Jerky is a meat snack that has been marinated in spices, sliced into thin strips and dried or smoked. It has its origins in South America where indigenous people dried meat as a way to preserve it. In this blog we are going to explore the history of jerky and how it’s made before going on to discuss its health benefits and why jerky is different to biltong.
Jerky originated in South America and is a dried meat snack. It can be prepared using different types of meat that are first sliced into thin strips and then marinated in a mixture of seasonings. The meat is then dried in either an oven, a smoker or dehydrator. The taste will depend on the seasonings used but the result is a deliciously chewy high protein snack.
There is evidence to suggest the ancient civilisations of the Inca and Aztec Empires dried meat to preserve it for later use. The word jerky is derived from the Quechua word ch’arki which means “dry salted meat”. The Quechuan peoples lived primarily in the Peruvian Andes.
The practice of drying meat was later adopted by Native Americans tribes and early settlers in North America who needed a portable food source that would last for long periods of time without refrigeration. The early explorers and settlers in North America used it as an important source of protein during long journeys and in the 19th century jerky became a staple food for cowboys and pioneers. Over the years jerky gradually became a staple snack throughout the Americas. The rise of healthy snacking and a desire for high protein snacks has seen Jerky and indeed biltong’s popularity grow rapidly in many countries in recent years.
Jerky can be made from a variety of different meats, including beef, turkey and pork but more exotic types can also be used. In recent years plant-based Jerky has been developed for those seeking a vegetarian option. When it comes to meat jerky then the better the quality of meat, the better the jerky. At Raging Bull Snacks for instance, we only use prime cuts of grass feed silverside beef.
Once the meat is selected it is sliced into thin strips and marinated. The marinade really depends on personal tastes and could, for example, include combinations of soy sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, garlick powder, honey, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper. There are many different flavours of jerky available on the market. For instance, a search of the internet displays flavours such as coconut jerky, bacon jerky, soy jerky, whiskey jerky, clam jerky and even cactus jerky. At Raging Bull Snacks we keep it a bit more traditional by selling Peppered Beef Jerky, Sweet Hot Beef Jerky and Original Beef Jerky.
Once marinated, the meat needs to be dried. This can be done in an oven, dehydrator or smoker. It is important to dry the meat at a low temperature until its firm and chewy.
Jerky, as well as being absolutely delicious, is high in protein. Raging Bull Snacks Jerky for instance contains 39g of protein per 100g of meat. It is why Jerky is very popular with sportsman and why Raging Bull Snacks Jerky is in demand from teams that have for instance rowed the Atlantic Ocean, trekked across the Arctic and run ultra marathons. Meat is also a natural source of vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium. If lean cuts of meat are used such as sirloin or round steak then jerky is also generally low in fat which makes it a possible option for those seeking a low-fat diet. And finally, depending on the ingredients used in the marinade, Jerky can also be a low calorie snack.It goes without saying that when it comes to matters of your health you should always consult a medical professional.
**Please note that this blog does not contain any medical advice. When it comes to matters of your health and diet you should always consult a medical professional**
Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells, and to work properly. They are the building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Protein foods are broken down into parts called amino acids during digestion. Some of these amino acids can be made by your body – there are 11 of these known as non-essential amino acids. There are then 9 amino acids that your body can’t make. These are known as essential amino acids. As your body cannot make them they have to be consumed in your diet. Foods that contain these proteins include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, seeds and nuts and legumes.
So what do proteins do?
Jerky’s popularity has been sparked by people discovering not only its great taste but also the fact that it can be a healthy snack alternative. It’s high protein content is particularly appealing to people who lead busy and active lifestyles and want to snack healthy or even follow particular diets. There are those too of course who just love its taste with a cold beer or glass of red wine! Jerky is a very convenient and portable snack and with a large range of flavours and vegan jerky options, there is a flavour or version to suit most tastes. You can now buy jerky on line or in most supermarkets.
Although jerky and biltong share some similarities, they differ in origin, preparation and taste. We know because at Raging Bull Snacks we make both biltong and jerky! So what is biltong?
Biltong originated in South Africa and is a type of dried meat snack. It is prepared using premium cuts of meat that have been marinated, seasoned, and then air-dried. The result is a deliciously tender snack that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. To learn much more about biltong visit “What Is Biltong? 10 Facts About Biltong”.
Biltong has a very long history in South Africa where it was first used as a way to preserve meat during long hunting expeditions. The first recorded use of biltong as a snack can be traced back to the 17th century, when Dutch settlers in South Africa began using the technique to preserve meat during voyages to the East Indies. Indeed the word “biltong” is derived from the Dutch words “bil,” meaning rump, and “tong,” meaning strip or tongue.
The traditional method of making biltong involved hanging cuts of meat in the sun to dry but over time the process was refined. Preparation evolved to include marinades of spices and vinegar which not only added flavour but also helped to preserve or “cure” the meat, vital in the days before refrigeration. Biltong techniques and recipes were passed down from generation to generation and it became a staple snack in South Africa. In recent years there has seen a huge surge in popularity in many other countries particularly in Europe and more recently in America.
Biltong is typically made from meat of a high quality. For instance, at Raging Bull Snacks, we use prime cuts of grass fed silverside beef. The meat is cut into strips and marinated in vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Recipes and combinations can vary greatly and it’s not unusual in South Africa for family recipes to be passed down through the generations. Once marinated the meat is hung to dry for several days, preferably in a dry humid environment. This will be naturally achieved in some countries (think Southern Africa for example) otherwise fans and heating can replicate the drying process. It is a versatile snack that allows for many different flavours depending on taste. At Raging Bull Snacks for example, along with our more traditional tasting Original Beef Biltong we also make Chilli Beef Biltong and Teriyaki Beef Biltong.
As discussed above, although jerky and biltong share some similarities, they differ in origin, preparation and taste.
Biltong originated in South Africa. Jerky has its roots in North America.
Biltong has traditionally been made from beef and game meat. Jerky on the other hand can be made from a variety of different meats including beef, pork, turkey etc.
Biltong is made by first marinating the meat in a mixture of vinegar and spices to cure it. It is then hung whole, air-dryed for several days to de-hydrate and then sliced. Jerky is sliced, marinated with spices and flavourings and then cooked at low temperatures to dehydrate and cook the meat. The absence of heat in the preparation of biltong is one of the key distinguishing features between the two snacks.
Texture and taste:
Biltong tends to have a softer and saltier taste due to the way it is marinated while jerky can be drier, smokier and more chewy. Jerky’s preparation also allows for much more varied flavours to be created.
While jerky can obviously be enjoyed on its own (and it mostly is) it is a great addition to charcuterie and cheese boards and pairs very nicely with red wine and beer. Many people also use it as an ingredient in other dishes such as stews or on salads or even in sandwiches. It adds flavour and protein. We will be releasing regular recipes for you to enjoy but here are a couple to get you going.
1 pound of cooked pasta (such as fusilli or penne)
1/2 cup of jerky (flavour of your choosing), chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of chopped cucumbers
1/4 cup of chopped red onions
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, jerky, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and parsley. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine.
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 cup of original jerky, chopped into small pieces
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of beef broth
1 tablespoon of chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Add the chopped jerky, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, beef broth, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If you don’t’ want to buy our amazing jerky there are many recipes on line for making it at home. Here’s one simple recipe;
1 pound of lean meat (beef, turkey, or deer)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Trim the meat of any fat and cut it into thin strips, about 1/8 inch thick.
Mix together the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder in a large bowl.
Add the meat strips to the bowl and toss them in the marinade until they are fully coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
Preheat your oven to 175°F (80°C) or the lowest temperature possible.
Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and place a wire rack on top.
Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels.
Place the meat strips on the wire rack, making sure they do not overlap.
Bake the meat in the oven for 4-6 hours, or until it is fully dried and slightly chewy. Check the meat periodically and rotate the baking sheet if necessary to ensure even drying.
Once the jerky is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container.
References and further reading;
In addition these journals can be consulted:
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