eating every day. But the beauty is that, through dehydration, jerky basically shrinks the size of your steak. A 300g steak is shrunk down to a 100g bag of Beef Chief jerky, and you can eat that throughout the entire day. At work, pre workout, post workout, late night snack (no more junk food cravings!) you can be hitting those macro goals easily with a low processed natural food.
Compare it to other high protein foods like fish, chicken or raw beef per 100g.
Protein per 100g
• Beef Jerky 58g
• Chicken Breast 21g
• Raw Beef 20g
• Tuna (Springwater) 19.5g
And you don’t need to microwave it – No stinking out the room.
- Perfect snack on the go - Feeling fatigued and shaky after another flat out day? Eat some jerky and get good protein calories into your head. Keep some in your glovebox and next time you're starving on the way home from work in traffic, you'll thank me. Or you're hungry but haven’t got time to stop cause you've got a whole afternoon of errands to run.
Beef Chief jerky has resealable bags so you can have some now and some later. Hook into a bag of Beef Chief and you'll feel better than snacking on junk.
Beef Jerky Ingredients.
Ingredient quality is paramount when making a premium beef jerky. The finished product is only as good as what goes into it. Cheap jerky will be made from cheap cuts of meat, sometimes a meat paste (you can tell because the meat is almost see through) and cheap filler ingredients.
Some brands buy cheap powders in bulk to make marinades for their jerky. A small handful of passionate jerky craftsman spend hours finding the best produce to cook down and create unique flavours. Australia has a some great beef jerky but like all things in this world, you get what you pay for.
At Beef Chief we focus on the best produce we can find and work to create the most intense, strong and tasty sauces. We pair our creations with premium Australian beef, known worldwide for its quality. We are passionate about great Aussie produce and know that we have some of the best jerky you can find.
If you want some of the best beef jerky Australia, you've found it
Now you should have a pretty good understanding on what beef jerky is. Keep an eye out for my next post - How to make beef jerky, that'll be coming soon. If you want to try just how good beef jerky can be, why Beef Chief is rated 5 star, hit this link below.