Homemade beef jerky stored in a sealed container can last for a very long time. However, once the seal of the jerky package is opened, its life span starts to count down very fast. Which begs the question: how long does beef jerky last after opening?
Most stores that sell this beef advise their customers to consume the meat within the first three days after they open the sealed package if they want to enjoy the freshness of the dehydrated meat.
Previously, the method used to preserve the beef was to dry the meat and add salt to it so that the family could use the beef and survive even during the winter. Through this method, the meat was able to last for months.
However, one thing that everyone would like to enjoy is the best flavor and the freshness of the beef. It has led to the advent of commercial beef jerky being properly packaged and stored to increase the beef jerky’s shelf life and also maintain the flavor and freshness. With this in mind, let’s have a closer look.
What Is the Shelf Life of Beef Jerky?
Based on most of the commercial beef jerky companies’ packages and labels, they recommend that you consume the lean meat after three days once you open the seal. However, depending on how you store the beef jerky after opening the seal, it can survive for some weeks.
An air-tight container is recommended. It does not mean that after three days or weeks, the beef will expire; however, after this period, when you open the seal, the flavor and the freshness start to deteriorate.
If you want to enjoy the beef jerky for more days after you open the seal, you have to utilize proper storage methods in order for the jerky products to maintain their freshness and flavor. You can use different ways to preserve the beef jerky, such as in a cool place, with a lack of moisture, in an airtight bag.
A good idea is to store it in a dark place, like your fridge, or a cool, dark pantry. To avoid worrying about using an airtight container and the moisture level of the jerky, you can eat it within three days if you are a true beefy jerky lover.
Is Beef Jerky Perishable?
Unlike milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese, beef jerky does not go bad (become unsafe to consume). Beef jerky has a “best-by” date rather than an expiration date, unlike other perishable foods such as fresh fish and uncooked meat products.
Because of this, beef jerky has been popular for generations. In terms of nutrition, it’s an excellent source of protein and fat, and it can be stored in an airtight container for a long time. As long as the beef jerky is made, packed, and kept correctly, it will keep for a very long time.
That doesn’t mean it’s impervious to being mishandled.
Mold and signs of rancidity can occur if your meat jerky is not properly dehydrated or packaged. A bag of beef jerky that has gone bad may be easily discerned from others that are still good, because of a few telltale signs, such as white spots, which can be signs of mold, and nasty jerky smells, like that certain rancid odor.
Beef Jerky – Sodium Nitrite Preservative
Lots of beef jerky brands use sodium nitrite as a preservative. Sodium nitrite has been presented as a possible reason why eating processed meats can cause cancer.
Nitrites are also present in other foods, such as some vegetables, fruits, and dairy products, so it’s hard to know for sure, but it’s probably not something you need to worry about.
Shelf Life of Beef Jerky
Keep in mind that after the jerky can is opened, that’s not the point at which the beef jerky expires or goes bad. Despite its perishability, beef jerky can be kept for an extended period of time if properly stored and preserved. Unopened beef jerky can be stored for up to two years without going bad or expiring,
It’s because of the drying procedure used to produce this beef that it can last longer. The jerky has been dried and most of its moisture has been removed, making it nearly impossible for bacteria to thrive.
Because there is no habitat for bacteria to flourish after the jerky is dried, wrapped, or packaged, it can last for an extended period of time.
Therefore, the jerky’s shelf life depends on the packaging and storage methods used. It does not mean that the jerky cannot go bad, but it might become inedible and lose its freshness and flavor when it reaches its expiry date.
Thus, whenever you shop for beef jerky, make sure that you check the expiry date before you buy it.
How Do You Know That Beef Jerky Is Still Fresh?
If you opt to store the beef jerky even after the first three days, you have to check if it is still in good condition for human consumption or if it has retained it’s freshness. One indicator that can tell you if the jerky is fresh or not is it’s expiry date on the label of the package, container, or bag.
You cannot store the jerky past its expiry date and expect to find it with it’s original freshness and flavor. Note that the freshness of the jerky deteriorates with time.
After the drying process, the jerky is stored in a vacuum pack or airtight container, where it can stay fresh for a long time. However, if it becomes bad jerky, you will notice the signs of spoilage. For instance, when the jerky is not fresh, it will have weird spots, funky smells, and look strange.
Therefore, if you want to know if it is fresh or not, you have to inspect the meat, and if you see these weird things, you will know that it can be a source of a foodborne illness like e. coli.
When homemade beef jerky is not fresh, it has the same signs as commercially prepared ones. Note that for it to have a long shelf life, you need to store it in airtight packaging, containers, or Ziplock type bags.
Ensure that the container you use to store the homemade jerky does not have any damage or holes to maintain its freshness, and low moisture content.
Best Way To Store Beef Jerky?
The way you store beef jerky determines the long term shelf life and how fresh and flavorful the beef will be. Note that there are different ways that you can store your homemade beef jerky or the commercial package once you open the seal. For best results, keep it away from moisture and store it in a cool, dry place.
Oxygen is another factor that can determine if your meat will survive for a long period of time or not. Note that even commercial packagers remove the oxygen and ensure the jerky storage container or package does not have any oxygen by inserting an oxygen absorber.
If you want to preserve your homemade beef jerky for a long time, you can also use an oxygen absorber to prevent and resist the growth of bacteria in your meat.
Avoiding Direct Sunlight
Some people preserve their homemade jerky by periodically exposing the jerky to direct sunlight as one of the methods to prevent bacteria infestation since the jerky remains dry.
This is a flawed theory, because direct sunlight slowly induces bacteria growth that may affect your fresh jerky, but indirect sunlight exposure can keep your meat dehydrated and fresh for a long time.
Using The Original Package
Once you open the seal, and then you want to store the meat again, it is best to use the original packaging. It will help you maintain the best environment designed to ensure that the jerky is not exposed to unnecessary conditions like moisture, oxygen, temperature, and many others.
Having A Steady Temperature
Jerky needs to be stored in a cool and dry place. With this in mind, you have to preserve your beef jerky at an ideal temperature; the temperature can be cold but not hot. A great plan is to put the opened jerky in a ziplock bag, vacuum all the air out, and store in the refrigerator.
Do Not Freeze Too Long
Freezing is a great method of home food preservation. However, this should not be done for a long time because, though the jerky will be edible, its texture, nutritional benefits, freshness, and flavor will start to diminish with time. This is called freezer burn
Make Sure Your Jerky Is Not Bad
Note that although you can store your jerky for a very long period, one thing to avoid is eating jerky that has gone bad. When jerky goes bad, it can adversely affect your health.
Some symptoms of this type of food poisoning include:
- upset stomach
- abdominal pain
The condition can worsen, and you can even see blood in your stool or become dehydrated. Note that this can lead to other health risks as well. If you do experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Frequently asked questions
Can lean jerky last for a long period?
Yes, a lean jerky can last for a very long time because, unlike fatty jerky, whose fat goes rancid, its breakdown process is a little slower.
Can I freeze my beef jerky?
Yes. You can freeze it as long as you want. However, if you do it for a longer period, it can reduce the beef’s quality since the jerky’s flavor, and freshness will reduce.
Final Thought – How Long Does Beef Jerky Last After Opening?
We’ve discussed, how long does beef jerky last after opening. You’ve also learned how to store the jerky, and a variety of other useful details, including the health risks of eating spoiled jerky.
When purchasing jerky, be sure to look at the expiration date to prevent purchasing a product that will spoil quickly after you open the sealed packaging.
To ensure that your homemade beef jerky lasts a long time, it is important to pay close attention food safety, and to the method you utilize to preserve your dehydrated meat.