I saw a great deal online for Beef Jerky; it was a fantastic price, but to get that price, I would have to buy a lot. It made me wonder does beef jerky go bad ? And importantly how can you tell if beef jerky has gone bad? The answer to this question depends a great deal on how you store beef jerky. We will start by looking at some options.
How long does Beef Jerky last once open?
Store Bought Beef Jerky
Store bought jerky is going to contain a lot of preservatives. It will also come with a date stamped that says the product is best before that date. That’s a handy guide, but do not take it as written in stone. Just keep the pack sealed up, and you can add a couple of months to that date.
Once you open the pack, it’s a whole new ballgame, and the life expectancy drops considerably. Store in your store cupboard, and you should be ok to keep it for 1 – 2 weeks. If you put it in the fridge, Store bought jerky can last 3-4 weeks. Wherever you store it, make sure that the product is in a sealed storage bag or airtight container.
Homemade Beef Jerky
When it comes to a homemade beef jerky, the big question is, how are you storing it? Did you vacuum seal it straight away? In the case of vacuum-sealed, place it in the cupboard, and your homemade jerky should last around 1 – 2 months. You can double that time to 4 months if you keep it in a fridge.
If have not vacuum sealed the product, you can expect the homemade beef jerky to go bad in like 1-2 weeks in the cupboard go bad in 1-month in the fridge.
How to Know if the Beef Jerky is Spoilt and Bad?
If, when you go to use your Beef Jerky, you notice a crop of little hair things or black or white spots on the meat; that is a big clue that it is time to throw it away and that is spoiled beef jerky. Similarly, if it has got even harder than usual and smells pretty bad, then those are also signs that your snack has reached the end of its life. Just do not risk eating spoiled beef jerky. A good rule is if you are not sure, then chuck it out if you value your health.
Can you get sick from eating old beef jerky? / What Will Happen If I Eat Spoiled Beef Jerky?
Beef Jerky is meat, and meat is probably the worst spoiled food you can eat. Rotten meat and in particular rotten beef jerky can be brimming with organisms that are all intent on doing you harm. If you eat spoiled jerky, you will more than likely develop food poisoning and form: several symptoms like nausea, stomach pains, fever, a bad headache, and other unpleasant experiences.
What makes beef jerky go bad?
To understand why beef Jerky goes bad, we need to go back to how they make Beef Jerky. There are two main ingredients required to make Beef Jerky.
The Meat (Lean Vs. Thick Cut)?
As you probably guessed, they make Beef Jerky from Beef. Other meats are occasionally made into a Jerky (Turkey and Pork Mainly). But by far, the most common is Beef.
The best tasting Beef Jerky is made from range-fed premium quality beef. Typically it is flank; There are a few Jerky made from ground beef. This meat gives the Jerky a different texture.
Better quality Beef Jerky made from lean meat is going to last a lot longer than fatty meat Jerky products.
The Curing Solution
The curing solution is there for two reasons. The first is to add taste, and the second is to extend the shelf life of the product. A curing solution typically will contain water, salt, and sodium nitrate. For cosmetic effect, they sometimes use sodium ascorbate, which makes the meat look pinker.
The process for preparing the Beef Jerky is beyond the remit of this article, except that; the curing is there to stop harmful bacteria from setting up its home on the meat. The meat is then dried, and that process will kill off some harmful bacteria. The result is that you have dried meat that (at that point at least) is free from bacteria. Ideally, it is them promptly vacuum-sealed to stop any airborne bacteria from reaching the meat.
We can see from this section that we do not want the air to reach the Jerky. The moment it does, then the process of decay will start. Moisture also encourages the growth of bacteria. Heat is also a contributing factor, which is why Jerky kept in the fridge will last longer.
Why Does Beef Jerky Last So Long?
Generally, the meat used for edible jerky does not contain much fat. The more fat in the flesh, the faster it will go off—fat breaks down a lot faster than lean meat. The commercially packaged jerky drying process removes most of the water from the Jerky, which is bad news for bacteria, which rather enjoys a pleasant moist environment.
The salt acts as a protection from bacteria, and Jerky contains a lot of salt. The seasonings (pepper) also are an aid to prolonging the shelf life.
Finally, if you have Beef Jerky bought from a store, it will also have other preservatives added to increase shelf life.
How To Preserve and Properly Store Jerky
Increase The Length Of The Drying Process
The first thing to remember when preserving beef jerky is that the longer you spend drying the fresh meat Jerky and all the fat, the more water will be taken out. So do not rush the drying process. However, if you dry the Jerky too much, it will become very chewy, and you will lose quality.
Expel Maximum Amount Of Water
Once you have finished the dehyration process put the Jerkey in a brown paper bag for a couple of days, This should help draw out any remaining fluid.
Add Oxy-Sorb Oxygen Absorbers To The Packaging.
This product is a food product designed to remove oxygen from an enclosed package. You can buy it in packs of 100 sealed packets for just over $10 on Amazon (they also have other brands). Placing these inside packaging will decrease the amount of oxygen. They are not edible, but they are approved for food use and not toxic.
To remove the remaining oxygen, it is best to vacuum pack the Beef Jerky. A modern vacuum sealing machine can be obtained from Amazon at around the $50 mark. Various models are available, and they will be a useful item to have in the kitchen for a variety of reasons, not just Jerky.
Keep Refrigerated and Deep Freeze
You will further extend the life of your Beef Jerky by refrigerating the packs. Keeping the Beef Jerky cool adds shelf life to the product.
If you want to keep Jerky for much longer, then placing the vacuum packs in the deep freeze is the answer. The maximum time you should keep Beef Jerky in a deep freeze without damaging it is around six months. Freezing can have an impact on the taste of the Jerky. RealJerku aficionados do not favor freezing Jerky because of this.
Does Heat Spoil Beef Jerky?
During the commercial beef jerky drying process, the temperature will have an impact on the shelf life of the commercial beef jerky. Not a significant impact but big enough to be noticeable. The critical temperature is 160F. If the heat used in the oven or dehydrator is above that temperature, then bacteria that could develop and destroy the commercial jerky will be killed off. If the temperature is lower than 160F, then they may survive. It is just an added safety precaution.
Dehydrators v Ovens when Drying Jerky
If you can tell, I advocate making most survival snacks at home. I make sure to see what ingredients have gone into my Homemade jerky and this gives me a better idea of how long it will last. Homemade jerky really only needs like one tool to make it. But some argue the main tool the Dehydrator or the Oven is the best way to go a out making it, but there are a couple of differences. If you are using an oven to dry out the Jerky, you will need to keep the Jerky in the oven for between six and eight hours.
A dehydrator has much more accurate control of the temperature than an oven. It will also typically have many more trays to place the Jerky on. It is far less likely to have cold spots than a regular oven. A dehydrator will sit on a worktop, and work unsupervised when drying foods. It will take less time than an oven and is environmentally better as it will consume less power than an oven.
From this little investigation, I have concluded that while it is possible to store Jerky for a couple of months, that buying in bulk can present problems. I might end up with Jerky that has spoiled, making the whole bulk-buy exercise pointless. I think it is better to obtain smaller amounts more regularly. The other thing I have learned is that I may make my own Jerky in the future.