What is Beef Jerky: A Delicious Journey Through History

Written by: Najma A.



Time to read 5 min


Beef jerky is more than just a savory snack; it is a culinary tradition that dates back thousands of years. Whether you’ve discovered it on a road trip, packed it for a hiking adventure, or enjoyed it as a midday snack, beef jerky is a versatile and convenient food with a rich history and a unique place in modern diets. In this blog, we’ll discuss what is beef jerky, its origins, process, nutritional profile, and contemporary cultural significance.

The Basics: What is Beef Jerky?

At its core, beef jerky is lean meat trimmed with fat, cut into strips, and dried to prevent spoilage. The drying process typically involves salting the meat to inhibit bacterial growth and dehydrating it. The result is a dense, chewy snack that can be stored without refrigeration, making it a practical food for long journeys and outdoor activities.

Historical Background

Ancient Origins

The concept of drying meat to preserve it isn't new. Indigenous peoples across various cultures developed methods to dry and cure meat centuries ago. The word "jerky" itself is derived from the Quechua word "ch'arki," which means "dried, salted meat." Native American tribes such as the Lakota, the Navajo, and the Comanche would often dry buffalo meat. This practice ensured they had a reliable food source when hunting was scarce.

Global Practices

Other cultures around the world have their versions of dried meat. For example, in South Africa, "biltong" is a similar product, but it is cured with vinegar and various spices before being dried. In Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, dried reindeer or elk meat is a traditional food. The preservation method might differ slightly, but the principle remains: removing moisture from the meat to prolong its shelf life.

The Process of Making Beef Jerky

Making best beef jerky is both an art and a science. Here's a step-by-step look at how it's typically done:

  1. Selecting the Meat: The first step is choosing the proper cut of beef. Top round, bottom round, and sirloin tip are popular choices due to their leanness. Fat is trimmed away as it does not dry well and can lead to spoilage.
  2. Slicing: The meat is then sliced into thin strips. The thickness of these strips can vary, but they are usually between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Marinating: This step adds flavor to the jerky. A marinade can include a variety of ingredients, such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. The meat is typically left to marinate for several hours or overnight.
  4. Drying: After marinating, the meat is placed in a dehydrator or a low-temperature oven. This process can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the drying method and the thickness of the meat. Some traditional techniques involve air-drying the meat in the sun.
  5. Packaging: Once dried, the jerky is ready to be packaged. Vacuum sealing is often used to extend its shelf life by reducing exposure to air and moisture.
Basics of Beef Jerky

Nutritional Profile

Beef jerky is a nutrient-dense food, making it a popular choice for those looking to add protein to their diet. Here's a breakdown of its nutritional profile:

  1. Protein: One of the primary benefits of beef jerky is its high protein content. A typical serving (about 1 ounce) can contain 9-12 grams of protein, making it an excellent snack for muscle repair and growth.
  2. Fat: Since beef jerky is made from lean cuts of meat, it tends to be low in fat. However, some commercial varieties might have added fats for flavor, so checking the label is always good.
  3. Carbohydrates: Traditional beef jerky is very low in carbohydrates, usually around 2-3 grams per serving. This makes it suitable for low-carb diets such as keto.
  4. Sodium: One of the downsides of beef jerky is its high sodium content, which is used in the curing process. A single serving can have anywhere from 300-600 mg of sodium. This is something to be mindful of, especially for those managing hypertension.
  5. Other Nutrients: Beef jerky also provides essential vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which are crucial for energy production and immune function.

Health Considerations

While beef jerky can be a healthy snack option, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Sodium Intake: The high sodium content can be a concern, especially if consumed in large quantities. It's crucial to balance it with other low-sodium foods throughout the day.
  2. Additives: Some commercial jerky products contain added sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors. Opting for natural or homemade versions can mitigate these issues.
  3. Portion Control: Its dense nature makes it easy to overconsume jerky. Paying attention to portion sizes can help manage calorie intake and prevent overconsumption of sodium.

The Cultural Significance of Beef Jerky

Modern Popularity

Beef jerky has grown in popularity in recent years, partly due to the rise of protein-centric diets. It's marketed as a snack and a functional food for athletes, bodybuilders, and health-conscious individuals. The convenience of jerky makes it a go-to option for people with busy lifestyles who need a quick, nutritious bite.

Artisan and Gourmet Jerky

In addition to traditional flavors, there is now a burgeoning market for gourmet beef jerky. Artisanal producers experiment with various flavors and ingredients, from sweet teriyaki and smoky chipotle to exotic blends like mango habanero and Korean BBQ. These gourmet varieties often use higher-quality meats and natural ingredients, catering to a more discerning palate.

Environmental and Ethical Considerations

With the growing awareness of sustainability and ethical food production, some jerky producers have begun to focus on grass-fed, organic, and responsibly sourced meats. This shift appeals to environmentally conscious consumers and supports better animal welfare practices.

Nutritional Profile of Beef Jerky

Making Your Own Beef Jerky

Making beef jerky at home is a rewarding experience for those who prefer a hands-on approach. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1 pound lean beef (top round, bottom round, or sirloin tip)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Optional: red pepper flakes for heat


  1. Prepare the Meat: Trim any visible fat from the meat. Freeze the beef for about an hour to make slicing easier.
  2. Slice: Slice the meat into thin strips, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Marinate: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add the meat strips and mix well to ensure even coating—Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Drying: Preheat your dehydrator or oven to 160°F (70°C). Arrange the meat strips in a single layer on the dehydrator trays or on a baking sheet if using an oven. Dry for 4-6 hours or until the meat is firm but slightly pliable.
  5. Store: Once completely cooled, store the jerky in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed bags. It can be kept at room temperature for up to two weeks if refrigerated or frozen.
Making Your Own Beef Jerky

About One Stop Halal

Welcome to Butcher Shop that is 1-click away. We carry various meat cuts and jerky collection that are hard to find elsewhere. We deliver to your doorstep anywhere in the United States within 1-2 business days.


Beef jerky is a testament to human ingenuity in food preservation and a delicious, nutritious snack that has stood the test of time. Its journey from ancient preservation technique to modern gourmet treat showcases its versatility and enduring appeal. Whether you enjoy it for its rich protein content, convenience, or deep beef jerky flavors, beef jerky is a snack that connects us to our culinary heritage while fitting seamlessly into contemporary life.

From ancient methods of drying meat under the sun to today’s sophisticated dehydration techniques, beef jerky remains a beloved staple across cultures and generations. Next time you reach for a strip of jerky, you’ll be partaking in a tradition that spans centuries, savoring a piece of history with every bite.

Select the type of Qurbani (Udhiyah) you want to do

Local Overseas

Local:You will receive meat. You can choose from Goat or Lamb.
Overseas:You will not receive meat. It will be distributed to the needy.
We are offering Cow or Buffalo Qurbani overseas. Price per share is $99.
Please rememeber you will not receive share of the cow meat. If you want the share of the Qurbani meat, then choose Local Qurbani.

- +

Start Over Button Start over
- +

Do you want us to distribute the meat?

How do you want the Qurbani meat to be cut?

start over button Start over