Beef jerky is undeniably one of the most resilient snacks you will be able to find on the market today. In fact, it is for that sole reason why beef jerky has become a popular choice among preppers, outdoor enthusiasts, protein buffs, and plain old college students who are too lazy to cook.
Unfortunately, that salty piece of meat that most of us love to store away does not escape the fact that it too is completely perishable over time. Even though beef jerky has been known as one of the best shelf-stable foods, it’s still a good idea to know how long does beef jerky last.
What Makes Beef Jerky Last?
Before we get down to the numbers, let us first discuss what actually makes beef jerky last longer that other types of food.
There are three major factors that help beef jerky achieve a rather long shelf life, and those are:
Lack of Fat
Beef jerky is basically a very lean cut of meat. Lean cuts of meat usually contain little to no amounts of fat, making it able to last longer since fatty meat goes bad a lot quicker than lean meats do.
Lack of Moisture
Moisture is one of the primary causes of bacterial growth. Since beef jerky is a piece of really dried out meat, the absence of moisture in the meat creates a no-bacteria-growth zone that allows it to last longer than most foods.
Ever wonder why beef jerky has a rather salty taste? It’s because beef jerky is cured with salt. The salt curing process itself serves as an effective preservative for the jerky. However, you must also take note that a lot of beef jerkies on the market today also come with other forms of preservatives that enable them to last for years.
How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?
There are several things that can affect how long your beef jerky can last. Such things include moisture, contamination, storage, ingredients, and time.
As a good rule of thumb, it’s always best to check the “best before” or “use by” date that’s stamped on the product packaging. Another thing that could help you tell whether your beef jerky has gone bad (especially if it’s homemade) are the ingredients used to make it.
It would be safe to assume that the whole thing will only last as long as its most perishable ingredient. Otherwise, an unopened bag of store-bought beef jerky, when properly stored away, can last for about 2 whole years. Homemade beef jerkies, on the other hand, can last for about 3 months, assuming they’re properly stored.
How To Tell If Your Beef Jerky Has Gone Bad
If you happen to be in a situation where all you have left to eat is a pack of beef jerky and there’s no way of telling from the package itself whether it is still good to eat, you can rest assured knowing that you can always check for spoilage through other ways.
The first thing you should do is to look for signs of moistness. Do not open the package at first. If it’s see-through, try to look for water droplet formations inside the bag. If there are any, chances are there’s already bacteria growing inside the packaging and your beef jerky is no longer safe to eat.
If you don’t see any visible signs of moisture, then you should continue examining your beef jerky by taking a couple of pieces from the bag and gently pressing on each piece. If any piece feels somewhat moist, unevenly soft, or too hard, then chances are your beef jerky is already unsafe to eat.
Other less subtle signs of spoilage when it comes to beef jerky are unnatural odors, mold formations, and any sign of discoloration. If any of these factors are present in your beef jerky, it would be best to just throw it away.
How To Properly Store Beef Jerky
To let your beef jerky last as long as it could, all you really have to do is practice proper storage.
To properly store store-bought beef jerky, simply keep it unopened and place it in a cool and dry place. A nice kitchen cupboard or a shelf away from sunlight should do the trick.
As for homemade beef jerkies, you should always see to it that they are completely dry, uncontaminated, and stored in an airtight or vacuum container. Doing so will ensure that there won’t be any bacterial growth upon storage.
A Quick Recap
Beef jerky is a great snack that you can easily keep at storage for emergencies or bring with you during outdoor trips. Just keep in mind that even though beef jerky is known for having a really long shelf-life, it can still get bad and unsafe to eat over time.
Simply remember that unopened store-bought beef jerkies can last for approximately 2 years and homemade ones can only last for 3 months.
Also keep in mind of the several factors such as moisture, odors, molds, and other signs that will help you tell whether your beef jerky has gone bad.
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