Jerky is lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and then dried to prevent spoilage. Normally, this drying includes the addition of salt, to prevent bacteria from developing on the meat before sufficient moisture has been removed. The word "jerky" is a corruption of the Spanish charqui which is from the Quechua word ch'arki. which means to burn (meat). All that is needed to produce basic "jerky" is a low-temperature drying method, and salt to inhibit bacterial growth.

Modern manufactured jerky is normally marinated in a seasoned spice rub or liquid, and dried, dehydrated or smoked with low heat (usually under 70 °C/160 °F). Some makers still use just salt and sun-dry fresh sliced meat to make jerky. Some product manufacturers finely grind meat, mix in seasonings, and press the meat-paste into flat shapes prior to drying.

The resulting jerky from the above methods would be a salty and/or savory snack. However, often a sweet or semi-sweet recipe is used, with sugar being a major ingredient (in contrast to biltong which is a dried meat product that utilizes the acid in vinegar rather than salt to inhibit bacterial growth when drying the meat). Jerky is ready-to-eat and needs no additional preparation. It can be stored for months without refrigeration. When the protein to moisture content ratio is correct, the resulting meat is cured, or preserved.

There are many products in the marketplace which are sold as jerky which consist of highly processed, chopped and formed meat, rather than traditional sliced, whole-muscle meat. These products may contain more fat, but moisture content, like the whole-muscle product, must meet a 0.75 to 1 moisture to protein ratio in the US. Chemical preservatives can be used to prevent oxidative spoilage, but the moisture to protein ratio prevents microbial spoilage by low water activity. Many jerky products are very high in sugar and are therefore very sweet, unlike biltong, which rarely contains added sugars.

A typical 30 g portion of fresh jerky contains 10-15 g of protein, 1 g of fat, and 0-3 g of carbohydrates. Since traditional jerky recipes use a basic salt cure, sodium can be a concern for some people. A 30 g serving of jerky could contain more than 600 mg of sodium, which would be about 30% of the recommended USRDA.

Read more about Jerky:  Preparation, Packaging, Regulation, Availability

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