Jerky v. Jerky: Eliminating the Bland in the Big Meat-Off
When we wrote up Krave's artisan jerky, a reader suggested that Oaktown Jerk made a jerky worth looking into. Then we discovered the new artisan jerky Jerk'N Pickle at the SF Chocolate Salon, and realized that it was time for a jerky-off.
Cool label to be sure, but the meat was less inspired than we'd hoped. Oaktown uses grass-fed beef, which is harder to work with and often delivers tougher texture and gamier flavors, which proved to be the case here.
Hickory Smoke -- Mild: Bland to mild in flavor, and a chewy piece of meat.
Hickory Smoke -- Spicy: Bland. Liver-y (or gamey if you prefer) with a modest building of spices.
Also bland. Also liver-y.
Pineapple Basil: This flavor was a bit more interesting, with a bit more spice, but still just so so.
Thai Basil: At last, some spice! The heat starts with the first chew and builds from there, leaving a little fire behind. This was the best of the batch.
Chilli Lime Cilantro: An unexpected bit of BBQ flavor, like a bowl of chili in jerky form. Solid for both heat and flavor. Our second favorite.
Star Anise Habanero: There's a bit of sweetness, almost like a pomegranate reduction, and the requisite heat from the habanero. So-so to good.
Jerk'N Pickle, based in San Mateo, makes the two components its name suggests. For this tasting we focused on the Jerk. Their use of Angus beef, noted neither as organic or as grass-fed, likely gave them the edge for flavor, though it won't score them any points with the anti-KAFO crowd. The jerkys all started off super-stiff, like you might imagine hard tack must have been, but softened up with a few chews.
Original: Rich flavor of beef and barbecue, and good flavor throughout. Notes of Worcestershire and soy sauce are noticeable, and provide a flavor-component akin to galbi.
Black Pepper: The pepper presents first and sticks around, bright with spice and earth. Only at the finish does the flavor of the meat gain the upper hoof. You'll love it, if you love black pepper.
Jalapeño: Again, the flavoring comes through strong and dominant. You recognize the jalapeño immediately.
Habanero: Here the spice of the pepper is a bit more integrated but still clearly voiced. The heat here is less intense than in the Jalapeño flavor.
Hot Pepper: Not as hot as Jalapeño. Nice, well integrated spice.
While the Jerk'N Pickle's texture is a bit off-putting to start, their flavors stand out significantly. In our book, flavor wins, and so Jerk'N Pickle is our pick.