Does Beef Jerky Go Bad? – Full Analysis

by Charlie
Does Beef Jerky Go Bad

Many people will be surprised to learn that beef jerky lasts a very long time. One would suspect that beef jerky has a short shelf-life because it is made out of beef. In general, meat does not have a long shelf life, and beef must be stored in the fridge. Beef jerky is very different and does not need to be stored in the refrigerator. 

Does beef jerky go bad? Yes, beef jerky does go bad. But unlike beef and other meat, beef jerky has a very long shelf life even without refrigeration. A package of beef jerky can sit on a shelf or in your pantry for 2 years before it reaches its expiration date. 

Certain beef jerky flavors have ingredients that affect shelf life, but most beef jerky will last longer than a year. 

How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?

When meat is stored in the freezer, it can last up to 12 months. But beef jerky isn’t stored in the fridge or the freezer. It is kept out on shelves in every type of store. So how long does this meat last? 

Surprisingly, beef jerky can last up to 2 years without needing to be placed in the fridge or the freezer. Yes, that’s right! Technology is truly amazing since it can cause meat, which normally has a short shelf-life, to last 2 years without refrigeration.

Which Type of Beef Jerky Lasts the Longest?

There are many types of beef jerky out there in grocery stores, liquor stores, and gas stations across the US. But some last longer than others. 

Although the expiration date above can be applied to all types of beef jerky, it is good to know how long each type lasts because you will encounter dozens and grocery stores and liquor stores around the country. Just remember that different ingredients have various effects on meat and beef jerky.

Original: Original flavor is the most common flavor for beef jerky, and since it does not have any extra flavorings or sugar, this type will last 2 years.

Teriyaki: Teriyaki is the second most popular flavor of beef jerky. It doesn’t have that much sugar, but it does have enough to affect the expiration date. This flavor will last 1.5 years.

Garlic: Garlic is a great flavor and is also known to stay stable in dried foods. Garlic beef jerky can last up to 2 years.

BBQ: Even though many types of BBQ have a very smoky flavor, it also has brown sugar and honey as part of its ingredients. These sugary substances do affect the shelf life of chili and beef jerky. This type of jerky will last 1.5 years. 

Spicy: Never underestimate the power of jalapenos, serranos, and smoked chilies. They can easily extend the shelf life of any food. Spicy beef jerky can last up to 2 years.

But no matter what type of jerky you buy, always be sure to check the expiration date, so you do not get one that is expiring soon. On average, each beef jerky will last 1.5-2 years. You don’t want to eat a piece of beef jerky that has been sitting in a gas station for over a year!

How Long Does Beef Jerky Last? Shelf Life [Chart]

ItemShelf Life
Beef Jerky, Original, Closed2 years
Beef Jerky, Opened2 weeks
Beef Jerky, Teriyaki1 ½ years
Beef Jerky, Garlic2 years
Beef Jerky, BBQ1 ½ years
Beef Jerky, Spicy2 years

If Beef Jerky is Meat, How Can It Last So Long?

There are two reasons why beef jerky lasts so long. The first reason why beef jerky lasts so long is the removal of moisture. Beef is known to be extremely moist and sometimes sticky. This moisture helps the meat break down faster, so it has to be consumed quickly. 

But beef jerky is made by putting the piece of meat in different flavors, allowing it to sit and rest, and then dehydrating it completely of all of its moisture. This is why the beef comes out in thin strips. If the dehydrator did not remove all of the moisture from the beef jerky, there’s no way it would be able to last 2 years without refrigeration.

The second reason why beef jerky can last so long is that there is no oxygen in the package. Now that doesn’t mean the beef jerky is that concealed. Whenever you go to a grocery store, you see beef jerky packages that look like they have some air in them. 

However, before a package of beef jerky is sealed and ready for shipping, a hose is placed into the package, where it releases a burst of nitrogen. This burst of nitrogen forces the air out of the bag and then is quickly sealed. The nitrogen helps preserve beef jerky. The importance of nitrogen inside a food package is why you should always look over the plastic and check to see if there are any rips or tears before purchasing beef jerky.

Signs that Beef Jerky Has Gone Bad

Moisture: If you see that the beef jerky inside the package has moisture or wetness inside of it, do not purchase that bag. Beef jerky is supposed to be completely dry. If something has gone wrong in the cooking process of that beef jerky package, it could be poisonous.

No flavor: Beef jerky will lose its flavor after it passes its two-year expiration date. You can still eat the beef jerky even if it has no flavor. It will not taste as good, though. But if you’re hungry and only have expired beef jerky, it should be fine to eat.

How to Store Beef Jerky

If you have a box of beef jerky, then keep all of the individually wrapped packages of jerky together and place them in the back of the cupboard. Just like most foods, they should not be exposed to light or air for very long. Before you place the jerky in the cupboard, go over each individually wrapped piece and make sure there are no holes in the plastic package. 

If there is, you have to eat the beef jerky or just throw it away. But a piece of beef jerky that has a rip in its packaging is not fit for storage. 

When you open a package of beef jerky, it should be eaten within 1-2 weeks. Every time you open a package of jerky, be sure to close it back up again and seal it tight. You don’t want air and bacteria to ruin the texture and flavor of your jerky! 

Conclusion

  • Beef jerky is made by dehydrating strips of meat until there is no moisture left.
  • Beef jerky can last up to 2 years on the shelf or in a pantry if it is sealed.
  • Once you open beef jerky, you have to eat it within 2 weeks.
  • Beef jerky should never be wet or soggy.
  • One reason why beef jerky lasts so long is the nitrogen pumped into the bag before the packaging is sealed. The nitrogen helps preserve the beef jerky meat.
  • Different flavors of beef jerky have different expiration dates, and that’s because of their ingredients.
  • Keep beef jerky in your pantry or covered until you’re ready to eat it.

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