While it’s unclear which human society first adopted the practice of air-drying meat, the virtues of jerky have been known worldwide for centuries. Ancient Incas utilized meat dehydration as far back as the 1500s, and indigenous North Americans shared a version of jerky, called pemmican, with the first European settlers. What started off purely as sustenance has since evolved into a culinary artform of its own, and today, dried meat is a staple food in some form or another everywhere from South Africa (biltong) to China (bak kwa). Of course, making jerky is also an essential skill in the repertoire of any self-respecting game chef. But there isn’t always time to whip up a batch of teriyaki venison strips before a midseason fishing or camping trip. Fortunately, we live in the land of jerky aplenty, surrounded by off-the-shelf products all sharing the same key attributes that make jerky the king of outdoor foods. Here’s why.