If you ever spent any time watching the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network (now in syndication on Cooking Channel), you may remember a segment in the “Salty Goodness”-themed episode featuring renowned Cleveland chef Michael Symon waxing poetic about a very special smoked meat shop in the city’s West Side Market called J&J Czuchraj (pronounced choo-cray) Meats. In business since 1954, it house-smokes all of its meat, selling offerings including kielbasa, smoked Slovenian sausage, knockwurst, and skinny “smokies” in a variety of flavors. Though we’re sure they’re all spectacular, there’s one thing that Symon singles out for praise: the beef jerky.
In the segment, Symon goes into detail about how the jerky is made: Lean brisket is hand-sliced into strips, marinated in spices and seasonings, then slow-smoked over hickory until it’s tender, chewy, and perfectly smoky. After happening upon the episode once again a couple weeks ago, I finally caved and ordered a batch of the mild beef jerky from the website. It’s also available in hot, peppered, ghost pepper, BBQ Sweet Heat beef, bacon, Buffalo chicken, and teriyaki turkey jerky.
Good lord, chef Symon, I can’t thank you enough for the recommendation.
This jerky is made up of large strips of beef, and it’s so redolent of smoke that as soon as you open the bag it smells like someone’s making barbecue in your house. In fact, this stuff is so good I have a hard time calling it jerky at all: While it’s chewy and definitely requires some tug to bite, its robust smokiness, moistness, and seasoning blend (which includes teriyaki, garlic, and plenty of other spices) almost makes it a cross between jerky and barbecue. It’s salty, smoky, chewy, beefy, and absolutely packed with flavor, and if you have even a remote interest in beef jerky, I can’t recommend it enough. This is a handmade, artisanal product, and doesn’t even remotely hold a candle to the packaged kind you’ll find at the supermarket.
I apologize in advance for completely spoiling you for jerky for the rest of your life, but why settle for mediocre when you can have the absolute best shipped to your front door? One word of advice, however: You’re going to want to buy a couple packages, because that first pound is going to disappear a lot faster than you think.
Still not swayed? Watch the video here.