Jerky – whether beef, turkey, or a more unusual meat – is a delicious snack, but one that is nice to enjoy in moderation.
Therefore, especially if you bulk-buy jerky on offer, it’s important to know how to store your jerky, how to know if it’s gone bad, and how long your packet will last.
Fear not. Because you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’ll be running through all of the above, plus how different storage and production methods affect your jerky.
What’s the lowdown?
Jerky’s made in many different ways, so your best bet is to go by the label on the packaging or the recommendations on your recipe. However, the rule is: unopened jerky should go in the pantry, and opened jerky should go in the refrigerator.
How Do I Tell If My Jerky Has Gone Bad?
If you have store-bought jerky, the first thing you should check is any damage to the seals of the packaging. Unsealed packaging will allow moisture and bacteria inside, causing mold to grow.
Provided the seal isn’t broken, you should look for signs of degradation. Any changes in color and texture, and your jerky probably won’t be particularly tasty, even though it should be safe to eat.
As for homemade jerky, you should check for changes in appearance, smell, and taste in that order.
How Do I Store Jerky?
The way jerky is made means that it lasts much longer than normal meat products. The drying process involves salting the meat, which helps to draw out excess moisture and preserve the beef. Then, the jerky is vacuum-sealed or nitrogen-flushed, preventing unwanted bacteria or moisture from getting in.
With unopened jerky, you should store it in a cool, dry place, like a cupboard or pantry.
Once you’ve opened your jerky, reseal the bag or transfer it to an airtight container. If the recipe has a lot of preservatives, it should be fine to be stored at room temperature, so back in your cupboard or pantry.
If it’s not loaded with preservatives, or you want to be on the safe side, store opened jerky in the refrigerator.
The best bet here is to check the label for how you should store your jerky, as it depends on flavoring, curing process, and the specific recipe used.
For homemade jerky, if you’ve used a vacuum sealer or oxygen absorber, your jerky will store perfectly well in the pantry. If you don’t have that fancy equipment, you should keep your jerky in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You might be wondering: can you freeze your jerky?
The answer is kind of. Freezing your jerky will almost definitely change its taste and texture. Therefore, if your jerky is store-bought and unopened, you should opt for the pantry over the freezer since it will last a long time at room temperature.
If your jerky is open and you really want it to last, then put it in an airtight container to protect it from the cold freezer air, and place it in the freezer. Alternatively, double wrap with silver foil and a freezer bag for a space-saving option.
Thaw your frozen jerky overnight in the refrigerator.
How Long Does Jerky Last For?
Because of the different recipes and methods used, different jerky brands last for different lengths of time, largely due to the amount of preservatives used. Therefore, your best bet is to check your jerky’s packaging for storage periods. However, here are some rules of thumb.
Expect store-bought jerky to last at least 12 months from purchase and about 1-2 months after its best-by date if unopened. Some beef jerky with lots of preservatives can even last for up to 2 years!
Once your store-bought beef jerky is open, it will last 1-2 weeks in the pantry or 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.
Made homemade jerky? Impressive!
If you’ve used a vacuum sealer or oxygen absorber on your jerky, you can safely store it in the pantry for 1-2 months. If you don’t have this equipment and opted for an airtight container, you can expect your jerky to last 1-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
The Lowdown On Jerky
How long jerky lasts and how you should store it ultimately depends on the methods of production, ingredients list, and preservatives used. Therefore, you should always go by the labeling. However, here are some basic rules of thumb to keep you on the right track:
For store-bought jerky, check the seal for damage. If you find it’s been broken, your jerky should be tossed.
You’ll never go too wrong storing unopened jerky in the pantry and opened jerky in the refrigerator.
Expect store-bought jerky to last at least a year in the pantry as long as it hasn’t been opened. Once it has, it will last 1-2 weeks in the same place or 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.