If you’re looking for a tasty, protein-rich snack, beef jerky is the answer. One piece of beef jerky packs about 10 grams of protein. And, because beef jerky doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it makes the perfect snack for when you’re on the go.
However, just because beef jerky doesn’t need to be refrigerated doesn’t mean it lasts forever. Whether you purchase beef jerky online or make your own beef jerky at home, you need to be aware of its shelf life.
Read this guide to learn about beef jerky’s shelf life and to discover some storage tips.
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How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?
How long beef jerky lasts will depend on whether it’s homemade or store-bought. Generally, commercial beef jerky is best enjoyed within one year.
However, to enjoy the jerky’s premium flavor and textures, we recommend consuming it within six months of purchase.
Homemade beef jerky, on the other hand, should last one to two months if you store it in an airtight container after making it. If you store beef jerky in a Ziplock bag in your pantry, it’ll last about a week. And, if you store your beef jerky in the fridge, you can expect it to last one to two weeks.
If you’re looking for an alternative to beef jerky, check out our turkey jerky!
How to Tell if Beef Jerky is Still Good
Sometimes, it’s not always easy to tell if beef jerky is still good to eat. Unlike regular cooked meat, which develops a smell if not consumed in time, beef jerky doesn’t always show strong signs of spoilage.
If the color of the beef jerky has changed, or it’s gotten darker or harder, then it may have gone bad. In some cases, spoiled beef jerky can have a slight odor to it.
If you purchased the beef jerky online or in-store, always check the expiration date on the package. The expiration date is normally located on the bottom seal of the bag. But remember, just because the beef jerky is past the best-by date doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat. The best-by date simply indicates when the jerky is at its freshest.
You should also check the jerky package for any rips or tears. If you find any, this can be an indicator that the jerky has gone bad, as moisture has entered the bag.
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How to Store Beef Jerky
To make your beef jerky last as long as possible, you need to focus on proper storage. Here are the different methods for storing beef jerky:
Vacuum Seal Bag
Perhaps the best method for storing your beef jerky is in a vacuum seal bag. Vacuum seal bags allow you to keep the moisture in and the air out, allowing your jerky to stay somewhat soft and tender without spoiling.
The only downside is that vacuum sealers can be a bit expensive - usually between $100 to $200 for a brand new one. However, if you plan to make a lot of beef jerky or other foods that need sealing, it’s well worth the investment.
If you want your beef jerky to last even longer, we recommend placing the vacuum seal bag in the freezer. With this method, your beef jerky can last 12 months or more.
Mason Jars/Dry Cans
Dry canning beef jerky in a mason jar or dry can will allow you to preserve it for months. Plus, this method is much more affordable than vacuum sealing. Here’s what you need to do to store your jerky in mason jars:
- Set your oven to 350 F.
- Take the lids off the mason jars and set them on a cookie sheet.
- Place the jars in the oven for about 10 minutes.
- Use mitts to remove the jars from the oven, and quickly place your jerky strips inside of them.
- Screw the lids tightly on the jars, and allow the jars to cool to room temperature. As the mason jars cool, they’ll create a vacuum seal. If you hear popping sounds, that means the jars are creating the seal.
Once sealed, you can store the beef jerky on the pantry shelf or in the fridge.
Ziplock or Paper Bag
Ziplock or paper bags also work for storing beef jerky if you’re in a pinch. This method will keep your jerky fresh for 3-4 weeks, so it’s a great option if you plan to consume the jerky in the near future.
If you find that your jerky is a bit too moist, you can always add a food-grade desiccant bag to the paper or Ziplock bag.
How to Make Your Beef Jerky Last Longer
Additionally, here are some steps you can take to make your beef jerky last longer:
Trim the Fat
Fat is the enemy when it comes to preserving beef jerky. Fat spoils fast and can make the beef jerky go rancid more quickly. To avoid this issue, purchase lean meat and trim all the fat before drying your jerky.
Cure Your Jerky
Most commercial beef jerky producers use a cure made from sodium nitrate to extend the life of beef jerky by a year or more. The sodium nitrate prevents bacteria from harboring in the meat. While it’s not recommended to make your own cure, you can purchase a beef jerky online or from your local supermarket.
The cure also helps give the beef jerky a redder color, and it also adds some flavor.
Dry It Right
Generally, the longer you dry your beef jerky, the longer it will last. However, you don’t want to over-dry your beef jerky, as this will make it extremely chewy. Dry the jerky to its desired texture and focus on proper storage to make it last longer.
You also want to make sure you store your beef jerky in a dry, cool environment such as a pantry. Leaving jerky out in direct sunlight can cause condensation within the bag, which can lead to mold.
Related: Two Chicks Jerky Store Locator
Time to Store Your Beef Jerky!
With these beef jerky storage tips, you should get plenty of shelf life out of your jerky.
If you’re looking to purchase beef jerky with a long shelf life, check out our products!