How long does beef jerky last? (+5 things to consider)
In this article, we will answer the question “How long does beef jerky last?”, and how to store beef jerky to extend its shelf-life?
How long does beef jerky last?
If stored in an air-tight container, homemade jerky will last 1-2 months. If stored in the pantry in the ziplock bags, beef jerky will be good for only a week. If refrigerated it will preserve its freshness for up to 2 weeks. Kept in a cool and dark place, vacuum-sealed beef jerky can even stay good for up to 2 years.
Why does beef jerky have a long shelf-life?
Beef jerky is pre-cooked and cured. The meat used for beef jerky is lean type, which is less susceptible to spoilage than fatty beef. The lean meat is then dried and cured, during which it loses its moisture which serves to protect against microbial growth while inactivating the enzymes responsible for degradation.
The added salt acts as a preservative. The capsaicin in hot peppers used in the seasoning of beef jerky further helps to prolong the shelf-life of the beef jerky.
How to make beef jerky last longer?
Following things should be considered if you want your beef jerky to last longer.
To make beef jerky, use lean meat. Lean meat has a less fat content and, therefore, will not go bad fast due to rancidity. Remove the extra fat from the beef before drying.
Commercially packaged beef jerky is cured with sodium nitrate to inhibit the growth of microbes for an extended shelf-life of the product. Homemade beef jerky can be given an alternative treatment by heating it to a safe internal temperature of 160℉.
You can also use a store-bought Sodium Nitrate cure. Using the cure to preserve your homemade beef jerky will give it a red hue and a different taste.
Drying helps the beef jerky to last longer. Do not dry too much or you will end up with a beef jerky that has a very chewy texture. Dry to just the right extent for the preservation of the beef.
How to store beef jerky?
The right storage practices are very important in determining the shelf-life of the beef jerky. Commercially packaged beef jerky has nitrogen in its packaging that serves the purpose of preservation by pushing out all the oxygen from the packaging. When storing homemade beef jerky, follow the storage practices given below.
Let the beef jerky cool before storing
It is important to let the beef jerky cool off properly before storing it in air-tight containers.
Alternatively, keep the beef jerky in a paper bag for a day or two before storing it in air-tight containers. This allows the residual moisture to escape allowing the beef jerky to last longer.
Use oxygen absorbers to remove air
Of course, you do not have nitrogen at hand, use oxygen absorbers instead. Adding food-grade oxygen absorbers to the beef jerky containers will remove the moisture which in turn will extend the shelf-life of the beef jerky.
Vacuum sealers are an inexpensive alternative
If you do not have oxygen absorbers, use vacuum sealers. They will help the beef jerky last longer by sucking out all the air from the packaging.
Store in the pantry
Beef jerky should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place. It should be kept away from direct sunlight because it will result in the formation of condensation droplets that will favor mold growth. The accumulation of condensation droplets inside the storage containers is an indication of insufficient drying.
Freeze-store for longer storage
If you want to keep the beef jerky for more than 1-2 months, freeze it for up to 6 months. After opening, it is recommended to consume beef jerky within a week to enjoy it while it is still in its prime.
How to tell if the beef jerky has gone bad?
If the beef jerky takes on a green or whitish tone, it has gone bad. A dull and dark color accompanied by a hard texture is also an indication of spoilage. If you are unsure, better throw it out rather than taking a risk of food poisoning.
According to the USDA, any meat and poultry product must not be exposed to air or sunlight for more than 2 hours. After the 2 hour threshold, the product is regarded as unsafe. If you bought the beef jerky in bulk, it is important to keep checking in frequently for any spoilage.
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In this article, we answered the question “How long does beef jerky last?”, and how to store beef jerky to extend its shelf-life?