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How Jerky Went From Gas Station to Gourmet

How Jerky Went From Gas Station to Gourmet

Many of us have enjoyed the delicious food known as jerky in its various flavors and types. This food is loved by millions and makes a reliable snack and a great addition to a meal. The evolution of jerky from a simple food to a renowned treat has an interesting history that people will find delectable. 

What Is Jerky?

While jerky could be defined as dried meat, it’s more than that. Jerky is delectable and convenient, and its preserved nature makes it a popular choice for those wanting a delicious food that will last for a long time without spoiling.


The invention of jerky dates back as far as 1550 AD to a South American native tribe called the Quechua, who made the meat in this way to preserve it. The Quecha called this meat charqui, which translates to “dried meat.”

The Spanish Conquistadors saw this method and began using it to preserve their food. As time passed, more and more people learned of the Quecha’s method of drying meat for preservation. It eventually came to be called “jerky” since the word was so close to its original name.

Uses in the Past

Jerky quickly became a reliable food source when food became scarce, especially during harsh winters and hot summers when food would spoil and hunting wasn’t easy. The preservation of jerky helped settlers have food to turn to when they ran out of their usual supplies. Jerky became a part of the daily diet for some, such as pioneers and Native American tribes. It was a filling substance and a nutritious delight.

The Various Forms of Jerky

One of the reasons jerky became so popular was its variety. There are dozens of meats that you can make jerky from, including chicken, beef, or elk, to name a few. And many people enjoy having their favorite type of meat in a well-preserved form.

Each type of jerky has different health benefits. For example, turkey jerky has less fat and calories, while venison jerky is high in zinc and helps strengthen the immune system. The numerous options for jerky allow people to purchase and try new flavors. Regardless of the type, it’s hard not to enjoy dried meats with great flavor and taste.

Preparation Methods

All jerky comes from the thin meat of an animal that is later dried. However, people have developed various methods of preparing the meat using different resources to dry and add more taste to the meat. These led to the methods we use today to make delicious jerky, which make it possible to make jerky from almost anywhere.

Back in the Day

Centuries ago, tribes would let the wind dry the meat as it hung on racks, and many settlers would follow suit. Some people used the heat of the sun and smoke from fires to speed up the drying process and add a smokey flavor to the meat.

Salt was also a common ingredient used for preservation. When combined with the preservation process of cooking the jerky, it became a great way to preserve meat and add a little more flavor to the mix.

In Present Time

Eventually, people began to add spices to their jerky, improving the flavor immensely and opening doors for people to try new recipes. Various methods for preparation, such as adding marinade and letting the jerky lie in a mixture of spices before drying in a dehydrator, have become modern-day methods. Curing jerky is a more advanced form of salting with the addition of sugar, nitrites, and nitrates. These add a natural flavor to the meat and pull out the moisture through osmosis.

The Sale of Jerky

Many of us see jerky in various places, from the smallest corner store to the most popular butcher shop in the city. Jerky has allowed many people to profit, and its popularity is attributed to its rise from gas station food to gourmet. Given jerky’s longevity and notoriety, people have begun mass-producing the food and building companies based on its sale.

Businesses such as Lee’s Market Jerky see the value in jerky and supply many people with their delicious options. There are numerous types of jerky for sale in different shops worldwide, and many people rely on the food for travel, convenience, and good taste. 

Why Is Jerky So Common in Gas Stations?

While a gas station’s main purpose is refilling our cars’ fuel tanks, there are typically various snacks, such as jerky, inside the stores. Jerky will fulfill your hunger and satisfy your appetite on the road, so it makes a great addition to the stock of gas stations, which are known for convenience.

Jerky’s Rise to Fame in the Culinary World

Jerky has quickly gone from gas station to gourmet in a matter of decades in the culinary world due to various factors. Its extensive history of being a reliably preserved food source has made it a popular option among members of many communities, such as hunters, travelers, and doomsday preppers.

The popularity of jerky has made it a focus in the culinary world and given rise to different recipes to make it taste even better. The manufacturing of devices such as food dehydrators to dry jerky makes the process easier.

Uses in Gourmet Food

Gourmet food is a food or dish with excellent taste and appearance; jerky delivers a gourmet experience through various methods. You can use shredded jerky in foods and drinks as a garnish or ingredient to add flavor and protein. Gourmet dishes that require the meat of a certain animal, such as beef or chicken, benefit from the dried, spicy flavor that jerky offers. Many people use it to make unique dishes with contrasting flavors and textures. 

Many of us love jerky for the experience it brings to our taste buds, and it’s deserving of its popularity and culinary reputation. Whether you find it in your nearest gas station or a Michelin Star restaurant, jerky is a great food to try.

How Jerky Went From Gas Station to Gourmet
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