Top Pick Of The Week

October 4, 2005

. .

gary west gourmet jerky
The next time friends come over for a microbrew, serve them
tender, moist and utterly delicious buffalo strips from Gary West.
Soon they’ll be singing, “Give me a home where the buffalo
roam,” and heading to your computer to order their own supply.
At 60 calories an ounce and 99% fat-free, you’ve saved enough
calories over chips and peanuts to have another beer!

Give Us a Home Where These Buffalo Strips Roam

We don’t want to call this jerky. The word jerky calls to mind terms like “dry,” “leathery,” and “convenience store check-out counter.” When we think of Gary West’s Buffalo Strips, words like “tasty” and “gourmet” fill our brains while we try to remember if there’s any left, and where. The company makes beef and elk strips—also very yummy—but if we had to choose one, the buffalo strips are the most tender and sweet (counterintuitive, we know).

If you’ve never had jerky—or if your jerky experience has you running in the opposite direction—rest assured that Gary West is the zenith of the genre. Tasters at THE NIBBLE™ who tried to phone in sick on Gary West Jerky Tasting Day ended up snitching the last pieces from the table, and then surreptitiously placed their own personal orders.  Yes, The Gary West Jerky Experience is one that everybody who eats meat should have—and the sooner, the better.

It isn’t a huge surprise that Gary West would create jerky that foodies clamor for. The West family has called Oregon home for more than 150 years. In 1966, when Gary West and son Gary Jr. decided to create an artisan smoked meat company, they used methods of preparation much the same as their great-grandfolks used out on the Oregon Trail. When Gary West Jr.’s daughter Whitney Murdoch and her husband Paul bought the company in 2002, they made a point of continuing to run it as a family business. The result: products that taste homemade—or at least, the kind of homemade you’d create if you had a smokehouse out back.

Strips of top quality meat are slowly cooked over hickory chips, imparting a rich and smooth smokiness. Buffalo tastes very much like beef, so the basic flavor is familiar. While you’d think that smoked meat strips would taste straightforward, the flavors are delicate and complex, balancing a zesty, peppery bite with a more mellow caramelized sweetness from a bit of brown sugar. The process leaves in enough of the natural juices so that the meat is moist and tender—comparatively speaking (it’s still jerky, not filet mignon). This is jerky you can sink your teeth into, not jerky that gives your choppers a ride.

The ingredients are simply meat, brown sugar, salt, pepper, water, and sodium nitrate as a preservative. No refrigeration is required—which is one reason why it’s a great product to keep in the cabinet for snacks and emergencies (see below). The meat itself is all natural: the animals are antibiotic- and hormone-free.

Even with the bit of brown sugar and the condensation from smoking, the buffalo strips weigh in at 60 calories an ounce—about the same as plain lean hamburger or steak—and are 99% fat-free (which can’t be said for the latter).

The artisanal preparation results in strips of meat so fine that, barring visions of campers, hikers, and others who bite off chunks or tear off pieces with their bare hands, you could put this meat on the good china and eat it with a knife and fork. In fact, we recently presented it to some of the country’s top food writers, mixed into a gourmet pasta salad, tossed with a vinaigrette and served in martini glasses.

Here are some of the other ways we’ve been enjoying this gourmet jerky:

  • At the home and office, for healthy snacking.  Given the choice of candy, chips or some 100% protein that tastes even better, which would you choose?
  • Snacking in the car. Why stop for fast food when you can have all-natural, 99% fat-free delicious meat? (The elk is 98% fat-free, the beef is 96% fat-free.)
  • In the kids’ lunch box.  (Well, we didn’t enjoy it there, but they sure did.)
  • With a beer.  Great combo! See the caption under the photo above for what went down.
  • On pizza. Much more flavorful than meatballs, none of the fat of pepperoni.
  • Whipping up impressive dishes in a pinch. When there was “nothing to eat,” we sliced the jerky on top of eggs, pasta, and toast (the latter with LuLu’s Garlic Aïoli), and “nothing” became quite the tasty meal.
  • Impressing our gourmet friends in a “stump the chumps*” challenge. It’s a game we play in our gourmet food and wine circle: “Can you guess what this is?” On different occasions we served the buffalo jerky with polenta, in a risotto, in potato skins as an hors d’oeuvre (we called it “meat and potatoes” in an homage to the witty uber-chef Thomas Keller), and with beautiful tricolored cigarillo-shaped pasta. People guessed “caramelized beef” and “short ribs,” but no one came close to “jerky” or “buffalo.”

*Our friends aren’t chumps, but we all like trying to stump each other and like the fun, rhyming name.

As the last illustration should convince you, Gary West Buffalo Strips bear no relation to the tough, chewy meat that may exist in your jerky frame of reference. High in flavor, negligible in fat, we can’t imagine a meat-eater who won’t have a good time with them.

Thus, think gifts: host and hostess gifts, holiday gifts, birthday gifts, whatever gifts. But we must warn you: after trying them yourself, you may become a hopeless GWJA (Gary West Jerky Addict), stashing packets in your pockets, desk drawers, gym bag, glove compartment, and places too numerous to list in one small newsletter.

—Karen Hochman


Gourmet Smoked Meat Strips

  • Buffalo Strips
    12 Ounces
  • Buffalo, Beef & Elk Sampler
    4 Ounces of  Each
  • An assortment of gift packages
    is available

Shipping additional. Prices and flavor
availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Purchase online at


  Jerky in Pot

Fill your pot, saddlebag, backpack, or briefcase with Gary
tasty buffalo strips. You can slice them onto
sandwiches, into pasta or eggs...or simply twist off a piece
and pop it into your mouth, as jerky was made for.

More sweet and tender than beef or elk?  We must say yes:
these buffalo get our vote for Most Tasty, in a highly competitive

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to all of your meat-loving friends.

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