How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?
Beef jerky is great to have along for a road trip. These days, especially, when the CDC advises against constant against air travel, you might be on the road for long periods of time without a quality cooler at your disposal. This means you're going to want to stay away from things that melt, spoil, and don't do well with heat. Sorry if you're really craving an ice cream sandwich for a 12-hour road trip (probably not the best idea!). Instead, it might be better if you pack several different flavors of beef jerky: you could go with a black pepper flavor, or stick with cajun or teriyaki.
OK, so you've got your tote packed full of your favorite jerky snacks; you're among the best of the best road-trip survivalists. You've stored it in a cool place in your car, but you wonder: What is the shelf life for this snack? You're on the road for hours—or maybe days—at a time, and you really don't want to pull over because you got sick from some commercial beef jerky. So, here's what you need to know about your beef jerky, the preservatives in it, and how you can safely continue to enjoy your lean-meat snack.
How do you know if beef jerky has gone bad?
First of all, it's possible, even after meat has been in a food dehydrator and placed in a vacuum-sealed bag or airtight container, that it could be sold at a store after its shelf life has expired. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to tell if meat has spoilage: you might smell it. A clear sign that microorganisms have grown on your beef jerky is the presence of mold on the meat. This won't always be a signal of spoilage, though. If jerky has gone past its expiration date, you might also notice that it's darker in color and could be harder than usual.
Beef-jerky spoilage is not common. Unopened beef jerky can last one to two years in a room-temperature pantry, even if it's been sitting there past the expiration date on the package.
The shelf life of beef jerky is helped by the preservatives used on it during the drying process, as well as the vacuum sealing on the package. As you might have read, nitrites are one of the most common additives to inhibit bacterial growth on cured meat. Beef jerky is a great snack, especially if you want to keep a low-carb, high-protein diet, and it's completely fine to eat nitrites in moderation (like anything else). But if you've made homemade beef jerky, without the preservatives that you might find at the store, it won't have a long shelf life unless you ensure the package has a quality vacuum seal on it.
How long does beef jerky last in the fridge?
Especially when it comes to curing your own meat, it's best to refrigerate it in a sealed container. It depends on the number of preservatives in the beef jerky, but you can extend its shelf life if you keep it cool with refrigeration. Once you open a bag of jerky and you want to keep it fresh, store it out of a room temperature space. One thing that could make beef jerky go bad fast is if you open a bag, forget about it, and keep it in a cabinet instead of the refrigerator or freezer. You can potentially keep jerky from spoiling for three to four weeks, if you keep it refrigerated. This is especially important if you're not planning on eating the jerky quickly and would prefer to have it around as an option for longer periods of time. This is the best way you can keep this lean meat around without the unwanted extra enzymes. If you keep your jerky in a ziplock bag, it will be good for about a week in a cabinet, or up to two weeks in refrigeration.
How do you make beef jerky last longer?
If you make your own jerky, the best way to keep it around longer is to allow it to cool for several hours before storing it in an air-tight container. Another good method is to keep the jerky in a paper bag for a day or two to keep any extra moisture out of the meat. You can also add extra oxygen absorbers to your preferred storage container. This will eliminate any opportunities your jerky has to grow bacteria. This way, you can use your preferred beef jerky recipe while also upgrading its quality and shelf life.
According to the USDA, dehydrating meat is the best way to keep it safe. That said, when it comes to avoiding food poisoning, beef jerky is on your side. Commercial beef jerky is made by using a marinade in a salt solution and then drying it. If you're really serious about making your own beef jerky, you can find a commercial dehydrator on Amazon for as low as $50, depending on what size and capabilities you need.
The main components you're going to want to look for in a food dehydrator are: a source of heat, air flow that will circulate dry air, dehydrating trays to hold the meat, and mesh or leather sheets to help the drying process. Remember, your goal is to remove moisture that help microorganisms grow.
When you buy jerky from the store, the manufacturers have properly dried, stored, and sealed the product. If you don't want to go to the trouble of preventing spoilage in your homemade jerky, store-bought should do just fine.
Red Truck is an American Beef Jerky Company proudly serving you with the highest-quality meats around. We have a wide range of products including Wild Game Meat Sticks, Beef Jerky Bites, Maple Jerky, and gourmet beef jerky. Enjoy!