When it comes to beef jerky, we can all agree on at least one thing: no matter what varietal you prefer, fresh jerky is delicious. Whether you buy in bulk or only one package at a time, knowing how to store beef jerky correctly will keep your stash at its peak flavor and freshness.
Beef jerky shelf life depends on a number of factors, the primary of which is the amount of preservatives in your jerky. Whether you’re storing store-bought jerky that relies on preservatives to stay fresher, longer or nitrate-free craft jerky with no additives, storing beef jerky isn’t rocket science.
Maximizing Beef Jerky’s Shelf Life
We’ve all been there: digging through the pantry, hungry, looking for a snack that will satisfy the craving for something salty, savory and delicious. Lo and behold, you stumble upon a bag of partially eaten jerky that was hiding in the back and are instantly stoked. That moment of elation, however, quickly subsides as you realize your potential snack is hard as a rock and growing furry things.
While nothing in life lasts forever, there are a few simple tricks to storing beef jerky that will help you get the most out of your jerky – and save you from the above disappointment the next time you’re searching for a snack.
How to Store Beef Jerky
Unopened jerky should be stored in a cool, dry place like a pantry or a drawer. Sunlight and heat can affect beef jerky’s freshness and flavor, so anywhere dark and cool will help extend the life of your favorite treat. Pro tip: Unopened jerky that is vacuum-sealed (versus a nitrogen back flush – think puffy bags of jerky with the oxygen absorber) is less susceptible to bacteria and stays fresher, longer.
Refrigerate Your Beef Jerky
Storing beef jerky after it’s open is all about refrigeration. Once the seal is broken, beef jerky needs to stay cold to maintain its texture, flavor and freshness. Pro tip: To keep your jerky fresh for as long as a week, place it in a zip lock bag and squeeze out all of the air from the bag before refrigerating.
Freeze Your Beef Jerky
If you’re not going to eat your beef jerky right away, it’s best to freeze it. Beef jerky’s shelf life can be extended to 7 – 12 months if frozen properly. Vacuum-sealed packages can be put in the freezer as-is. Opened bags or bags filled with air should be placed in an air-tight container to prevent freezer burn. Pro tip: Date and label your jerky for future reference.