The Jerky Revolution



Food stylist: Brett Kurzweil Prop stylist: Meghan Guthrie

Photo by: Lisa Shin ©Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.

Lisa Shin , Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.

Remember that beef jerky you got at the gas station during road trips? The stuff that's loaded with sodium and has what you would imagine the texture of dog treats to be? Well, it has come a long way since then, becoming a bona fide healthy snack for protein lovers. With less sodium, better flavors and almost nothing unnatural about it, artisan jerky is on the rise.

Just one ounce of the leading brand's beef jerky can have almost 800 milligrams of sodium, while new brands that concentrate on a more-natural process usually stay around 400 milligrams for the same-size serving (some as low as 300). Besides the fact that these new brands won't make you feel like you're gnawing on a salt block, they've also got an ingredient list you can fully pronounce. It's refreshing to see words like "garlic" and "sesame seeds" in place of words like "flavorings" and "monosodium glutamate."

Field Trip Jerky, for example, has a turkey jerky hitting the shelves that has only 70 calories, no fat and 12 grams of protein. And even after being flavored with black pepper, apple and brown sugar, it still comes in at less than half the sodium of the old stuff. And if you're a fan of the red-meat version, their Original, Honey Spice and Teriyaki flavors still come in the beef variety.

Another one of FN Dish's favorites is Lawless Jerky, which is made with only grass-fed beef. Plus, their newest flavor is Pho, taking flavor cues from the classic Vietnamese noodle dish. How cool is that? Other interesting flavors include Aloha Teriyaki, Mango Habanero and Sweet Sriracha.

If you're up for the challenge of making your own jerky at home, check out these top-rated recipes:

Smoky Cola Jerky (pictured above): Since this recipe takes a little over four hours from start to finish, you'd be hard-pressed to find a quicker way to make quality jerky. This one by Food Network Magazine is great for those who don't like things too spicy. The cola sweetens things up, while soy sauce and rice vinegar give  the jerky a bit of a bite.

Beef Jerky: Alton Brown's five-star rating on this one comes as no surprise. It's got a classic flavor with liquid smoke, Worcestershire and red pepper flakes. And he's even found a way to make it with a box fan and some bungee cords.

Salmon Jerky: Yes, there are even fish options when it comes to jerky. This recipe calls for only a few ingredients, most of which you probably have in your pantry right now. And although it takes about 21 hours from start to finish, it takes only about 15 minutes of work to get everything done.

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