With more and more people I know doing the paleo diet—also known as the caveman diet—I've learned that a staple of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is jerky. A lot of jerky. It's lean, packed with protein, and really filling; in other words, the perfect snack. For this taste test, I decided to go with Oberto's All Natural jerky. According to the bag, it's minimally processed, with no artificial ingredients or preservatives—not always easy to find in the jerky world. Here's what I think after weeks of eating seven different flavors of dried meat:
Spicy Sweet Beef Jerky
I liked the sound of this one before trying it—and even more so after eating it. It hit the ideal level between tender and tough you want in jerky, and definitely skewed more spicy than sweet, with a lingering heat--no surprise, since there was a pile of crushed red pepper flakes at the bottom of the bag. The sweetness was subtle, unlike the teriyaki versions.
Rating: 1. The proof was in the empty bag—it's the only flavor I completely finished.
BBQ Seasoned Pork Jerky
This is almost like BBQ ribs without the mess. The only pork version in the bunch, it was smoky and rich in flavor—and felt like more of a forbidden treat than the others (likely because it was pork and not beef). My one complaint is that it was a bit dry, but not enough to make me put down the bag.
Rating: 2, for tasting as close to ribs as jerky can get.
Original Beef Jerky
Sometimes no fuss just works. This was also on the drier side, but I liked the simplicity. It was not too sweet, and had a slight kick at the end that lingered, but was less pronounced than the Spicy Sweet.
Rating: 3, for being just plain good.
Teriyaki Beef Jerky
The first thing I noticed about this flavor was its tenderness. It was easy to break apart with my teeth or into smaller pieces with my hands, and even easier to chew. The natural smoke flavor touted on the bag didn't really come across, yet I didn't really miss it. The jerky was tangy and sweet and a lot less salty that I expected.
Rating: 4. Despite being the most tender, it started tasting too sweet the more I ate it.
Teriyaki Turkey Jerky
The only turkey variety in the group was really tough and dry, which came as no surprise since regular turkey meat can be the same. Interestingly enough, the nutritional statistics were equal to the beef teriyaki (80 calories per serving, 1 gram fat), but had more sugar, sodium, and cholesterol. Because of the lighter color, I could actually see the flecks of spices on the surface. It was a little sweeter than the beef version (thanks to brown sugar and sugar), and again, I didn't really taste the natural smoke flavor.
Rating: 5, for being too tough and too sweet.
Peppered Beef Jerky
Despite not smelling overwhelmingly like pepper, this flavor was incredibly overpowering—as if a waiter came around and gave the grinder one (or ten) turns too many. I happen to love fresh ground pepper, and this was too much for me. My mouth burned long after I finished chewing. On the plus side, it's close to the top on the tender scale.
Rating: 6 (tie), for being too pepper-y.
Applewood Smoked Bacon Jerky
It looks like bacon, it smells like bacon, and it tastes like bacon—if you like it chewy and room temperature. But after a few bites, I decided I prefer mine hot and sizzling and next to some scrambled eggs. However, my savvy co-worker pointed out that these would be great for sandwiches when you you don't have time or are too lazy to cook the bacon. Despite being the least healthy—almost double the calories and eight times more fat per serving—it's actually made with the least amount of ingredients: just water, sea salt, sugar, and "natural flavoring."
Rating: 6 (tie). I want my bacon crispy and hot, and I don't really make sandwiches, unless they're peanut butter and jelly.