Beef jerky, if properly packaged and preserved, has an unlimited shelf life. However, the timer begins ticking as soon as the package is opened. Beef jerky sold in stores typically comes with a “eat within 3 days of opening” warning. If sealed and refrigerated correctly, it may retain its freshness for up to three days after preparation.
In fact, the practice of drying meat has been around for millennia since it helps to prolong the meat’s storage life (and thereby the lives of those who consume it). With some salt and drying, the household was ready to weather the winter.
We no longer need to rely on jerky for months at a time as a means of sustenance. Therefore, we focus on how tasty food is rather than whether or not it is edible. Commercial beef jerky is stamped with “Best By” dates for this same reason.
Beef jerky has the potential to keep for a long time, but that doesn’t guarantee it always will.
A product’s shelf life can be greatly shortened, and the risk of food poisoning increases if it is not stored properly before or after opening. Fortunately, it’s easy to determine whether beef or turkey jerky has gone bad and when it’s still okay to eat.
We’ll talk about the beef jerky’s shelf life and how long it lasts after opening. Then, we’ll explain how to determine if something is still fresh and offer advice on how to keep it that way for as long as possible.
How to Keep Jerky
Dried lean beef, or jerky, is a convenient and portable food option. The most common kind is made from beef, but other meats like turkey or chicken can be used as well.
In order to preserve the meat, it is commonly salted before drying. Additionally, the meat doesn’t go bad as rapidly because of the low humidity and high salt content. However, jerky storage isn’t as simple as putting the packet in the cabinet and eating it whenever you want.
To get started, let’s talk about jerky that you buy from the shop. Typically, the package will be nitrogen flushed or vacuum sealed (like a bag of snack chips). No matter what, the jerky is protected from deterioration since there is practically no oxygen in the container. Unopened packages can be stored in a cold, dark location such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet.
When you crack it up, things start to heat up. If the jerky isn’t already in a resealable bag or airtight container, the first step is to do so. The meat should be kept in an airtight container away from any sources of fresh air.
The jerky can be stored for another week or two at room temperature if the manufacturer included extra preservatives. Some brands, often those that utilize few or no preservatives (beyond salt, of course), will instruct you to refrigerate the jerky once it has been opened.
In conclusion, before storing something in the pantry, you should always double-check the label. Naturally, if you refrigerate the jerky, it will stay fresh and last a little longer.
How you packed your homemade jerky will determine how long it will last in the fridge. You can keep the jerky in the cupboard indefinitely if you vacuum seal it or use an oxygen absorber. However, if you’ve just finished cooking it and stored it in an airtight container, it will only keep for about a week in the pantry, so it’s best to transfer it to the refrigerator immediately.
Can Jerky be Frozen?
Freezing jerky might somewhat modify the flavor of the dehydrated meat, so it is not recommended. You won’t know for sure unless you try it out for yourself since, in the end, it’s all a question of personal choice.
Don’t freeze jerky unless you absolutely have to, even if it’s still in its original packaging from the shop. It has a lengthy shelf life, so you can safely open it close to or even after the date printed on the label.
However, freezing is the best option if the container has already been opened or the jerky is homemade and not vacuum-packed.
It’s important to take precautions while freezing jerky, as with freezing just about any kind of meat. Use a freezer bag, an airtight container, or two layers of aluminum foil to do this.
The usage of a resealable freezer bag appears to be the greatest option because it is both eco-friendly and space-efficient. If you have a small freezer or don’t have a lot of room for food, freezer bags are a must-have. Refrigerate the beef overnight to thaw.
How to Store Beef Jerky
How long does beef jerky last once it has been opened? There are straightforward methods for extending the shelf life of beef jerky. Following these six crucial measures for jerky storage should extend its shelf life and keep it fresher for longer:
The longevity of jerky is enhanced when it is stored in a dry environment devoid of moisture.
Numerous products have an oxygen absorber to eliminate any extra moisture that accumulates in the packing. A lack of moisture prolongs the freshness and taste of the jerky.
Additionally, you can acquire oxygen absorber packs online to ensure that your handmade beef jerky lasts long and resists bacterial development.
Keep It From Being Direct Sunlight
Keep your opened and unopened jerky at room temperature and in a dark pantry. A location without direct sunlight will limit the development of germs on food, hence reducing the risk of foodborne disease. It helps maintain the meat’s freshness longer.
Maintain the Original Packaging
By preserving jerky in its original container, you may reduce its exposure to air. Ultimately, the bag was developed to preserve freshness.
Keep a Constant Temperature
Keep your jerky in a cool, but not chilly, location. The ideal temperature is neither too hot nor too chilly. A dark cupboard or pantry is an ideal location for your sweet surprise.
Only Freeze When Necessary
If you don’t consume all of your jerky before its expiration date, you may freeze it. However, doing so is not encouraged. Not only might it suffer from freezer burn, but its texture, taste, and nutritional value will also deteriorate.
Purchase from Reputable Businesses
Lastly, ensure that you only purchase beef jerky from reliable vendors. If you purchase homemade jerky, there is a chance that the producer did not dry or package it correctly. This might cause you to become ill or the beef jerky to spoil rapidly.
If you’re making beef jerky in your garage, bravo! Just ensure you choose the freshest, highest-quality meat for jerky. The greater the quality and freshness of the meat, the longer the shelf life of the entire batch.
How long does dried beef last?
Commercially prepared jerky stays fresh for approximately one year. Typically, the box has an expiration date, which is an excellent beginning point. As long as the box remains unopened, the meat should maintain its quality for up to a month after the expiration date. Or longer if it has an abundance of preservatives.
Once the container is opened, the product’s shelf life depends on the quantity of preservatives included. However, if you want a conservative estimate, 1 to 2 weeks in the pantry and 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator seem plausible.
Regarding homemade jerky, everything relies on whether the packaging is vacuum-sealed or not. If so, the meat will likely stay between one and two months in the pantry and even longer in the refrigerator. If not, one to two weeks at room temperature and one month in the refrigerator are reasonable predictions.
Signs That Jerky Has Gone Bad
Eventually, hairy things may sprout, or black specks would appear on the surface of the jerky if it wasn’t stored correctly and moisture got into the bag. Throw away the snack if that’s the case. The same applies if it has grown very hard or if it has an unpleasant odor.
Observing a sudden shift in color and/or texture in meat is a warning sign that its quality is deteriorating rapidly. Even said, these characteristics may not always indicate spoiled food. Whether you think the jerky is edible is mostly up to you. Throw it out if you have any doubts.
The same goes if you’ve previously kept the dried meat for far longer than you should have.