How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?

How long does beef jerky last - holy jerky

Beef Jerky is versatile, easy to add to any recipe, and very nutritious. You may have also been told that beef jerky has a long shelf life, which is true. But, just how long is its shelf life? How long does beef jerky last? By the end of this article, you'd know how long different beef jerky types last as well as various ways to store beef jerky. 

How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?

The shelf life of beef jerky will vary depending on the processing it has gone through and how it is stored. Generally, beef jerky may be homemade or store-bought. 

Store bought beef jerky

Store-bought or commercial beef jerky will usually last over a year. However, its flavor and freshness are best enjoyed within a year, after which it gradually loses its taste and freshness. 

Your commercial beef jerky should have a best before date imprinted on its seal. This date tells you the best window to enjoy the freshness and taste of your beef jerky. The "best before" date doesn't imply that the beef jerky is spoilt beyond that date. However, its taste and freshness may not be as great. For best enjoyment, we recommend that you consume your beef jerky within six months of purchase. 

When you buy beef jerky from a store, ensure:

  • It's unopened and its seal hasn't been tampered with.
  • Its expiration date isn't past. 
  • It's properly stored in your home/space

Homemade Beef Jerky

If you enjoy the DIY train ride, you're likely a fan of homemade beef jerky. Homemade beef jerky is great. However, its shelf life is usually shorter than commercial beef jerky.

Homemade beef jerky, when properly stored, can last about a month or two. 

How to Tell if Beef Jerky is Still Good

Telling whether beef jerky is in its best condition or not is often not as direct as it is with regular cooked meat because they are processed differently. Here are a few things you can do to see if your beef jerky is still good or not. 

1. Examine the Best before date.

Every commercial beef jerky will have the best before date on its packaging. This date can help you decide how long you'll store the beef jerky.

2. Check for an expiration date, if applicable.

The "best before" date is a freshness date that tells you how long the product will retain its best quality, freshness, and flavor for. So, when the best-before date is past, beef jerky isn't necessarily bad; it's just not as fresh as it used to be. However, when the expiration date is passed, it is expired. 

3. Inspect the packaging for any signs of damage.

Beef jerky lasts longer than average cooked meat because of the processing it has gone through. But, if the packaging is compromised, moisture finds its way in, and beef jerky is well on its way to spoilage. Thus, be sure to inspect the packaging. Any rip or hole in the packaging is a bad sign.

4. Have a professional help out. 

If you do all three above and find no fault, the beef jerky is likely still good. However, if you have doubts or want to ascertain, contact a professional to help out. 

Why Does Beef Jerky Last So Long?

It lasts a really long time because of the dehydration process it goes through. A lack of moisture coupled with the right packaging is a recipe for lasting shelf life.

How to Store Beef Jerky

Storage is a crucial factor in determining how long your beef jerky lasts for. Here are some ways to store your jerky. 

1. Using a ziplock or paper bag, 

If you're going to consume your beef jerky pretty soon or do not need long-term storage, this is a great option for you. Ziplock bags can keep beef jerky fresh for three to four weeks. Just remember not to let water in at any point. 

2. Utilizing Mason Jars

Looking to preserve beef jerky for months? Consider dry-canning it in a mason jar. 

To do this:

  • Set your oven temperature to 350°F. 
  • Place the main jars on a cookie sheet without their lids.
  • Then, carefully put the jars in the oven and leave them to sit in the oven for about ten minutes.
  • Remove the jars from the oven, ensuring that your hands are protected from the heat, and place your beef jerky in the jars quickly.
  • Close the jars tightly, ensuring that the lids are well screwed on. Then, leave it to cool to room temperature.

A vacuum seal is created as the jar cools to room temperature. You may hear popping sounds during this process. They are a good indicator that the seal is being created. 

3. Using vacuum seal bags

Looking for a storage option that not only keeps your jerky from spoiling but also helps it remain tender while at it? This method is just right.

Vacuum bags keep air out while locking moisture in. That way, your beef jerky can last a long time and stay soft simultaneously. 

If you're looking to store your beef jerky for up to a year, use vacuum-sealed bags and place them in a freezer. This storage method is perhaps the best and most effective of all. Its only downside is that it's relatively expensive, as brand new vacuum sealers cost an average of $150. 

Are there tips to help my beef jerky last longer?

Certainly. Here are a few of them.

1. Trim the fat. Fat spoils fast and can make your jerky go rancid in a hurry.

2. Cure your jerky. Cures (e.g., from sodium nitrate) prevent microbial action in jerky. Most commercial beef jerky is cured to extend its shelf life. 

3. Ensure it's dry. Remember, moisture isn't much of a friend when it comes to storing beef jerky. 

4. Store your jerky in a cool, dry environment. Avoid exposing jerky to direct sunlight. 

5. Purchase the highest-quality beef jerky. Ensure you get your beef jerky from a trusted source. 

It's Time to Buy Your Beef Jerky!

Now that you know how to store beef jerky effectively, you can order your jerky, knowing that its preservation is a piece of cake.

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