Beef jerky
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We Tried 19 Kinds of Beef Jerky and These Are the Best (And Worst)

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Beef jerky
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Newer But Not Necessarily Improved

Beef jerky is odd. Like a lot of other dried food, it thrives as a snack, and when you’re in the snack game the competition is fierce. There are so many brands, so many logos, so many flavors! You may have even seen commercials advertising newer, trendier brands. But are they an improvement? Have we strayed too far from the light? Or are there jerky innovations to be made yet? Well, we tried 19 flavors to find the best beef jerky, from the classics, to spicy, teriyaki, and even sugar-free. Here’s how they stack up in order from worst to best.


Prices and availability are subject to change.


Related: We Sampled 16 Kinds of Potato Chips — These are the Best (and Worst)

Beef jerky
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Jerkies of Choice

We tried:

  • Country Archer Provisions Original

  • Country Archer Provisions Sugar Free Mustard BBQ 

  • Country Archer Provisions Teriyaki

  • Jack Links Original

  • Jack Links Hickory Smoke

  • Jack Links Teriyaki

  • 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Original

  • 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Teriyaki

  • 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Pepper

  • 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Hot & Spicy

  • Old Trapper Old Fashioned

  • Old Trapper Teriyaki

  • Old Trapper Peppered

  • Old Trapper Hot & Spicy

  • Chef’s Cut Original

  • Chef’s Cut Chipotle Cracked Pepper

  • Krave Gold Label Oven-Roasted Spicy Sesame Ginger: Shaun White Edition

  • Epic Salt & Pepper Beef Bites

  • Epic Sweet & Savory Bison Bites


Related: Can’t Get Ground Beef? This Meatless Burger Fooled Our Tasters

Epic jerky
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Worst: Epic Sweet & Savory Bison & Uncured Bacon Bites

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Despite the pork content, Bison makes this beef jerky, technically, so we included it. It’s too bad we did though, because this is some weird food right here. It’s actually jarring how different this is than your expectations would lead you to believe. It’s soft and sweet, and though it smells smoky, it seems more similar to … fruit leather? If you like meaty, extra chewy jerky, move along.


Related: We Tried 10 Hot Dogs and You Won’t Believe Which One Was Best

Krave gold label
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18th: Krave Gold Label Oven-Roasted Spicy Sesame Ginger: Shaun White Edition

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A Genie appears before you. It tells you that you can have all the snowboarding prowess of Shaun White, with a long, decorated career ahead of you: All you have to do is eat this Spicy Sesame Ginger jerky each time you strap on your snowboard. Just one little bite of this very soft, nauseatingly sweet, not-at-all spicy, raw ginger-flavored, stick-to-your-teeth mess, and you’ll be flying off half pipes in no time. Would you do it? 


We wouldn’t. Not a chance. Not worth it.


Country Archer jerky
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17th: Country Archer Provisions Teriyaki

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The other two Country Archer flavors land quite a bit higher than number 17 on this ranking, so this one is a head-scratcher. Unlike their other, far more balanced flavors, this one is an overload of pineapple-based sweetness. Though Archer’s physical consistency is very good across the board, the sweetness factor really mucks things up.

Jack Links jerky
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16th: Jack Links Teriyaki

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Though Jack Links still nails that sticky, leathery jerky you’ve come to expect, it’s bogged down by the unfortunate anchor created by artificial teriyaki flavor. That said, of all the teriyaki flavors we tasted, this tastes the most like actual teriyaki sauce. The question is: do you really want that?

Chef's Cut jerky
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15th: Chef’s Cut Original

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Chef’s Cut took a left turn somewhere along the route to traditional jerky textures. It’s very thick, but also softer than most and easy to chew. It really comes down to what school of thought you believe a jerky texture should be — do you want something easy to chew, or do your nostalgic taste buds long for the days of tearing a huge piece of jerky apart with your teeth like a wolf? Chef’s Cut Original rides the line between both, but no matter where you fall on the texture, it’s going to be hard to forget about the gross, lingering flavor you’re left with: pure ketchup.

Old Trapper jerky
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14th: Old Trapper Teriyaki

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Dry, sinewy, and lean, Old Trapper seems to be going for that “let’s act like it’s still 1881 and this is what good food tastes like” vibe. In addition to an eye-rolling font for the word “teriyaki,” Old Trapper features a much smokier teriyaki flavor than most of the others and an incredibly wet marinade that makes you feel like you’re sticking your hand into a bag of old fruit.

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13th: Old Trapper Old Fashioned

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Old Trapper finds many of its products in the middle of this ranking, and that’s really it right there: it’s pretty average. Throw their most basic flavor into the mix, and you’re looking at about as standard of a beef jerky as you’re likely to get. Old Trapper knows their lane and they’re staying in it. This is for fans of the classics.

Chef's Cut jerky
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12th: Chef’s Cut Chipotle Cracked Pepper

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As mentioned, Chef’s Cut has gone a little bit rogue with their texture, offering a sticky-but-easy-to-chew form, so as long as you’re okay with that, their Chipotle Cracked Pepper flavor is a pretty solid bet. There’s a lot less flavor present than the word “chipotle” would imply, but it definitely has a nice sweet-to-spicy transition.

Old Trapper jerky
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11th: Old Trapper Hot & Spicy

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Barely. This is barely spicy. ‘Ole Trap’s got huge pepper seeds flecked all over the jerky itself, so it’s quite the surprise that its bark doesn’t match its bite. Of course, if spicy food isn’t your thing and you prefer something with just a slight kick, this is for you. For a jerky that claims to be spicy and really is, look elsewhere … better yet, look at our second-ranked pick.

Epic jerky
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10th: Epic Salt & Pepper Beef Bites

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Quite a mysterious texture on this one. While there’s definitely some chew, it’s simultaneously pretty easy to bite through. The flavor actually tastes like real salt and pepper and gives you the impression that you’re eating a real piece of dried beef rather than “jerky”. Epic also sizes their pieces pretty consistently, so if you’re fan of the chaotic “what shape am I going to get next” game that other jerky plays, you might be disappointed with the uniformity. (We’re not.)

Jack Links jerky
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9th: Jack Links Hickory Smoke

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There are some who might describe beef jerky as more of an activity than a food; something to chew on. If this person is you, and you’re okay with a meat stick that tastes like absolutely nothing, reach for Jack Links Hickory Smoke. It’s hefty and meaty, and as long as you don’t think about how similar it is to a dog treat, you’re in good shape.

Old Trapper jerky
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8th: Old Trapper Peppered

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Perhaps you’re in the midst of a road trip and you need something to snack on without wanting to think too hard about a brand, so reach for Old Trapper’s Peppered jerky. It’s tough, barky, seasoned with a good amount of pepper, and tears apart the way the most picturesque beef jerky does. It’ll scratch the itch.

Whole Foods jerky
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7th: 365 Whole Foods Market Teriyaki

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This barely tastes like teriyaki, which is potentially the best thing about it. We come to learn a lot of things when we put these taste tests together, and what we’ve learned here is that teriyaki is not a great flavor for beef jerky. Across the board, most teriyaki flavors taste like they’ve been drowned in a pineapple juice marinade. The Whole Foods Teriyaki isn’t drowned, though. Maybe it’s just taken a shower.

Whole Foods jerky
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6th: 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Original

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Sweeter than the Jack Links Original (our highest-rated original flavor), so those who lean away from smoke and toward sugar might flip these ratings. The 365 jerky has a great, middle-ground texture as well, somewhere between the animalistic tear of Old Trapper and the unsettling softness of Epic. Of all places, who’d have seen every Whole Foods jerky we tasted landing in the top 10? Not us.

Whole Foods jerky
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5th: 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Peppered

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Much like its approach to Teriyaki, Whole Foods is using quite the controlled hand in its seasoning. Does it taste like pepper? Barely — the flavor of Worcestershire is far stronger here. Does it provide more of a beefy flavor than the Original? Definitely. Is the standard Whole Foods Original flavor too sweet for you? Peppered is what you want.

Archer jerky
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4th: Country Archer Provisions Original

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Hello again, Country Archer. Nice to see you again up here at number 4, especially since your previous ranking was in the bottom three. Archer’s texture is a dream, providing jerky that satisfyingly rips apart without being too sinewy. Great chew, great earthiness, and not too sweet.

Jack Links jerky
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3rd: Jack Links Original

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Here’s the deal. Sure, a brand like Country Archer has jumped in on the jerky game later in life, and they’ve brought fancy packaging and cool branding, but the brand has forgotten one thing. The fact is, a lot of people buy jerky for more reasons than just to snack on dried meat. Many people buy jerky to be reminded of something, to tap into nostalgia. Think back to your first jerky experience; it was probably a lot like Jack Links. Tough, smoky, and toothsome, any craving for beef jerky as a concept (rather than a flavor) will be satisfied here.

Whole Foods jerky
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2nd: 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Hot & Spicy

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Well, look who didn’t hold back on the seasoning this time! This is spicy, friends, make no mistake. Giant pepper flakes serve as a warning to all intruders, but you know better than to mind them. The spiciness is crucial to this flavor — it’s what makes it work. Sized in long, flat, easy-to-manage options, it also provides a bonus of not setting your fingers on fire when you pick it up. Great flavor. Great job.

Country Archer jerky
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Best: Country Archer Provisions Zero-Sugar Mustard BBQ

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Not in twelve million years did we expect the single sugar-free flavor we tried to top the charts, but here we are. Not only is Archer Farms slinging the most unique one of all the flavors we tried, it’s the full umami experience. It starts off with garlic, and then there’s the clear mustard flavor, then some BBQ smokiness, and finally you realize it’s actually kind of spicy and delicious, and the more you chew it, the more the flavors build. This right here seems to be what jerky is all about. Is sugar a roadblock in the path towards true jerky excellence? It seems entirely possible.