One of the main perks of beef jerky is that it doesn't require refrigeration but still tastes great and makes an excellent nutrient-dense snack you can have on the go.
Of course, one of the main questions you'll want to know is how long does beef jerky last? Well, around our home, not very long, but that's another story.
We will get into the nitty-gritty and let you know just how long you can let that last piece of jerky sit in your cupboard before deciding that it isn't fit to eat. We'll also discuss some things you can do to make your jerky last longer.
How Long Does Homemade Dehydrated Beef Jerky Last?
Homemade jerky can last anywhere from one week to several years depending on a few factors like how it is made, what it is made from, and how it is stored.
Homemade jerky can have a wide variation of shelf-life depending on how it was made. You should always plan ahead and design your marinade so that it incorporates a curing agent, either sodium nitrite or celery juice powder that will provide protection from bacteria and mold that can make you sick.
A curing agent can also enhance the flavor and texture of your jerky, so don't skip it.
A second consideration is the type of meat you use to make homemade jerky. You'll want to make jerky with lean meat to enhance the storage time. Fattier cuts of meat like tenderloin and brisket will spoil much more quickly than lean cuts like top round.
Selecting the right kind of meat will improve the long-term safety of your meat.
How Can You Tell if Beef Jerky has Gone Bad?
The easiest way to figure out if jerky has gone bad is to use your senses. First, look for signs of spoilage like mold, fuzz, or areas that are green. If you see any of these signs, throw out the jerky. When meat spoils, you can't just remove the bad part and eat the rest.
The next thing you'll do is smell the jerky. If it smells sour or rancid like rotten meat, throw it out. Smell is one of the first things that indicates when a meat product has spoiled.
Once you've smelled rotten meat, you'll never forget the smell and there isn't enough cracked black pepper in the world to hide that stench.
Finally, feel the jerky. If it feels wet or sticky, throw it out. Jerky should be hard and dry. Wet spots can indicate that bacteria and mold are growing on the meat. Don't take chances with wet, sticky jerky.
The Difference Between Spoiled and Old
Properly dried jerky is non-perishable, meaning it will last for many years, but will lose taste, texture, color, and smell and will eventually become not very good.
Commercial jerky package labels include a best-by date. This is usually about one year from the date that the meat was put in the package.
Storing Beef Jerky
The key to getting your homemade jerky to last a good long time is to properly store the finished product. We will look at some short-term and long-term solutions to store jerky.
We do it too, but putting jerky in a ziplock bag is the least effective way to store it. It's only safe for about one week when you store it in a ziplock bag.
These bags don't work well because they trap air in the bag, even when you do the best you can to remove air. They also trap moisture, which is the enemy of jerky.
That's why commercial beef jerky packages have those little moisture-absorbing packs in there.
Vacuum Bag or Containers
A better way to store jerky that you don't plan on eating in one week or less is to use a vacuum sealer. When you use a vacuum-sealed bag, you are removing nearly all of the air from around the jerky, which will ensure that it lasts longer. Jerky in a vacuum bag will last at least one month.
One way you can help to reduce plastic waste caused by the use and manufacture of plastic vacuum bags is to invest in vacuum storage containers. These use a vacuum pump to remove air and will help keep food like jerky fresh for about five weeks.
The ultimate way to store jerky for a long, long time is to first use a vacuum storage bag or container, then put it in the freezer. The main thing is that you want to make sure that moisture is removed from the jerky and that there is as little air as possible.
Jerky stored in the freezer in an airtight container will last nearly indefinitely. We've kept jerky for two years this way and it was still pretty good.
Proper Storage Guidelines
First things first, the most critical thing to storing jerky is ensuring that the moisture is removed. If you do a good job using the dehydrator, smoker, or oven, your jerky should have minimal moisture content.
You can purchase the oxygen absorber packets online to help prolong the life of your jerky.
Never put warm jerky in the refrigerator or freezer. In fact, make sure that your jerky comes all the way to room temperature before storing it at all. As the jerky cools, the excess moisture will evaporate.
One thing that we do tend to do is place our jerky in a sealed container when it is hot to allow some moisture to reincorporate for a more tender jerky, but we usually don't keep our homemade jerky for more than a week before it gets eaten.
Eat or Vacuum Seal Your Jerky
The main thing to remember about storing jerky is that it all starts with how good of a job you do making the jerky and what it is made out of more than anything else.
Unless you are going to freeze your jerky, it's best to plan on consuming it within one week. Otherwise, invest in a vacuum sealer and freeze your jerky.
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