As a carnivore lifestyle devotee for the past five years, I’ve been bringing beef jerky snacks with me at sports events or taking them as energy boosters when I go hiking.
Being a big jerky fan, I had to learn how long it lasts in different environments by learning about its drying process and storage.
I also talked to my local butcher to learn how to keep jerky fresh and how to identify spoiled beef jerky.
- Beef jerky has a long shelf life, generally for up to two years, if stored properly.
- There are several steps to store beef jerky safely.
- You can tell jerky has gone bad by checking the expiration date and smelling the jerky.
Beef Jerky Types & Their Shelf Life
There are various factors to consider when it comes to identifying the shelf life of beef jerky.
Beef jerky does not go bad like perishable foods with an expiration date, but it does have a best-by-date.
The best-by-date is more of an indicator, while the expiration date is final.
Let's have a look at the shelf life of commercial and homemade jerky.
1. Commercial Beef Jerky
Commercial beef jerky from your local supermarket should last for up to two years when stored correctly. This is because it has been properly dehydrated.
To maximize its shelf life, you should store beef jerky in an airtight container or ziploc bag in a cool, dry place.
Store-bought jerky will likely have a longer shelf life than its homemade counterparts because it will have been through an expert drying process.
Moreover, commercial vacuum packing of meat is much more fool-proof and helps the beef jerky last up to two years.
A drier-style jerky will last much longer than a moist jerky. Unless otherwise stated on the commercial packaging, the latter should be consumed within 3 days of opening.
When in doubt, consult the best-by-date on the beef jerky package.
2. Homemade Beef Jerky
Typically, homemade jerky should be eaten within two months. Of course, your preservation method will affect the beef jerky's shelf life and how long it lasts.
Lean meat contains less fat, so preserving jerky from these low-fat cuts is easier. Remove all the fat on your meat before you begin the drying stage to extend shelf life.
“Take note of the ingredient list when evaluating packaged food like beef jerky. Some beef jerky brands may use common allergens, such as soy or barley malt extract (a source of gluten).”
- Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD for Health.com
Sodium nitrate prevents bacteria from growing, extending the best-by-date and making beef jerky last a lot longer.
Removing the moisture through smoking and curing prevents the deterioration of the meat. This will extend the shelf life and make the flavor of your beef jerky as good as can be.
When dried to the desired texture, use a vacuum sealer to store beef jerky in an air-tight container.
The highest quality jerky will be properly dehydrated but not rubbery. Over-drying jerky will make it extremely chewy.
Steps to Store Beef Jerky
The best way to keep jerky fresh is to store it properly. Extend the shelf life of beef jerky by keeping it in a cool, dry place and away from sunlight.
1. Vacuum Seal Your Jerky
Of course, eating your beef jerky fresh is the best way to avoid food poisoning. But if you cannot eat it all at once, store the remaining jerky in an airtight container.
You will probably buy jerky in a package with a vacuum seal. If it is homemade, it should be stored in a vacuum-sealed bag. A ziplock bag or a paper bag will do for short-term storage.
2. Keep Your Jerky Cool
Once the vacuum-sealed bag is opened, jerky should be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated.
Jerky that has not been cured will need to be eaten sooner. If you want your beef jerky to stay fresh for longer, a natural cure like celery powder can make all the difference.
How to Tell if You Have Spoiled Your Beef Jerky?
You can tell you have spoiled your beef jerky by checking the "best-by date" or inspecting the look and smell of the jerky.
The best-by date on commercially packaged jerky indicates its shelf life but is not as absolute as an expiration date.
Beyond the best-by-date, you can tell if jerky is safe to eat by its smell and appearance.
Do not eat beef jerky if it smells or tastes bad. It could lead to food poisoning.
Vacuum-sealed packages are the best way to keep jerky fresh. In addition, foreign contaminants like moisture or bacteria will make beef jerky spoil.
If you identify fuzzy foreign substances on the surface of the beef jerky, it should be thrown away.
Can Beef Jerky Last 10 years?
No, beef jerky can’t last 10 years. Commercial jerky that has been stored properly in an airtight container can last two years, while homemade jerky should be eaten within a couple of months. Beef jerky does not have an expiration date like regular cooked meat and other perishable foods.
What Is the Shelf Life of Beef Jerky?
Well-made and stored beef jerky can have a long shelf life of up to two years.
How Long Does Dehydrated Beef Jerky Last?
In an airtight plastic bag, dehydrated beef jerky should last 7-10 days, while vacuum packing will help your beef jerky last for 1-2 months.
How Should I Store My Homemade Jerky?
To store your beef jerky, ensure you leave it to cool before storing it to allow any excess moisture to evaporate. Then, vacuum-pack the fresh jerky in a ziploc bag, sucking out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Remember to minimize the jerky's exposure to warmth, light, and moisture.