August 15th, 2012 MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Jerk-Off

Me want dried meat. What brand best

dish_ugliestjerkyeversorry_3841WESTERN WINS: Portland’s best beef jerky.
Beef jerky is a primal pleasure. Drying meat for storage was practical for cave dwellers, of course, but we keep making it in an era of refrigerators because there’s something satisfying about gnawing on the stuff—with or without the grunts and snorts of yore.

WW assembled an august panel of tasters—that is, whoever was around, which happened to be three staffers and two interns, divided about equally between XYs and XXs—to taste 10 varieties of jerky. We did a blind tasting, with each variety identified only by a number. The judges rated each sample between one and 10. 

As the organizer, I picked up the entries around town and tasted them in advance to handicap the race. For fun, I also threw in a couple of ringers, namely a Malaysian-style jerky from New York and one bag from a local convenience store.

The convenience-store stuff fared surprisingly well. I can’t say the same for the Malaysian jerky.


WINNER

Western Meat Market Hot Peppered
Western Meat Market, 4707 N Lombard St., 283-5174, westernmeatmarket.biz
Average score: 8.5
Price: $16/pound
Wow, flavor! Lots of flavors, actually: Heat, salt, seasonings—and moisture too. The standard bearer of Portland jerkydom.

Comments: “Like they added spicy Mrs. Dash.” “What I’d want in my backpack.”


BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tillamook Country Smoker Old Fashioned
Available at convenience stores or directly from tcsjerky.com.
Average score: 6.7
Price: $32/pound
I figured all convenience-store jerky had to have the flavor and consistency of salted rope. Most does. This stuff was shockingly decent.

Comments: “Serviceable bag jerky.” “Shit was bomb!”


OTHERS

Gartner’s Regular
Gartner’s Country Meat Market, 7450 NE Killingsworth, 252-7801, gartnersmeats.com
Average score: 4.8
Price: $17/pound
Portlanders take numbers and wait to buy meat at Gartner’s, the legendary local butcher that opened in 1959. When it’s your turn, skip this junky jerky and grab a monster porterhouse instead.

Comments: “Chewy and undelicious.” “Bland, tastes like baby food. Too dry.”


Chop (Teriyaki)
Chop Butchery & Charcuterie, inside City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave., 221-3012, and inside the Hub Building, 3808 N Williams Ave., 288-1901, chopbutchery.com
Average score: 4.8
Price: $25/pound 
If I had to pick between any of the palate-pleasing pâtés at Chop and this jerky, it would be a pâté every time. 

Comments: “Honey and spice equals nice.” “Tastes like tough fruit chews.”


Laurelhurst Market
Laurelhurst Market Restaurant and Butcher Shop, 3155 E Burnside St., 206-3099, laurelhurstmarket.com
Average score: 4.5
Price: $40/pound
There is no jerky in the universe worth this price. When these guys ran the meat counter at City Market, their jerky was a lot better than this.

Comments: “Tastes pleasantly like boot leather soaked in fennel juice.” “This is actually beef jerky, at least.”


The Country Cat
The Country Cat, 7937 SE Stark St., 408-1414, thecountrycat.net
Average score: 4.2
Price: $20/pound
Adam “Country Cat” Sappington knows his meat, but jerky isn’t his strong suit. The flavor was good, but the paper-thin slices ruined the experience.

Comments: “Looks like snakeskin that’s see-through and caramelized.” “Smoky, leathery, like nori.”


Old Country Sausage
Old Country Sausage Co., 10634 NE Sandy Blvd., 254-4106
Average score: 3.9
Price: $11/pound
“Blecch,” was my reaction to this Russian-market jerky. It was like someone threw a junk of beef into a bucket of unseasoned brine, then let in the sun to dry.

Comments: “Too much moisture.” “Tastes like a Slim Jim, looks like raw meat.”


Gartner’s Teriyaki
Gartner’s Country Meat Market, 7450 NE Killingsworth, 252-7801, gartnersmeats.com
Average score: 3.6
Price: $18/pound
I thought the flavor was a little better than Gartner’s regular, with at least a hint of the typical teriyaki flavors of garlic, ginger and brown sugar. 

Comments: “Too thick, too bland. Tastes like stale steak.” “Not enough salt.” “Should it have flavor?”


LOSERS

Malaysia Beef Jerky (Spicy Pork)
Malaysia Beef Jerky, 95A Elizabeth St., New York, 212-965-0796, malaysiabeefjerky.com
Average score: 3.3
Price: $17/pound
Instead of curing and slicing whole chunks of beef, meat for Malaysian jerky is chopped, spiced, formed into sheets and grilled. I love it, especially the pork.

Comments: “Blandly acceptable.” “Too weird-tasting.”


Western Meat Market Regular (Teriyaki)
Western Meat Market, 4707 N Lombard, 283-5174, westernmeatmarket.biz
Average score: 3.3
Price: $16/pound
As good as its spicy jerky was, Western’s regular, which supposedly is teriyaki-flavored, was bland, stringy and uninspired.

Comments: “Like pot roast that’s been left out for days.” “Both dry and fatty.”


Best:
Western Meat Market Hot Peppered.

Most expensive: Laurelhurst Market, $40 per pound.

Weirdest: Malaysia Beef Jerky of New York.
 
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