Who Makes the Best Beef Jerky in 2023? A Run Down of the Top Brands

Beef jerky has become an increasingly popular snack in recent years, loved for its protein-packed punch and portable convenience. But with so many brands on the market, how do you know which one truly makes the best beef jerky?

I sampled jerky from over 20 top brands, considering flavor, texture, ingredients, and price to determine the ultimate beef jerky power rankings for 2023. Whether you like your jerky sweet or spicy, soft or brittle, you’re sure to find a new favorite on this list of who makes the best beef jerky on the market today.

10 Best Beef Jerky Brands of 2023

1. Mojave Jerky Co.

With its zero sugar promise and bold Southwestern zest, Mojave Jerky Co. tops my list for best jerky brand. Their flavors pack an incredible punch, from the smoky Chipotle and hearty Southwest to the fruity Prickly Pear. The jerky has just the right level of chewiness without being tough. With 15g of protein and no added sugar, this is jerky done right.

Key Features: Zero sugar, gluten-free, 15g protein per serving, tasty smoky and spicy flavors

2. People’s Choice Beef Jerky

This old school Los Angeles brand has been handcrafting jerky since 1929. Their quality and flavor shine through in every tender, peppery bite. With over 10 flavors to choose from, you’ll find everything from teriyaki to hickory smoked. For those who like their jerky on the milder side, People’s Choice is a tasty choice.

Key Features: 90+ years of jerky expertise, tender and flavorful, range of classic flavors, made in the USA

3. Krave Jerky

With creative flavors like Chili Lime and Sweet Chipotle, Krave makes jerky exciting. They use premium cuts of meat and tout their ingredients as natural and gluten-free. While the texture leans more tender than tough, Krave jerky still packs a 5g protein punch in every serving.

Key Features: Innovative flavors, tender and moist texture, gluten-free, 5g of protein per serving

4. Duke’s Meats Shorty’s Beef Jerky

This Wisconsin-based brand makes small batch jerky smoked low and slow over real hardwood fires. The hickory wood smoke flavor permeates each piece of hearty, chewy jerky. Duke’s offers an array of flavors, from Peppered to Teriyaki, that stick to the basics but deliver on taste.

Key Features: Real wood-smoked, chewy texture, flavor variety, locally-sourced meats

5. Tillamook Country Smoker

Tillamook’s jerky is made with their famous peppery, hardwood smoked beef. Each piece delivers a robust beefy flavor with a hint of black pepper spice and a pleasant chew. As a bonus, Tillamook jerky contains no gluten ingredients or preservatives.

Key Features: Hardwood smoked flavor, black pepper kick, chewy but not tough, no gluten ingredients

6. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky

The jerky giant Jack Link’s offers reliably tasty and affordable jerky in seemingly endless varieties. Their Original recipe boasts that perfect balance of smoky and sweet. With so many flavors to choose from, plus protein-packed jerky in convenient packs, you can’t go wrong with Jack Link’s classic.

Key Features: Family-owned brand, broad flavor selection, classic smoked flavor, convenient packs

7. Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co.

This artisanal brand makes jerky with 3 simple ingredients: beef, seasoning, and cherry powder. The result is incredibly flavorful jerky with a tantalizing sweetness. Their Original and Black Pepper jerky have outstanding flavor without artificial ingredients. The price tag reflects the quality.

Key Features: Short ingredient list, sweet cherry powder flavor, high-end taste, tender texture

8. Perky Jerky

For a lighter, more tender jerky, Perky Jerky delivers. At just 60 calories per bag, their jerky still manages to maintain intense, savory flavor. With fun varieties like Buffalo Wing and Teriyaki, Perky Jerky proves lower calorie jerky can still be satisfying.

Key Features: Low calorie, tender, intense flavors, creative flavors like Maple Bacon

9. KERB Premium Beef Jerky

This woman-owned Colorado brand handcrafts every batch of jerky using only premium cuts of steak. You’ll taste the quality in the deeply satisfying flavor of each piece. KERB jerky has a perfect amount of peppery kick without overpowering.

Key Features: Handcrafted in small batches, robust beefy flavor, premium steak cuts, right amount of spice

10. Ayoba-Yo Meat Co.

What sets this brand apart is their use of grass-fed, grass-finished beef for seriously high-quality jerky. Ayoba-Yo’s traditional style South African biltong emphasizes simple spices that let the meaty flavor shine through. The hearty texture will have you craving more.

Key Features: Grass-fed and grass-finished beef, traditional South African-style, heartier chew, emphasis on meat over spices

What Makes a Beef Jerky the Best?

When tasting my way through 20+ top beef jerky brands, I looked at four key factors that impact a jerky’s quality:

Flavor Profile

Great jerky should pack an intense beefy punch along with balanced notes of smoke, sweetness, and spice. The flavor should come from quality ingredients rather than artificial flavorings.


The very best jerky boasts a satisfying chew without being so tough your jaw gets tired. You want to savor the flavor in each bite, not wrestle with it.


Jerky made from whole, natural ingredients tastes better and is better for you. Watch out for loads of sugar and preservatives or anything artificial.


Higher priced jerky usually means higher quality, but you can still find great flavor for an affordable price from some brands. I looked for that ideal balance.

Jerky Flavor & Texture Preferences

One man’s best jerky is another man’s worst when it comes to flavor and texture preferences. Here’s an overview of the spectrum:

Flavor Profiles

  • Savory & Meaty: Emphasizes the natural flavor of quality beef with light seasoning.

  • Smoked: Showcases deep, wood smoke taste above all else.

  • Spicy: Packs on the heat with peppers and chili seasoning.

  • Sweet & Teriyaki: Features sugar and honey with teriyaki and soy.

  • Bold & Zesty: Robust seasoning blends take center stage.

Texture Spectrum

  • Tender: Easier to chew with a softer bite.

  • Medium: A balance of tenderness and chewiness.

  • Chewy: Requires working the jerky with your teeth.

  • Tough: Very firm and takes effort to bite through.

Flavor Variety Expands

While you can still find traditional smoked and peppered jerky, brands today have expanded their flavors dramatically. Now you can get:

  • Sweet BBQ and Teriyaki
  • Zesty Lime and Chili
  • Bacon Jerky
  • Fruit-Infused Flavors like Pineapple and Mango Habanero
  • Alcohol Inspired like Whiskey Maple and IPA
  • International Styles like South African Biltong

Even among the classic peppered jerky, you see more complex heat like Chipotle and Ghost Pepper emerging. The jerky aisle has grown with inspired new flavors to try beyond the old standards.

Quality Ingredients Make the Difference

Mass-produced jerky pumped full of preservatives will never beat small-batch jerky crafted with real, whole ingredients. Here’s what to look for:

Quality Meat Cuts
Traditional jerky uses lean cuts of beef like flank steak or top round. Higher end jerky may use premium cuts like brisket or ribeye. The best jerky brands specify 100% real beef.

Minimal Ingredients
Quality jerky relies on real spices for flavor rather than artificial flavors. Look for brands with ingredients you recognize without preservatives.

Minimal Sugar
Sugar should not dominate over the natural flavor of the meat. Avoid brands with loads of honey, corn syrup and other sweeteners.

Natural Curing
Quality jerky gets its characteristic longevity from natural curing with ingredients like sea salt, vinegar and celery powder rather than artificial chemicals.

Wood Smoking
For authentic smoky flavor, true jerky is smoked slowly over real wood like hickory rather than “liquid smoke”.

Is Jerky Healthy? Nutrition Snapshot

Jerky offers some stellar nutritional benefits:

  • High in protein – 10g per ounce on average
  • Low in fat – around 1-3g per ounce
  • Contains zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium
  • No carbs or sugar if you choose wisely
  • Convenient on-the-go protein source

However, mass-produced jerky can also contain unhealthy ingredients like:

  • Excess sodium – aim for no more than 200mg per serving
  • Nitrates/nitrites – look for “no nitrates/nitrites added”
  • MSG, hydrolyzed protein – avoid these flavor enhancers
  • Too much sugar – brands with honey, corn syrup as main ingredients

As with most foods, higher quality ingredients result in a healthier jerky with more nutritional upside. So read those labels and choose wisely!

Jerky Goes Gourmet

Jerky has come a long way from being pure campfire food or a gas station snack. Today, jerky makers are artisans bringing real craftsmanship and culinary creativity to jerky.

Small-batch jerky shops are experimenting with quality cuts like brisket, bison, elk and venison. They’re infusing unique flavors with ingredients you’d expect to find in a restaurant kitchen.

This new culinary approach to jerky focuses on quality over quantity. The jerky may cost more but delivers a seriously elevated tasting experience worth savoring.

Jerky Buying Tips

Follow these tips when shopping for your next bag of jerky:

  • Seek out jerky made locally or regionally rather than mass-produced national brands.

  • Read the ingredients label closely and avoid jerky with a laundry list of additives.

  • Look for “no nitrates/nitrites added” to avoid these chemical preservatives.

  • Choose jerky with 5g of protein or more per serving size.

  • Try unusual flavors beyond teriyaki and peppered for a new experience.

  • Be willing to pay a little more for quality ingredients and craftsmanship.

  • Buy in small quantities first to test a new brand before stocking up.

  • Consider jerky subscriptions to automatically receive new flavors each month.

Best Online Jerky Shops

For the biggest jerky selection beyond what your grocery store offers, purchase online. Here are my top online jerky shop recommendations:

JerkyGent – Offers over 200+ jerkies from small-batch makers shipped fresh.

KraveJerky.com – Krave’s own online shop with jerky bundles & subscriptions.

ManCrates.com – Fun jerky gift boxes featuring multiple jerky brands.

GraceAndTribeProvisions.com – Shop for Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co. jerky direct.

Ayoba-Yo.com – Online shop for their grass-fed South African biltong jerky.

JackLinks.com – Huge selection of Jack Link’s extensive jerky lineup.

Jerky of the Month Clubs

Jerky club subscriptions offer an easy way to have a variety of jerky continuously delivered right to your door. Here are excellent jerky clubs to try:

  • JerkyGent Club – Get 3+ premium jerkies every month with free shipping.

  • Krave Jerky Club – Choose 3 Krave Jerky flavors delivered every 1, 2 or 3 months.

  • Man Crates Jerky Club – Receive a monthly jerky-themed gift box.

  • Jerky.com Club – Build a fully customized jerky box with your favorites.

Make Your Own Jerky

Want to control the ingredients and flavors exactly how you like? DIY homemade jerky has its advantages. Here’s a quick overview:

Meat Choices: Beef, turkey, chicken, venison, salmon

Cuts to Use: Flank steak, sirloin tip, eye of round for traditional beef jerky. Ground meat works too.

Marinade: Mix soy or Worcestershire sauce, spices, brown sugar, liquid smoke. Get creative with flavors! Let marinate 12-24 hours.

Prep: Slice meat lengthwise into 1⁄4” strips and remove excess fat. Pat the strips dry.

Dehydration: Arrange strips on racks of a food dehydrator or oven. Dry at 145-165°F for 4-8 hours.

Storage: Cool completely then pack into airtight containers. Keeps 2 months refrigerated or 6 months frozen.

Jerky: An Ancient Tradition s have been preserving meat by drying and salting for thousands of years. Indigenous tribes dried buffalo, moose, caribou and other game to preserve meat for long winters.

South American cultures like the Incas and Aztecs made “charqui”, dried llama meat that’s considered an early form of jerky. African cultures preserved meat by salting and air-drying into biltong.

Jerky became popular in America during the expansion out West when pioneer settlers needed durable protein sources for long journeys. It remains an American staple today for its nostalgia and flavor.

Jerky’s Future Looks Bright

Thanks to creative new flavors, grass-fed and craft varieties, jerky has elevated from a gas station snack into a gourmet foodie favorite. The jerky renaissance shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2023 and beyond, look for more exotic jerkies using protein like alligator, wild boar and fish. Regional BBQ styles, new spices and premium ingredients will expand the jerky landscape.

With the rise of keto and paleo diets, demand for low-carb, high-protein snacks continues accelerating. Jerky fits the bill perfectly.

As jerky gets more gourmet and artisanal, prices will likely continue rising. But jerky connoisseurs say the enhanced flavors and quality are worth the extra cost.

One thing remains constant – jerky lovers are always seeking that perfect balance of smoky, spicy flavor in a protein-packed punch. Which jerky brand takes the gold medal on your list of who makes the best beef jerky? Try a few new contenders and decide for yourself!



What is best for beef jerky?

The best meat for jerky are Top Round, Bottom Round, Lifter and Pectoral, but a variety of cuts can be used such as Flank Steak and Skirt Steak. These cuts of beef check all the boxes for beef jerky—economical, lean, and full of flavor.

Where does the best beef jerky come from?

Sometimes, some cuts of meat do create a moister product than others, but when you are looking for the best beef jerky, you are looking for jerky made from: Top Round. Bottom Round. Short Loin.

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