The Best Beef Jerky of 2023

Country Archer Original Beef Jerky is the perfect savory and portable snack

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The Spruce Eats / Michela Buttignol

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

Country Archer Original Beef Jerky is a crowd favorite for a reason—it's chewy, fresh, and flavorful. While classic tastes are still around, the Righteous Felon Beef Jerky Variety Pack brings together a multitude of unique ingredients to create delicious options for everyone to try and enjoy.

Beef jerky options have come a long way from the salty meat sticks and leathery steak strips found in convenience stores around the country. You can now find beef jerky in all sorts of sizes and flavors, with many new and innovative ingredients, with each still containing lots of protein in each serving since beef is lean meat. There are some that work great for when you're on the go hiking or at work or school, and others that are meant to be savored. there are even options for plant-based eaters out there that taste like the real thing.

Here are the best beef jerky picks of all different shapes, textures, and flavors.

Best Overall

Country Archer Original Beef Jerky

Country Archer Jerky Co. Beef Jerky

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Grass-fed beef

  • Great texture

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for those avoiding soy

The best beef jerky should be soft, but chewy and pack plenty of flavor. Country Archer’s Original Beef Jerky fits the bill. Reviewers praise the fresh taste, which can be credited with the brand's mission to use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.

Country Archer jerky is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and is free from nitrates, nitrites, and MSG. It's available in seven flavors, and the brand also offers two turkey jerky flavors along with meat sticks. The original flavor brings together the sweet tang of pineapple juice with a bit of spice from black pepper and umami from Worcestershire sauce and tamari.

Price at time of publish: $17

Size: 16 ounces | Flavors: Original, teriyaki, mango habanero, fuego, hatch chile, jalapeño | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 9 grams per 1-ounce serving

Best Gourmet

Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef

Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple ingredient list

  • Large serving

What We Don't Like
  • Softer texture than most beef jerky

Biltong is a South African-style of cured meat that’s been marinated in vinegar and slowly dried with air instead of heat. Brooklyn Biltong boasts a minimal ingredient list, making it suitable for anyone following Whole30, paleo, or keto styles of eating. It’s also one of the highest in protein on this list, providing 15 grams of protein per serving of jerky.

There are zero sugars added to this meat, and it contains zero nitrates or nitrites. This jerky is simply cured with salt, vinegar, air, and time. That’s it.

We love this brand for the simplicity of its ingredient list and because it uses 100 percent grass-fed beef. Buyers rave about the moist, tender texture. Plus, for anyone who can’t get enough jerky, it offers 16-ounce bags, whereas other brands typically package only a couple of ounces in a single bag.

Price at time of publish: $22

Size: 3 2-ounce bags | Flavors: Original, naked, peri peri chili, garlic, lemon pepper | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 36 grams per 2-ounce serving

What Our Experts Say

"Jerky makes for an awesome topping and delicious garnish when you use it to jazz up things like a simple avocado toast or popcorn."Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s "Grill Dads" and the Chef’s Cut "Jerky 101" Series

Best Meat Sticks

Chomps Original Beef Stick

Chomps Original Beef Jerky

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Can use on charcuterie board

  • Easy to grab and go

  • Not too salty

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than others

Although not technically the same as strips of jerky, you’ll notice plenty of jerky brands also offer meat sticks. Since they’re individually wrapped, meat sticks make an excellent portable snack option and can be used in place of salami or other meats on charcuterie boards

Chomps takes the cake for best meat stick, which isn’t surprising since its product line is limited to meat sticks only. Its beef sticks are made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and available in five flavors: original, sea salt, Italian, cranberry habanero, and jalapeño. It also offers turkey and venison stick options. We find the original variety is packed with flavor without being too salty and strikes a perfect texture balance between tender and chewy. Chomps is non-GMO Project Verified, Whole30 Approved, and keto- and paleo-friendly, since they contain 0 grams of carbohydrates or sugar.

Price at time of publish: $49

Size: 24 1.15-ounce sticks | Flavors: Original, sea salt, Italian, cranberry habanero, and jalapeño | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 9 grams per 1.15-ounce serving

What Our Experts Say

"Quality jerky uses quality premium cuts of meat. Whether it’s beef, pork, or poultry, the important thing is to use hand-selected, hand-trimmed meat and look for recognizable, premium ingredients on the label. Another marker of premium quality jerky is the absence of any nitrates or nitrites."Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s "Grill Dads" and the Chef’s Cut "Jerky 101" Series

Best Sample Pack

Righteous Felon Beef Jerky Variety Pack

Righteous Felon Beef Jerky Variety Pack

Amazon

What We Like
  • Uses antibiotic- and growth hormone-free beef

  • Unique flavors

  • Low in sugar

What We Don't Like
  • Small bags

Good to gift or keep yourself and try, this sampler pack has eight different flavors of beef jerky. Righteous Felon is highly-regarded for its selection and there's no better way for you or friends and family to find a favorite. Options include extraordinary flavors like Bourbon Franklin, Truffle-O Soldier, Voodoo Chile, and more. Each bag contains two 1-ounce servings, enough for sharing or devouring on your own. All the flavors are gluten-free except one (Victorious B.I.G) and made with pasture-fed and antibiotic- and growth hormone-free beef from the Roseda Black Angus Farm in Northern Maryland.

Price at time of publish: $46

Size: 8 2-ounce bags | Flavors: Baby Blues BBQ, Bourbon Franklin, Habanero Escobar, Maryland Monroe, O.G. Hickory, Truffle-O Soldier, Victorious B.I.G, Voodoo Chile | Gluten-free: Yes (except for Victorious B.I.G.) | Protein: 9-11 grams per serving

Best Vegan

Louisville Vegan Jerky Smoked Black Pepper Soy Jerky

Louisville Vegan Jerky Smoked Black Pepper Soy Jerky

Amazon

What We Like
  • Firm

  • Flavorful

  • Other flavors available

What We Don't Like
  • Soy-based

The meat alternative industry has grown a ton in the last few years, with more options hitting the market than ever before. Louisville Vegan Jerky has been around for a decade, though, perfecting its soy-based jerky. The result is a meat-free and protein-rich snack with all the texture, saltiness, and flavor of the real thing.

Flavors of Louisville Vegan Jerky include Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, Buffalo Dill, and more. All are gluten-free, but anyone with a soy allergy should avoid this vegan option, since textured soy protein is the main ingredient.

Price at time of publish: $8

Size: 3 ounces | Flavors: Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, Perfect Pepperoni, Smoky Carolina BBQ, Buffalo Dill | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 7 grams per 1-ounce serving

Best Smoked

Wild Bill's Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky Strips

Wild Bill's Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky Strips

Amazon

What We Like
  • Fresh

  • Highly rated

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This beef jerky is hung and hickory smoked in a Pennsylvania smokehouse after being marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper, giving it a lot of taste. It gives it a lot of smokiness, too, but not too much to overwhelm you. In the end, it tastes fresh and requires a little work to chew before getting softer as you go. At slightly less than a pound, this beef jerky is pricey, but over 75 percent of thousands of reviews on Amazon give it 5 out of 5 stars. This one is not necessarily one to buy to have as an on-the-go snack, but more to enjoy or give as a gift.

Price at time of publish: $44

Size: 15 ounces | Flavors: Hickory Smoked | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 14 grams per 1-ounce serving

Best Budget

Jack Link's Peppered Beef Jerky

Jack Link’s Peppered Beef Jerky

Amazon

What We Like
  • Half-pound bag

  • Smaller slices

  • Easily sharable

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many flavors available

Other beef jerky options on this list work for when you are hungry while out and about, but Jack Link's also does the trick for cheap. A half-pound bag comes with 8 servings of cut-up jerky pieces, which is great for easy snacking. The bag is also resealable, so it can come and go with you and stay fresh. To get the strong peppered flavor, the beef is seasoned with sugar and soy sauce, then dusted with cracked pepper and slow-roasted. The result is a fresh-tasting jerky with a kick.

Price at time of publish: $11

Size: 8 ounces | Flavors: Original, peppered, Teriyaki, Sweet & Hot | Gluten-free: Not indicated | Protein: 9 grams per 1-ounce serving

Final Verdict

Top-notch beef jerky should be made from high-quality grass-fed cattle, tender, and flavorful, as well. That's why we chose Country Archer Original Beef Jerky as our top pick. For sticks instead of strips, we recommend the individually wrapped Chomps Original Beef Sticks.

What to Look for in Beef Jerky

Texture

Depending on what drying methods are used to make jerky, the finished product will yield different results. Some jerky is made to have a tough and dry texture that'll give your jaw a workout, while others are softer.

If you have a texture preference, buying the wrong kind can put a damper on your snacking experience. For dry jerky, look for products labeled "traditional" or "old-fashioned." For softer, chewier jerky, look for the words "soft" or "tender."

Flavor

There are jerkys to meet every flavor preference you can think of. In addition to traditional jerky recipes that let the flavor of the meat shine, you'll find flavors that take their cue from the grill, like smoked barbecue and pineapple teriyaki; sweet flavors, like honey pepper; savory flavors made with herbs, spices, and seasonings; and spicy flavors made with hot peppers, like Carolina Reaper—the hottest pepper on Earth. The best way to find your favorite is have a taste test or try a jerky subscription to sample several varieties at once.

FAQs

How is beef jerky made?

Jerky is an ancient food that originally was used because it vastly improved the shelf life of meat by drying and salting it (and sometimes smoking it). Today, the jerky-making process is similar, but on a more industrial scale. After being cured and salted, the meat is dried.

Which part of the cow is beef jerky made from?

This depends on the producer, but beef jerky is usually made from the shoulder or rump of the cow. These areas are flavorful, but tend to be tougher due to their lack of fat.

Can you freeze beef jerky?

If you’re not planning to eat your beef jerky right away, you can freeze it. Just make sure to put it in an airtight container first. Freezing properly will extend its shelf life by six to 12 months.

What are the white packets in beef jerky?

The packets inside beef jerky are silica gel, which helps keep moisture away from the jerky. It should be discarded once you’re done with the pack and kept away from dogs and small children who may try to eat it.

Are there other types of jerky?

You can find jerky made out of poultry, especially chicken or turkey, wild game, such as elk or wild boar, and even fish. There’s also vegan jerky, which is typically made from soy or mushroom.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best beef jerky on the market, evaluating their key features—like flavor, cut, and price—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Sharon Lehman is a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of this beef jerky roundup. When it comes to lean and filling snacks, she’s a fan of reaching for an all-natural, grass-fed meat stick. Bonus: Chopped meat sticks add a charcuterie vibe to any cheese or snack plate. You can often find Chomps beef and turkey sticks in her pantry, but she’s also a fan of Country Archer.

Christine Clark, who updated this piece, is a nationally recognized food expert and locally recognized eater of good things. She has a cheese podcast and is a Certified Cheese Professional through the American Cheese Society.

Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this article to include the most up-to-date information.

Sources

Additional reporting by
Christine Clark
Christine Clark/Head Shot
Christine is freelance food writer, certified cheese expert, and podcast host. Her work has appeared in AllRecipes, Bon Appetit, and VinePair.
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  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Can GMOs be used in organic products?

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