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Local man knows a thing about jerky

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ERIC CORNELISON
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FERRIS - Ray Riley, son of the late Tip Riley and Ferris High School graduate, of the Rosenthal Meat Science Center at Texas A & M University, prepares beef which has been so popular a story ran in The New York Times.

Here in Texas, where beef finds its way in many areas, researchers have been applying actual science to make better jerky.

The resulting Aggie jerky was apparently a breakthrough in science.

Unlike the standard type jerky found at your local store or truck stop, the jerky Riley has been helping make at A & M was pulled off the muscle, not ground up and reconstituted.

Like most jerky, it's from a lean cut of top round because the fat gives a buttery richness to cooked meats but makes dried meat too tough.

Sliced with the grain for a good chew, it was then marinated in a salty brine for a week before being peppered and smoked for three days with hickory sawdust smoke.

The drying process takes another 12 days.

This was considered a long time because in the commercial drying ovens, the jerky was flavored with liquid smoke, an additive, and takes only a few hours.

Aggie jerky was one advance in what has been a dubious segment of the beef trade.

Jerky has devolved in recent years into what many call 'a way to market undesirable meat doctored up with artificial flavors,' according to Bill Niman of Niman Ranch, who also said his company's naturally raised beef has been used by several boutique jerky houses.

Jerky has found its way into some of the best restaurants.

Even Marsha McBride, the executive chef of At Café Rouge in California, uses jerky in one of her recipes.

This should make it interesting to see what A & M and Riley have in store for further jerky quality and taste.

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