People of a certain age share a memory of having their Saturday morning cartoons occasionally interrupted by a commercial in which professional wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage screams at us to “snap into a Slim Jim!” This wasn’t really a suggestion by the “Macho Man,” it was very much a command. So, many of us obliged his wishes and stocked our cabinets with the skinny, brown meaty sticks. They were great for road trips and even better to bring to school for a snack and a round of “Macho Man” impressions on the playground. But looking back, what the heck were those things? What is a Slim Jim? What’s in a Slim Jim? What are Slim Jims made of? How are Slim Jims made? And are you supposed to peel a Slim Jim? Let’s find out.
What is a Slim Jim?
Slim Jims are a “meat stick” long boi convenience store staple that are a blend of beef jerky and a pepperoni stick. They are a processed meat snack made and sold by the food conglomerate ConAgra. They were invented by Adolph Levis (he smartly went by Al) in Philadelphia and originally sold as a bar snack housed in glass jars of vinegar. Back in the 1940s, many bar patrons would snack on pickled things or cured meats while drinking. And while pepperoni was popular, it took a long time to cure and it was considered a little unsightly to chomp on them big logs in public. Slim Jims and their dainty girth were the answer.
What are Slim Jims made of?
If you really like Slim Jims, it may be best if you remain in the dark about what’s in a Slim Jim. Slim Jims are made of a lot of the same stuff that normal sausage is made of—there’s a meat base mixed with a lactic acid starter culture, just like in salami or pepperoni. There’s dextrose that serves as food for the starter culture. Salt acts to keep water away from the microbial activity and prevent spoilage. But outside of traditional sausage making, how are Slim Jims really made? Well, Slim Jims most likely use low grade beef. The USDA’s bottom three are utility, cutter, and canner and are typically used in processed foods. That beef is combined with mechanically separated chicken. This combo would turn an unappetizing shade of gray if left to its own devices, so sodium nitrite is added to give Slim Jims their nice red-brown color. They also throw in some hydrolyzed soy, which acts as an MSG-like flavor enhancer. And there’s corn and wheat proteins in there because ConAgra has a lot of corn and wheat and they can use it as filler.
How do you eat a Slim Jim?
To eat a Slim Jim you take it out of the plastic wrapper, then bite a piece off, then chew until it’s a pretty mushy consistency, and then swallow. After that, it’s up to your body.
Are you supposed to peel a Slim Jim?
Honestly, this is something I have never even considered. I did some research and it turns out that there are indeed people out there that have gone on forums and asked this question about peeling a Slim Jim. Yeah, I know it’s kind of plasticky and greasy, but it’s processed meat. You can peel it if you want, but then you’re just going to have loose Slim Jim innards. If that’s what you want, then peel away. But the short answer is no, you are not supposed to peel a Slim Jim. That said, this is America, home of the Slim Jim, and I will support your right to make a mess of your meat sticks however you choose. Let’s peel these Slim Jims together!
Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!