How to Store Your Jerky?
There are many advantages to making homemade jerky. First of all, you can control what you put on it, preservatives included. Once you make jerky, the next step to focus on is how you're going to store it. Jerky storage—and how you do it—is what keeps spoilage off the jerky. The drying process helps ensure that the moisture stays off the beef or venison.
You can use your own method of food preservation for your jerky, but there are some that are better than others, depending on several factors. The storage method you use will determine whether you can only have it for the short term before microorganisms grow on the jerky strips you made, or whether they have a shelf life of several years.
Here are some things you should know about storing your own jerky—or store-bought jerky for that matter.
Should I Store Beef Jerky in the Fridge?
Once you open the beef jerky package, it's a good idea to keep it in the fridge. Refrigeration will keep the meat from spoiling once the vacuum-sealed bag has been opened. You don't need to worry about your jerky if it's still unopened in the airtight bag. But if the jerky is in a ziplock bag, for example, or the bag the jerky came in is wide open, it's advisable—but not required—to keep it cool in the fridge. Storing jerky in a cool, dry place keeps it from growing bacteria. If you don't keep your jerky in the fridge, be sure to keep it in a room-temperature area, such as a kitchen cabinet or pantry.
If you want to increase the shelf life of your jerky, you can keep your jerky in an airtight container, such as a food-grade vacuum-sealed bag. This way, the moisture will stay off the jerky; when you store jerky in an airtight bag, the oxygen absorbers in the bag keep the meat dry and prevent microorganisms from growing. You can buy a vacuum-sealer on Amazon for less than $40. A vacuum seal combined with the cool temperature of refrigeration will keep your jerky free of unwanted moisture. The vacuum packaging will keep help your jerky last longer, and keep you snacking happy.
When you let the air out of a vacuum-sealed bag, though, that will cut down on the shelf life of the jerky. You might want to consider storing your jerky in mason jars. That way, it's easily accessible, but the jars will keep the meat sealed inside and free from spoilage.
How Long Can You Keep Jerky in the Fridge?
After you've opened the jerky bag and place the bag in the fridge, the snack can last between one to two weeks. The jerky can last longer than that time frame, however, if you consider a few other factors. The leaner the meat is, the less likely you are to see spoilage on your jerky after a short period of time. If you purchase a lean meat-jerky, such as venison, your jerky. If you've made your own jerky at home, a dehydrator is a good product to have on your side. The dehydrating process is not complicated if you've got a good meat dryer; you can purchase one for about $40 on Amazon. Before you dehydrate the meat, you might want to consider patting it dry with paper towels. This will help soak up liquid on the meat before it dries.
A vacuum-sealed bag of jerky can last up to two years in the fridge. It could last even longer if you keep it in the freezer. Fridge storage will help prevent bacterial growth, but so will the preservatives on the beef jerky. Store-bought beef jerky often has preservatives that help it have a long shelf life. Sodium nitrite is a common preservative for jerky, but if you want to stay away from those, there are ways you can preserve your meat while staying away from chemicals. You can use salt, vinegar, and citrus in marinades. All of those things can help kill bacteria and give your jerky a long shelf life.
How Can You Tell if Beef Jerky has Gone Bad?
You might be an expert at making jerky, but every once in a while, you might have a moment where you wonder if your jerky is still OK to eat. You'll know your jerky has gone bad if the color has changed; you'll notice that it's become darker and harder. It will also have a slightly different odor than when you first purchased or made your fresh jerky. The fat in the beef jerky is what will spoil first, so if you go for a leaner cut of meat for your jerky, it will last longer.
Keep an eye on your jerky. If you observe that the your meat has changed in appearance or smell, think twice before chowing down on that afternoon hold-over. It might be time to buy new jerky or get out your dehydrator and make some more!
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