Food Network Unwrapped

October 09, 2007 11:30 PM ET/PT
October 10, 2007 2:30 AM ET/PT

Wild, Wild West
Yee haw! Saddle up, because on this episode of Unwrapped, we’re taking a trip back to the old West. Visit a wild west town in Illinois, see how whiskey is made and learn the jerky secrets to smoked meats…

Oregon Live

Gary West Jr. started his jerky business back in 1966 with his dad’s recipe for elk jerky. Now son-in-law Paul Murdoch, who left a career in the computer industry, watches over things and keeps the beef strips coming when, for instance, the New York Times proclaims it second-best jerky in the nation (July 2007). We loved not just the “traditional” beef flavor strips, made from Country Natural Beef, but the sweet, meaty buffalo strips. Murdoch, an avid paraglider who grew up in Jacksonville, hopes to build a new plant and move his factory and tasting room close to Rogue Creamery in the next year or two.

As for how to eat a meat strip, he recommends slicing it on the diagonal, and washing it down with an ice cold Caldera IPA or Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale.

Gary West Meats, 690 N. Fifth St.,


1st place field and Stream taste test 2010

The F&S; Beef Jerky Blind Taste Test

Brand: Gary West Smoked Meats (also avaible at Cabela’s)
Tasting Panel’s Remarks Hits: Good balance of salty and sweet… Excellent. Perfect pitch… Best all around…
Misses: Great, except it could have had a bit more flavor…
Score (out of 50 possible points in each category)
Texture: 39
Quality of Meat: 40
Taste: 37
Votes for Overall Favorite Jerky: 2 (20 bonus points)
Total Score: 136

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Beef Jerky Bouquet

Finally, a bouquet for dad. Gary West Smoked Meats of Jacksonville, Oregon offers a three-quarters-of-a-pound Beef Jerky Bouquet made from one dozen tissue-wrapped Long-Stemmed Steak Strips packed in a traditional flower box. Mix and match Cajun, Teriyaki, traditional and black pepper. $35.

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Sally Bernstein


Gary West  Meats Silver Fork Natural Steak For reasons unclear to me, a good deal of jerky is made in Oregon, but this is some of the best I’ve tried anywhere. It’s not too spicy or too desiccated, it’s a little moister than most jerky, and it contains no hormones, antibiotics, steroids or added nitrites. But this small business has a lot more to offer than just one kind of steak jerky! You can find their Buffalo and Elk Jerky, Certified Angus Beef Jerky, jerky for your favorite canine, and smoked meats (turkey and ham).  A surprising number of other specialty foods are packed into this shop, and many are very good (Barry Kepner’s Ooga Booga Sauce can be purchased here, among others, and Sarah Jo’s caramels are a must-have). If you can’t get to the store, at 690 North 5th Street in Jacksonville, you can order many items online.



I had the opportunity to sample jerky from Gary West ( at the recent San Francisco Fancy Food Show (more reviews to come).

This jerky has probably the cleanest meaty flavor of any regular jerky I have tried yet,  there is no hint of the synthetic processed taste that I often find in most commercial jerky.

They do several flavors, Traditional, Cracked Black Pepper, Cajun, and Teriyaki in their beef jerky.  They also have a line of buffalo and elk jerky, which is wonderful.

Most interesting and tasty of all however is the “Silver Fork Natural” product line, with beef, buffalo, and elk all available.  It uses an all natural cure, with no nitrites or artificial preservatives added.  The flavor is wonderful, pure intensely meaty flavor and it really allows the marinade flavor with the salt, pepper and brown sugar to come through.  I personally love the elk and buffalo, as the flavor was intense and bold, and these are meats we don’t see too often on tables in the San Francisco bay area.

While it is not a food product I eat very often, I do enjoy it occasionally (it’s something of a guilty pleasure), for the flavor and texture, and I would definitely look for this brand when purchasing jerky, especially the naturally cured versions.

Gary West is located in Jacksonville, Oregon, and they do apparently have a tasting room.  Jacksonville is near the Oregon – California border, not far from Ashland, Oregon.  The company also has a line of smoked meats, such as ham and turkey, which I have not tried.