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September 2005

Taste Test: Beef Jerky

Rich flavors and moist textures take top honors with these trail snacks

The hunt is over. No more chomping on stiff, bland, oversalted strips of leather masquerading as jerky. We gathered nearly 20 leading brands of 100 percent pure beef jerky and asked 14 discriminating testers to chew on them, all to bring you this: the top quartet of high-protein (about 13 grams per ounce), low-fat, guaranteed-to-satisfy meat snacks.

©Mitch Mandel

Mingua Brothers Beef Jerky (Mild)

Here’s how to enjoy this all-natural jerky: tear off a bite, tuck it into your cheek, and savor a leisurely, super-juicy chew. “It’s like eating a campfire steak,” enthused one tester. Hand-cut and trimmed, the robust strips boast a surprisingly pleasant chocolate undertone, which prompted one tester to ask, “Can I have seconds?”

Weight: 4 oz.

Price: $5

Contact: (859) 987-9719; www.minguabeefjerky.com

©Matthew J. Reigner

Fesperman’s Beef Jerky

This snack is a revelation: thick, small squares of intense beef flavor with the power to convert nonbelievers into jerky disciples. Marinated in the Fesperman family’s secret spices for 12 hours, the beef is then hand-trimmed and sliced across the grain. The result: A long, slow chew that releases waves of deep, juicy flavor. Testers favored Original but would also pack Peppered and Hot.

Weight: 4 oz.

Price: $8

Contact: (918) 733-2076; www.fespermnsbeefjerky.com

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