Jerky is lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and
then dried to prevent spoilage. Normally, this drying includes the
addition of salt, to prevent bacteria from developing on the meat
before sufficient moisture has been removed. The word "jerky" is
derived from the Quechua word ch'arki which means "dried, salted
meat". All that is needed to produce basic "jerky" is a
low-temperature drying method, and salt to inhibit bacterial growth.
Modern manufactured jerky is normally marinated in a seasoned spice
rub or liquid, and dried, dehydrated or smoked with low heat (usually
under 70 °C/160 °F). Some product manufacturers finely
grind meat, mix in seasonings, and press the meat-paste into flat
shapes prior to drying.
The resulting jerky from the above methods would be a salty and/or
savory snack. However, sometimes a sweet or semi-sweet recipe is used,
with sugar being a major ingredient in that variation.
ready-to-eat and needs no additional preparation. It can be stored for
months without refrigeration. When the protein to moisture content
ratio is correct, the resulting meat is cured, or preserved.
There are many products in the marketplace which are sold as jerky
which consist of highly processed, chopped and formed meat, rather
than traditional sliced, whole-muscle meat. These products may contain
more fat, but moisture content, like the whole-muscle product, must
meet a 0.75 to 1 moisture to protein ratio in the US. Chemical
preservatives can be used to prevent oxidative spoilage, but the
moisture to protein ratio prevents microbial spoilage by low water
activity. Some jerky products are very high in sugar and are therefore
very sweet, unlike biltong, which rarely contains added sugars.
6 See also
8 External links
Beef jerky being dried
Chinese bakkwa jerky
Around the world, meat from domestic and wild animals is used to make
jerky. Meats from domestic animals include beef, pork, goat and mutton
or lamb. Wild animals including deer, kudu, springbok, kangaroo, and
bison are also used. Recently, other animals such as turkey,
ostrich, salmon, alligator, crocodile, tuna, emu, horse, camel, and
earthworm have entered the market.
Most of the fat must be trimmed off prior to drying the meat, as fat
does not dry, thus creating the potential for spoilage as the fat
becomes rancid (modern vacuum packing and chemical preservatives have
served to help prevent these risks). The meat must be dried quickly,
to limit bacterial growth during the critical period where the meat is
not yet dry. To do this, the meat is thinly sliced, or pressed thinly,
in the case of ground meat. The strips of meat are dried at low
temperatures, to avoid cooking it, or overdrying it to the point where
it is brittle.
In factories in the 2010s, large jerky ovens are built using insulated
panels. Inside these low-temperature drying ovens are many heater
elements and fans. The ovens have exhaust ports to remove the
moisture-laden air. The combination of fast-moving air and low heat
dries the meat to the desired moisture content within a few hours. The
raw, marinated jerky strips are placed on racks of nylon-coated metal
screens which have been sprayed with a light vegetable oil to allow
the meat to be removed easily. The screen trays are placed closely in
layers on rolling carts which are then put in the drying oven.
Some additional form of chemical preservative, such as sodium nitrite,
is often used in conjunction with the historical salted drying
procedure to prepare jerky. Smoking is the most traditional method, as
it preserves, flavors, and dries the meat simultaneously. Salting is
the most common method used today, as it both provides seasoning to
improve the flavor as well as preserve the meat. While some methods
involve applying the seasonings with a marinade, this can increase the
drying time by adding moisture to the meat.
Raw meat before dehydration into jerky.
After the jerky is dried to the proper moisture content to prevent
spoilage, it is cooled, then packaged in (often resealable) plastic
bags, either nitrogen gas flushed or vacuumed packed. To prevent the
oxidation of the fat, the sealed packages often contain small pouches
of oxygen absorber. These small packets are filled with iron particles
which react with oxygen, removing the oxygen from the sealed jerky
package, and from an opened and resealed unfinished packet.
Because of the necessary low fat and moisture content, jerky is high
in protein. A 30 g (about 1 oz) portion of lean meat, for
example, contains about 7 g of protein. By removing 15 g of
water from the meat, the protein ratio is doubled to nearly 15 g
of protein per 30 g portion. In some low moisture varieties, a
30 g serving will contain 21 g of protein, and only one g of
fat. The price per unit weight of this type of jerky is higher than
less-dried forms, as it takes 90 g of 99% lean meat to generate
30 g of jerky.
Unpackaged fresh jerky made from sliced, whole muscle meat has been
available in specialty stores in Hong Kong at least since the 1970s.
The products are purchased by kilograms, and customers choose from 10
to 20 types of meat used to make the product. Some are sold in strands
instead of slices.
Macau has opened numerous specialty shops also,
many of which are franchise extensions of stores from Hong Kong.
Compared to the sealed packaged versions, unpackaged jerky has a
relatively short shelf life.
This type of jerky has also become very popular in convenience stores
in the USA under the name "slab" jerky; it is usually sold in
Most nations have regulations pertaining to the production of dried
meat products. There are strict requirements to ensure safe and
wholesome production of jerky products. Factories are required to have
inspectors and sanitation plans. In the United States, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for that oversight. To
USDA regulations, poultry jerky must be heated to an
internal temperature of 160°F for uncured poultry or 155°F for cured
poultry to be considered safe  Many European Union countries
presently prohibit the importation of meat products, including jerky,
without additional and extensive customs documentation, and further
Venison jerky strips prior to drying
Traditional jerky, made from sliced, whole muscle meat, is readily
available in the
United States and
Canada in varying meats, brands and
qualities, both as packaged and unpackaged. These products are
available in nearly every convenience store, gas station, supermarket,
and variety shop in those countries, where there is a long history of
jerky as a food of the pioneers. A similar, less expensive product is
made with finely ground meat, mixed with flavors, then the mush is
processed into thin dried strips. The finished item may be labeled as
jerky, but with the qualifier "ground and formed". This product is
widely available in general interest stores, such as supermarkets and
convenience stores. Also popular is shredded dry jerky (meat floss)
sold in containers resembling snuff or dip.
Jerky made in the
traditional style is also a ubiquitous staple of farmers' markets in
rural areas all over North America.
In addition to being common in the
United States and Canada, jerky is
also gaining popularity in supermarkets, convenience stores and online
retailers. In Australia,
New Zealand and the United Kingdom, jerky
products are available and becoming more common. They are carried by
some major supermarkets, and now also smaller stores. In China, in
addition to the more traditional forms of jerky, there is also a
similar product which is usually made from pork called pork chip. A
similar product is quite popular in Rome, Italy, and its hinterland:
it is called coppiette and was originally made with horse or
donkey meat, but it is now generally made with pork. Coppiette are
seasoned with red pepper and fennel seeds. Coppiette were usually
eaten while drinking wine (mostly white) in Roman osterie.
In Tamil Nadu, India the dish is known as uppu kandam which forms part
of authentic non vegetarian cuisine. In Ethiopia, jerky is called
qwant'a. In addition to salt, it is seasoned with black pepper and
either berbere or awaze. A similar product, biltong, is common in
South African cuisine; however, it differs very much in production
process and taste. In Hausa cuisine, kilishi is a form of dried meat,
similar to jerky, that is heavily spiced with peppers.
Jerky (or products closely related to it) is commonly included in
military field rations. It is particularly attractive to militaries
because of its light weight, high level of nutrition, long shelf life
and edibility without further preparation. Since 1996, jerky has been
selected by astronauts as space food several times for space flight
due to its light weight and high level of nutrition.
A typical 30 g portion of fresh jerky contains 10–15 g of
protein, 1 g of fat, and 0–3 g of carbohydrates, although
some beef jerky can have more than 65% of protein content. Since
traditional jerky recipes use a basic salt cure, sodium can be a
concern for some people. A 30 g serving of jerky could contain
more than 600 mg of sodium, which would be about 30% of the
List of dried foods
List of smoked foods
^ Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi
yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
^ "Globe trotting: Ecuador". Taipei Times. 15 July 2006. Retrieved 6
^ "Feet in the Trough: Cured Meat". The Economist. 2006-12-19.
^ Richard J. Epley and Paul B. Addis. "Processing
Meat in the Home"
(PDF). Minnesota Extension Service.
USDA Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, p. 83
^ Delong, Deanna (1992). How to Dry Foods. Penguin Group. p. 79.
Jerky Lemon Pepper".
Jerky Original. Retrieved
^ For example The UK department for food and agriculture and food ban
all meat imports for personal consumption from the USA. Their data can
be searched:Defra search
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved
^ D.J. Mesfin. Exotic Ethiopian Cooking. Ethiopian Cookbook
Enterprises, Falls Church, MD, 2006. p. 31
^ "I'd Like to See a Menu, Please". NASA. 2004-05-13. Retrieved
^ "Space Food". NASA. 2004-05-27. Archived from the original on
2004-11-03. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
^ "Billy Franks
Jerky - Roast
Beef and Mustard (40g)".
MeatSnacker. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
Commercial Item Description (CID): Cured
Meat Snacks U.S. Dept. of
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture:
Jerky and food safety fact sheet
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