The Inland Empire is a hot spot for beef jerky lovers, with numerous leading brands calling Riverside and San Bernardino counties their home for this tasty snack! Jerky purveyors know that this meaty goodness is not an occasional food- it’s an obsession! We’ve tasted all of the major beef jerky brands in the region and have a full report for you on the best beef jerky in the Inland Empire!
- Country Archer in Grand Terrace
Have you heard of the famous Inland Empire jerky brand Enjoy? Charlie, the former owner and founder of Country Archer, worked for decades as a butcher alongside what would become the founder of Enjoy. While Enjoy is distributed far and wide, Country Archer is rightly proud of their focus on quality, despite (or, perhaps, because of) their small size.
Eugene, the new owner, promises that you’ve tasted this jerky before. If you’ve tried two of the retail locations in this article, you’ve tasted Country Archer (one is revealed in this article). This small industry is known for private labeling, meaning you may not realize that Country Archer is behind the jerky you’ve devoured.
In order to sell jerky, a jerky maker must cook in a USDA inspected facility, and there are only a handful in this region. Country Archer’s facility in Grand Terrace is one of those facilities.
If you’re looking to buy some Country Archer jerky, you’ll find it in 3 oz. and, occasionally, 1.5 oz packages. Generally, this brand is found at convenience stores and liquor stores throughout the Inland Empire, Southern California and beyond. Eugene tells us you’ll soon find this distributed widely at markets in Southern California.
Made in Grand Terrace (between the cities of Riverside and San Bernardino), Country Archer currently has no retail company store. However, Eugene tells us that may be changing once the company moves to a new location (also in Grand Terrace) in 2013.
Each flavor hits the mark exactly as you would expect. These thick cuts of moist steak are available in teriyaki, the #1 seller, though we’re told that sweet and spicy may soon eclipse teriyaki. We also loved the peppered and hot flavors. They also offer turkey jerky – a great, healthy alternative. Most importantly, there are no nitrates, no preservatives and no MSG. Country Archer focuses on quality, and it shows.
“Green Spot,” as fans call it, is not your average liquor store. The location of this jerky hot spot could not be more perfect- the last bit of civilization before you head up the long, scenic, back road (Highway 38) to Big Bear. With a 45 mile, one hour drive ahead of you, what else could you want in the car with you but a brown paper bag of Green Spot jerky?
This jerky does not come cheaply. At $38 per pound ($2.38 per once), this jerky will leave a mark on your wallet, though you get what you pay for. This stuff is to die for.
In addition to the wide selection of brews and snacks, this place is also perfect for its wide variety of jerky options. From Green Spot Original to Hot and Good, Terikayi Brisket or Smoked Old Fashioned, you’ll find exactly what you want!
The only downside of Green Spot is that the jerky is sold in paper bags. In the rare instance you don’t finish your Green Spot before you get home, you will find that these precious cuts of meat will go stale within two to three days at most. A ziplock bag will add an extra few days, but don’t expect this to stay until winter.
The scenic route to Big Bear never seemed so tasty! This place keeps a low profile, with no website or Facebook. Check out more information on Yelp, then visit them at their store – 2402 Mill Creek Rd, Mentone, CA 92359. They usually close by 9 p.m. or so.
- Jeff’s Famous Jerky in Big Bear
Although their “corporate” jerky store is located in Big Bear, you can find their jerky at many retail locations in the Inland Empire and 30 states, including Alaska and the territory of Guam. In the metro IE, check out Stafford’s Orchards in Mentone, Redland’s Ford at their Parts Store and West of Texas in Redlands. They’re even sold at Sam’s Club, which sells mostly big, corporate jerky that won’t excite your imagination like this will.
Their Black Pepper and Sea Salt flavor won 1st place in a 64 brand jerky tasting competition. Their Orange-A-Peel was also in the top 4, with Cranberry Jalapeno winning 1st place in another competition last year. Yet another competition named Habanero Heatwave the Best Product of 2012. We loved all of the flavors, though the Jalapeno Carne Asada should not be missed!
The real standout for Jeff’s is their bacon jerky, which has a surprisingly savory sweet taste. This product is made from real, thick strips of bacon coated in what appears to be brown sugar. Yum! Jeff is passionate about his bacon- something we give a big thumbs up to!
For more information, visit Jeff’s retail store in Big Bear, located in the Big Bear Village – 40794 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake, California 92315, or visit Jeff’s website at jeffsgourmetjerky.com!
To buy Jeff’s Famous jerky online, check out their official store for all their flavors!
Consistency, consistency, consistency, insists Sue Boyd of Carnivore Candy. She wasn’t kidding- we tried each and every flavor, and found not a single bad batch or bad flavor.
Based in Colton, Carnivore Candy is a brand name used by Boyd Specialties, which operates a facility inspected daily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Colton. The restrictions placed on commercially made jerky are pretty exacting, Sue tells us. Notably, you must heat the jerky at a certain temperature, which of course can raise the risk of creating dry, boring jerky. They seem to have mastered this art, as each package had the right texture and moistness. Notably absent were any jerky flavors that were dry or had ingredients falling off the jerky.
Despite selling jerky commercially, this company is glad to help out the home jerky makers, as that is where they started. Check out the guide online for how to make jerky.
- Golden Island Jerky – Rancho Cucamonga
Golden Island is the nation’s leading producer of gourmet jerky products, and happens to be based right here in the Inland Empire (Rancho Cucamonga). With more than 60 years of specialty meat experience, Golden Island produces more than 20 gourmet varieties, inspired by bold and exotic flavors from around the world.
Golden Island prides itself on its proprietary cooking and marinating process in which they kettle cook their beef and flame grill their pork jerky in small batches with no preservatives.
The company is also notable for its health conscious outlook, packing up to 8 grams of protein in each serving and using 40-60% less sodium than most other jerkies.
We tried their top sellers and were big fans of their kettle cooked beef jerky, especially the Mandarin orange (gluten free), as well as the hickory black pepper and chili lime. You’ll find that this jerky has a soft mouth feel- never dry and never tough to tear apart. We noticed an Asian-inspired flavor profile as well.
Keep an eye out for new flavors, as Golden Island’s state-of-the-art test kitchen spearheads experimentation with new flavors, spices and ingredients from all over the world.
Other IE Jerky Makers:
- Alien Jerky – Baker (on the way to and from Vegas) – See other reviews here and here.
Nine’s Ranch – Murrieta
- Temecula House of Jerky – Retail location in Temecula; jerky made in the Mid-West.
- Enjoy Brand – Major national brand based in Fontana.
- Divine Bovine – Palm Desert.
Outside the IE:
- People’s Choice in Los Angeles – No retail store.