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I've been making beef jerky using various marinade recipes I found on the WWW. The results have been mixed, but always lack that one distinct flavor that seems so prevalent in store-bought jerky. If I had to describe it, I'd say "protein-y". It's not a spice I recognize, and doesn't seem to be present in any combination of soy sauce, Worcestershire, etc.

Recently I found an old seasoning packet that came with my dehydrator, took a little taste, and recognized that same flavor immediately. Unfortunately there is no ingredient list printed on the packet. Where is that flavor is coming from?

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Monosodium glutamate? – Sam Ley Feb 26 '12 at 21:07
Can you think of any other foods that share the flavor? One of the first things that "protein-y" suggests to me is umami, the flavor that's in a lot of meat things (and is sometimes added in the form of MSG). – Jefromi Feb 26 '12 at 21:08
Beside MSG, there are other sources of concentrated umami, the ones based on maltodextrin or yeast are popular in factory-prepared food. So, check out things like Marmite too. I don't think you can get the specially processed maltodextrin used in industry. – rumtscho Feb 26 '12 at 22:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted

"Proteiny" usually indicates "umami", the so-called "fifth flavor" after sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It's triggered by glutamates. Common sources of umami include beef, mushrooms, some seaweeds (most especially nori), rinds of some hard cheeses (most especially pecorino romano) and tomato paste. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the store-bought jerkies you are comparing it to include monosodium glutamate, a common food additive that is essentially concentrated umami flavor.

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Ok, that's three now for MSG. I'm going to get some Ac'cent and see. – Evan Feb 26 '12 at 21:15
Yep, definitely. – Evan Feb 27 '12 at 15:05

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