One thing my friends know about me is that I love cured meat. All meat, actually, but salted animal flesh in particular calls to me. On a typical night out, my go-to prep is a beef stick and a Sugarfree Red Bull. Call me crazy, but I’ll be the one laughing when you’re weakened by your low-protein snack choices and sugar crash.
So, friends, I offer you completely biased reviews of any beef stick/jerky that I can get my grubby little hands on. And I’m going to tell you how they stack up. Not who has the best coupons. Not which stick will look best on my mantle. But which one gets into my guts and makes my gastric juices gush. Ew.
First up, Tillamook Country Smoker Beef Sticks.
As a convenience store beef stick connoisseur, I’ve sampled many over the past years and Tillamook Country Smoker is no stranger. Often sold in the pick-your-own containers by a gas station entrance, I happened upon this 20-count number on a trip to Fleet Farm.
We had to make a stop for fishing licenses and heavy duty gloves because my boyfriend was taking me to Lake Mille Lacs to trap crayfish; we were unsure of what my level of involvement would be in this endeavor, but might as well be prepared. I’ve always had a fondness for Fleet Farm stemming from trips with my old man when I was a kid. We’d always pick up a one-pound bag of Twizzlers and sometimes some jerky (before my ill-advised, ten year stint as a vegetarian), and snack on the way home. So, in the interest of tradition, I picked up a bag of Twizzlers and this can of sticks (along with a license, gloves, a snorkel, and some Tater Skins). Ready to rock-n-roll.
We make it to Mille Lacs an hour and a half later with snacks, traps, and Budweiser in tow and scamper down to the spot. Under no conditions can I reveal this spot, but I can tell you that there was no poison ivy this year. I settle on a rock, Joe gets comfortable in his socks, and business begins. There’s a lot of prep that goes into setting up the traps, but mostly I remember that the chicken wire WILL puncture aluminum, and you’ll end up drinking that Budweiser like a shotgunned beer that’s been bit by a very small viper. After a mild coaxing through algae ridden water and over zebra musseled rocks, I took a swim for a bit, tried to visit with a duck (she wasn’t into it) and stood with my head high as I watched two eagles practice their aerial acrobatics.
With some activity under my belt, the need to feed took its turn, and I headed back to shore to sink my teeth in. Hello, my little beef stick friend. So, we begin.
**This, and all future reviews, will be HEAVILY influenced by my mood and hunger status at time of review.**
Tillamook Country Smoker Beef Sticks: 3.5/5
I’m trying to figure out how to go about ratings, but I’m going on a 5-point scale, with ratings determined based on an average of:
- Price (which only really matters when I find it to be a Screamin’ Deal ©Beth Wogen)
Lookswise, this stick has got what I am looking for. Like one of those hanging salamis in an Italian deli, it’s been dried and its skin has a delightful wrinkle. I am somewhat biased to this look, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like a beef stick that’s taut. Rather than have its ends cut flat, Tillamook Country Smoker keeps these guys looking fresh from the link, which I appreciate. There’s just something about those puckered little tips.
The stick itself is all beef, with no other meat influences. The ingredient list is relatively small, and I can pronounce everything; if I don’t know what it is, I’m pretty sure it can be explained by the curing process. My little friend MSG is in there, too. Now, monosodium glutamate has a bad rap, and if your denying yourself because of an MSG-sensitivity, you don’t know how to live. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but just maybe it’s not the MSG that’s making you feel bad, but the fact you just shoved a full quart of shrimp fried rice into your gullet.
Obviously, the eating experience was influenced by the warm sun, well placed rocks, beer, and a cute boy to my right. I’ve been over this, so we’ll go right to what really matters.
Tillamook Country Smoker makes a pretty decent beef stick to be sold in a 20-count container for $9.89 at my local Fleet Farm. It’s got a good, meaty taste that’s more in the local farm style of stick rather than your average mass-produced 2/$1.50 variety. Spice-wise, I find it rather mild with a hint of sweetness, but nothing near cloying. Biting into it, you get a good resistance, but the skin doesn’t snap when you take a good gnaw.
In general, I wish this stick had a larger flavor. It’s pleasant when it hits the lips, but forgettable once swallowed. There is no lasting greasy aftertaste, which is a plus, but I’m a little put off by the oxygen absorbing packet that comes in the container with the sticks–just like a new pair of shoes! I understand the point of it (thank you, mold inhibitor), and if you’re feeling a little down on yourself for buying twenty beef sticks at a time, it’s nice to know that Tillamook Country Smoker has the faith that you’ll have them around long enough to necessitate such a packet. I mean, they’re wrong, but I appreciate the benefit of the doubt.
Overall, I’ve given the Tillamook Country Smoker beef stick a 3.5/5 rating. It’s not remarkable, but it certainly isn’t the worst stick in the world, and I allowed for 0.5 point bump due to the $0.50/stick price. Ultimately, this stick has set a pretty solid middle-of-the-road standard; it’s only up (or down) from here.