Time to separate the jerky from the jerks.

Every once in a while, we like to put our writers to the test and ensure that they keep those keen food criticism skills sharpened. After all, you never know when the next fast-food flavor of the month will drop…

OK, fine. We do know that they drop every month, but I bet even all you smarty-pantses out there would struggle with this challenge. It’s called Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check and involves a team of our food reviewers tasting two food products that are alike in every way except for price and presumably quality.

▼ This episode’s lineup

In this episode, our crew will put their reputations on the line to see if they can pick out the more finely crafted beef jerky. Beef jerky often isn’t associated with haute cuisine as much as it is a snack with beer or while hiking. But much like anything else from jelly to potatoes, there’s always room to make something exquisite when food is involved.

As proof of that, we have Yamagata Prefecture Kuroge Wagyu Beef Jerky. Crafted from the Japanese Black breed of wagyu in the bountiful nature of Yamagata, a single 30-gram (1-ounce) pack of this jerky will set you back 648 yen ($4.37). It certainly sounds good, but most beef jerky eaters are probably more familiar with the Top Valu (Aeon store brand) 10-gram (0.35 ounce) pack of beef jerky for 100 yen ($0.67) which is made with 100-percent New Zealand beef.

And speaking of “beef jerky eaters,” among our panel of contestants, there’s a fair disparity among those who often eat beef jerky, rarely eat it, or even have never eaten it in their life. It will be interesting to see if experience acts as a boon or a bane in this installment of Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check.

Remember, the writers are NOT being asked to select their favorite of the two when they take a blind tasting of each. Instead, they must draw on their experience with fine dining to determine which one is the more purportedly painstakingly produced product on the plate.

So, without further ado, let’s hear from our writers, who had to pick which of the two jerkies they were served, A or B, was the premium one.

P.K. Sanjun: “B”

P.K.: “I’m totally confused, but I wonder if it’s A? When comparing the two, B definitely has less salt and flavor. I wasn’t so impressed with A, but it had a kind of foreign taste that I’ve known for a while. So… Could that mean? If B is from Yamagata Prefecture, then it must be the expensive one? Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, yes. I’m going with B. Honestly, I like A better, but B felt like something I’ve never eaten before. B doesn’t feel like a foreign taste!”

Go Hatori: “A”

Go: “I really don’t like beef jerky all that much, and I almost never eat it…but wait a second, this is pretty delicious. It’s kind of like corned beef… Anyway, my answer is A. A was more delicious. It had a strong taste of beef and was delicious, but B’s flavor felt kind of off. At least, it didn’t remind me of corned beef. This is a bit of an exaggeration but B is like an instant ramen ingredient and A is like corned beef.”

Seiji Nakazawa: “A”

Seiji: “I don’t think I’ve eaten beef jerky once in my life. Boy, this is hard. This is a long shot, but I think A? The more I chewed on A, the more the flavor came out and it was a beefy flavor. B was hard to chew at first and there wasn’t much flavor. The taste of the seasonings wasn’t very good. On the other hand, the taste of A changed as I chewed and with more of the meat flavor coming out. I don’t know anything about this stuff, but I think it’s A.”

Ahiruneko: “A”

Ahiruneko: “I’m not trying to make excuses, but I think I have a bit of a cold. I don’t eat beef jerky much either. Hahhhhhh… The tastes are different, but which one is more expensive? Could it be A? B has a weaker taste and feels like a derivative of A. This might just be my stuffy nose talking, but B tasted a bit like that old squid candy. A was delicious, so I’ll go with A.”

Masanuki Sunakoma: “A”

Masanuki: “I always used to eat the beef jerky with a Tengu on the package. At first, I thought A was the cheaper one because it didn’t taste as good. But then I had B, and it was even weaker tasting. I don’t think A was especially good beef jerky, but it was still better than B in terms of taste and aroma. B was so bad that I was a little disappointed in it. Whoever made B should try harder.”

Mr. Sato: “A”

Mr. Sato: “I don’t eat beef jerky all that much. Hmmm, I can’t tell by only eating A. Oh, B is totally different. Ohhhhhhhhhkay, I think I got it… I think it’s probably A. A had a prominent meaty feeling but B had almost no flavor, even when I chewed it. Even after eating A, the drop in quality is really steep. A is the one I’d pay for. B just felt like sluppin sluppin. I could be wrong though…”

*Editors Note: We have no idea what Mr. Sato means by “sluppin sluppin” and we are sorry.

Yoshio: “B”

Yoshio: “I always get beef jerky from Costco and eat it up. Whelp, the expensive one is B. In B, the flavor of the meat really came out and lingered in my mouth. On that same note, the flavor of the meat in A doesn’t last. I’m exaggerating a bit, but A is more like something you get from a candy store. B had a stronger taste and for about a tenth of a second longer. Yeah, this was a really good one!”

Yoshio’s certainty supported by experience with beef jerky is hard to deny. On the other hand, it should be noted that he has been this year’s worst performer at Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check and the only writer with sub-50-percent accuracy. However, on a third mutant hand, he also has the backing of this year’s leading writer in P.K. who boasts an 80-percent hit rate.

Together the best and the worst of Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check are up against everyone else as they gather in the officer to hear that the more expensive beef jerky is, in fact…


It looks like when it comes to distinguishing quality, experience really is the best teacher. Our less-jerky-inclined writers seem to have been taken in by the flavorful seasonings of the Top Valu brand while our winners realized that it’s all about the meat itself. As a result, Yoshio has managed to claw himself back up to 50 percent.

Let’s see how everyone else landed!

P.K. Sanjun (correct): 33 wins, 8 losses (80.4 percent accuracy): “B didn’t have a foreign taste.”

Seiji Nakazawa (incorrect): 27 wins, 8 losses (77.1 percent accuracy): “The taste came out while I was chewing A.”

Ahiruneko (incorrect): 23 wins, 13 losses (63.8 percent accuracy): “B tasted like squid candy.”

Masanuki Sunakoma (incorrect): 24 wins, 16 losses (60 percent accuracy): “It wasn’t so much that A was good. B was just worse.”

Go Hatori (incorrect): 22 wins, 15 losses (59.4 percent accuracy): “A was delicious like corned beef.”

Mr. Sato (incorrect): 20 wins, 15 losses (57.1 percent accuracy): “B was sluppin sluppin.”

Yoshio (correct): 17 wins, 17 losses (50 percent accuracy): “This was a really good one!”

By the way, Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check is held in seasons with this, the second, nearing its end. Once concluded, the next season will start anew with all writers being given a clean slate for the first time in two years.

One fun fact is that P.K. is the only writer who has taken part in every single challenge this season, making his commanding lead even more impressive. Only time will tell if he can hang onto it until the very end. Find out next time on Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check!

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