Beef jerky, biltong, and most other cured meats have an expiration date or best-before date on their store-bought versions. This is mandated by the local Food and Safety Inspection Services (USDA) to keep the general public safe.
In addition, the official USDA states the shelf life of jerky: Commercially packaged jerky can be kept for 12 months; home-dried jerky can be stored for 1 to 2 months.
In reality, however, these expiration dates should be taken with a grain of salt (no pun intended).
Unopened commercial packages can last for years after the official expiration date.
Here’s how you can make your store-bought, opened beef jerky last longer. Mind you, homemade jerky is a different story.
We’re talking about extending it from a few weeks to 6 months without losing flavor!
Here are seven tips you can use to make sure your jerky lasts as long as possible.
1. Store it in a cool, dark place
The best way to store your jerky is in a cool, dark place. This will help to prevent mold and bacteria from growing on the meat. And this will help it last longer and prevent it from going bad.
It is also important to keep it in an airtight container to help maintain its freshness and taste. You can store it in the fridge or freezer, but keep it in an airtight container, so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Consider vacuum sealing your beef jerky
To further extend your meat’s shelf life, vacuum seal the meat in airtight containers or bags; this will eliminate any air exposure and help keep the meat fresh for longer. Vacuum sealers don’t have to be expensive.
Vacuum sealing prevents oxygen from entering the package, which helps preserve your food’s freshness. It also keeps the air out, which means less moisture gets inside the container, keeping the contents fresher and longer.
Vacuum-sealed meat can also be stored in a freezer for up to two years without any loss in quality.
3. Divide it into smaller portions
If you’re not planning on eating all your jerky at once, divide it into smaller portions and store them in separate bags. This way, you can open a new bag when ready to eat without worrying about the rest going bad.
4. Avoid exposing your jerky to direct sunlight or heat sources
Excessive heat or sunlight can speedily lead to the spoilage of your jerky. Particularly if you’re taking it outdoors! Even inside, store it in a dim, frigid area or in an area that is partially shaded.
5. Use air-tight containers
An airtight container is a good way to keep your jerky fresh and prolong its shelf life. If you’re using a zip-top bag, press out as much air as possible before sealing it. Alternatively, you can store your jerky in a resealable plastic tub or glass jar.
Adding oxygen absorbers to the containers/bags can make things more efficient. Whichever container you choose, be sure to keep it tightly sealed when not in use.
6. Don’t forget to refrigerate
Be sure to store your jerky in the fridge once it’s open. This will help to keep it fresh and prevent it from going bad. Jerky can last up to a month in the fridge so you can enjoy it for quite some time!
7. Freeze for longer storage
To make your jerky last even longer, you can freeze it. Frozen jerky will last for 3-4 months. When freezing, use an airtight container or freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. You can also wrap the individual pieces of jerky in foil before freezing to help them last even longer.
Question: How to tell if my jerky has gone bad?
To check if your jerky is bad, look for signs of spoilage, such as an increase in color or mold growth. If it’s off, it’s time to get rid of it. Do not take any risks! You do not want to eat rotten meat, which will make you seriously sick.
Following these simple tips, you can enjoy your opened delicious jerky for extra weeks or even months!