Whether you purchase only one package at a time or in bulk, knowing how to store beef jerky properly can help you get the most out of your jerky.
Beef jerky is a popular snack food. It is made from lean cuts of beef that are marinated with different spices, sauces, and other additives. Then, it undergoes several processing methods, like smoking, curing, and drying, before it’s packaged for sale. You can also make beef jerky at home easily, without any special equipment.
Regardless of different beef jerky brands, it is a very durable food item and can withstand most conditions. It can be stored short-term or long-term based on your needs, but to preserve its top flavor and texture, it needs to be stored properly.
To help your jerky last as long as possible, we have a list of different methods and some tips on how you can store your beef jerky without losing its peak flavor and freshness. Let’s dive in!
Short Term Solutions for Storing Beef Jerky
- Ziplock Bag
Ziplock bags are a great way to store beef jerky. They can keep your precious jerky good for at least 3-4 weeks. If you feel that your jerky is not dehydrated enough, store it in a paper bag for a short period before transferring it to a ziplock bag. The paper bag will create a wick effect that will remove the extra moisture from the jerky. You can also add a small food-grade desiccant bag to absorb additional moisture from the jerky.
While sealing the bag, try to remove oxygen as much as possible. To do so, seal the bag except for a small section in the middle. Then, suck out as much air as possible with your mouth and quickly seal the bag.
Label each bag with the date and make sure to keep an eye on it from time to time. You will know if the jerky is going bad as it usually becomes much drier and turns into a darker color. Slight changes in smell may also be noticed.
Unopened beef jerky does not need refrigeration. However, once you open the container or bag of the jerky, it needs to stay cold since you’ve introduced oxygen into the container or bag. Beef jerky remains good in the refrigerator for about 7 days.
To keep the remaining jerky fresh, place it in a ziplock bag and squeeze out all the air from the bag before putting it in the refrigerator. If you do not like having cold jerky, take it out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter for about 30 minutes, until it comes to room temperature.
- Plastic Wrap
The tighter the wrap and the less the air remaining, the longer your jerky will stay fresh. If you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, your jerky will last for several weeks.
Long Term Solutions for Storing Beef Jerky
- Mason Jar/Dry Canning
Mason jars are a fun and creative way to serve beef jerky. From pickles to jams and jellies to grains, mason jars are a great way to preserve other varieties of foods as well.
Though the process requires time, dry canning beef jerky in mason jars can preserve it for months at a time and is pretty easy on your wallet. In this process, the flavor of beef jerky is preserved better than any other storing method as neither moisture nor air is removed during the process.
- Vacuum Seal Bags
Using vacuum seal bags is the most convenient and one of the safest methods of preserving beef jerky. It is the best way to store your jerky long-term. These bags keep the air out and the moisture in, which is great as the jerky will still be somewhat soft but will have no oxygen to spoil.
Vacuum seal bags are somewhat expensive at $100-$200 new, but are worth every penny. They are pretty lightweight, and the space needed to transport jerky in vacuum seal bags is minimal. Vacuum sealers are also great for storing other foods in your household.
If you’re not planning to have your beef jerky right away, it’s best to freeze it. Shelf life of beef jerky can be extended up to twelve months when frozen properly.
However, the freezer can change the texture, flavor, and freshness of the jerky. Consider freezing a small amount to see if you notice any changes in the flavor and texture before freezing a large batch of jerky.
Jerky that has been vacuum-sealed can be frozen right away. To avoid freezer burn, unsealed or airtight bags must be placed in a container. It’s a good idea to mark and tag your jerky for future use.
To thaw the jerky, remove it from the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it. Put a paper towel around the bag or container to absorb moisture as the jerky thaws.
Tips for Increasing The Shelf Life of Beef Jerky
- Make Sure Your Jerky is Stored in an Air-tight Container
Oxygen is the enemy of fresh beef jerky. Minimizing contact with air will increase the freshness and shelf life of the jerky. It will also prevent other variables in the environment, such as heat, humidity, and other gases from coming in contact with the jerky.
- Keep Your Jerky Away from the Sun
Beef jerky does not like direct sunlight. The increased temperature of being in the sun can cause mold on your beef jerky. Furthermore, exposure to the sun can denature the jerky, causing it to lose its freshness and color. A little sun exposure may not be a problem, but prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will harm the jerky. Therefore, to make it last longer, you need to store your jerky in dark, cool places like a pantry.
- Keep the Container at an Ambient Temperature
Temperature also has a negative effect on beef jerky. High heat can cause condensation within both opened and unopened bags of jerky, which can cause mold. Moreover, fluctuations in temperature, from cold to hot and hot to cold, can negatively impact the color, texture, and taste of the jerky.
Unless you store your jerky in a freezer, the ideal temperature conditions for storing beef jerky are between 40°F and 75°F, and the ideal storage location is a kitchen cabinet or pantry. Sustained time below or above this temperature range can have negative impacts on the freshness and texture of the jerky.
Jerky is one of the ultimate naturally-preserved foods. It’s the reason busy moms, outdoor enthusiasts, cowboys, and pioneers have enjoyed it for centuries. For a considerable length of time, the salt in jerky will prevent it from spoiling even if it is exposed to open air. However, the longer jerky is permitted to sit in the open air, the quicker it stales. Therefore, storing in a proper method is the only way to get that newly bought, fresh feeling and get the most out of your jerky.