Taking Jerky to Another Level!

By Kent “The Deck Chef” Whitaker

 As some of my friends will tell you… I’m kind of a jerky freak. I’m a sucker for a good bag of jerky especially if it has a different take on flavor as are many of my grilling and barbecue buddies. Jerky that leans towards barbecue, or international flavorings, are right in my wheel house. That’s why an email from Ricky Hirsch, of Think Jerky, jumped out at me when he mentioned his Chef developed flavors! But that’s not really what captured my attention.

“Kent, my jerky is packed with flavor from real chefs,” Hirsch told me. “It’s protein-rich and all natural, containing no glutens, hormones nor antibiotics!” My first response was that I hoped that the flavor was not sucked out of the jerky as you find with foods that are developed to appeal to my healthier side. Thank goodness that was a concern of Hirsch’s as well. His reply to me was, “Kent, think healthy, think delicious, think jerky!” He had me at “Think Jerky!”

Why this is a BBQ Story!
I know some of you may be wondering why I chose to write about jerky in my column in the National Barbecue News (NBN). One, we all love jerky. And two, Hirsch has a great idea in reaching out to food professionals, as many NBN readers are. Almost all of us are looking to turn a competition hobby into a business. I think one way to do this to look outside of the box… the “fire box” in this instance.

Hirsch reached out to the culinary community to set his flavors apart. I think we all get stuck in a rut with the same old recipes and barbecue flavors. I also like Hirsch’s move towards fresh and all natural approach. I see more barbecue and grilling enthusiasts moving this way as well. Especially with today’s younger generation of backyard chefs. Hirsch provides a lesson of identifying a market that many of my friends developing sauces, rubs, and grilling products should think about.

Back To Jerky!
After chatting with Hirsch, I realized that I needed to taste his new Jerky! He was happy to oblige and sent a few samples my way. My wife Ally is more of a jerky snob than I am so I let her have the honors with the first taste.  Then came my test, followed by our son ARMY strong Sgt. son who was back in town from of “blowing stuff up for the USA,” … as he says. I didn’t tell either of my fellow tasters that the chef developed flavor should be noticeable as compared to other brands.

Here’s why — Hirsch has partnered with some pretty awesome chefs in his search for great taste! Laurent Gras, awarded three Michelin stars while chef at L20. How about James Beard award winning Gale Gand (Food Network, Tru, and SpritzBurger.) And let’s not forget Chicago Baconfest champion Matt Troost of (Three Aces, Charlatan.) Here’s the current lineup of flavors in single serving 1.5 ounce packages. Sriracha Honey, Ginger Orange, Sweet Chipotle, and Thanksgiving.
The results from the Whitaker family taste test? Thumbs Up! The jerky had, as promised, amazing flavor! We all loved the Ginger Orange but all of the samples were far beyond any jerky we’ve tried. And, the texture was amazing with seasonings you could see. Not just some tough meat flavored with chemicals and mystery spices then cut into uniform pieces.

Currently Hirsch is working on expanding his number of retailers while keeping his eye on healthy, quality, and of course flavor. “Jerky is a hot product these days because people are seeking protein-rich natural snacks,” said Hirsch. “Unfortunately, the jerky market is dominated by just a few producers who don’t create a premium product. Besides creating a healthy and delicious jerky, I wanted to create a company that maintained the integrity of the word ‘chef’, said Hirsch.
The details of Think Jerky’s Kickstarter campaign, including products and packaging, can be found at www.thinkjerky.com. Also check out the video presentation that explains the philosophy of Think Jerky and how they source their ingredients, create recipes and manufacture their products.

Kent Whitaker is the author of eight cookbooks, ranging from hometown cooking with a culinary history twist to titles for NASCAR tailgating and barbecue. He has also written and illustrated two books for children, is a trained USCG AUXCHEF, and is the winner of the Emeril Live / Food Network Barbecue Contest. His latest book, Bullets and Bread,  is in bookstores nationally and is also available online at www.thedeckchef.com, as well as at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.


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