It was only a matter of time before Oberto and Jack Links got into the artisan jerky market. Enter Jack Links Small Batch original No 11. Hailing out of the Jerky capital of Minong WI, this is promoted as Handcrafted* Beef Jerky. I was curious what this Jerky king pin would produce in it’s small batch line-up. The first thing I noticed is there is no window on the package but it has a picture that looks like the jerky contents. What is hiding inside? The next thing I did was scour the package for the explanation of Handcrafted* which is explained as “Authentically prepared & Hand Selected”. Which made me wonder if they pick out the pieces to include as they are running by on the conveyor belt or if they only “hand select” the rejects. I’ll wait to hear from Jack links on that one. In the mean-time I will imagine Lucy on the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory.
But when I opened the package I was delightfully greeted by a handful of jerky sticks. These pieces are the approximate size of a No 2 pencil sharpened to half its length. These have a strong smoke smell and the texture is dry to the fingers. As you take a bite off the stick you get an explosion of smoke flavor in your mouth. You will also notice the end of the stick is noticeably redder than the outside of the jerky indicative of a smoke layer in the meat. The package points out this jerky is slowly smoked in a traditional smokehouse which likely accounts for the red color and intense flavor. The other thing that hits your palate is salt. The sodium content is very high in this “early recipe”.
Eating this jerky is more like eating a Slim-Jim type snack stick (without the oozing fat and odd animal knuckles). No fat or knuckles here just a lot of chewy meat flavor. This is not a sugary snack with only 2 carbs per ounce, but what you lose in sugar, you pickup in salt with a whopping 670 mg of sodium per serving. This offering from Jack Links cost a little more but is still in the upper mid-range for jerky coming in at $2.80 an ounce (Apr. 2015).
I was pleasantly surprised with this big-production product expecting gas-station bland or tough but instead it is a solid 4-Flavor, 3-Chew, 3-Value, 2-Heat, 5-Sodium jerky landing an overall score of 2.5. If you are in the store and see the Jack Links display grab a bag of the Small Batch jerky you wont be disappointed.