How Long Can Beef Jerky Last? The Shelf Life of Jerky in Different Storage Conditions

Beef jerky is beloved by many as a tasty, protein-packed snack. Its portability and long shelf life also make jerky an ideal food for hiking, road trips, and other adventures. But with all its perks, many jerky lovers wonder – just how long can beef jerky last before it goes bad?

The shelf life of beef jerky depends heavily on how it is stored. Factors like temperature, oxygen exposure, light, and moisture all impact how long jerky stays fresh and edible. Read on for a complete guide to maximizing jerky’s shelf life based on different storage conditions.

An Overview of Beef Jerky’s Long Shelf Life

Thanks to the jerky-making process, beef jerky lasts much longer than raw meat or many other snacks. There are a few reasons why jerky has such an extended shelf life:

  • Dehydration – Drying the beef removes moisture that could cause spoilage.

  • Salt – Salt acts as a preservative to prevent bacteria growth.

  • Smoking – Smoking infuses flavor while inhibiting microbial growth.

  • Lean meat – Fat oxidizes quickly, so using lean beef extends shelf life.

  • Vacuum sealing – Preventing oxygen exposure keeps jerky fresh for longer.

With proper storage, an unopened beef jerky package can last 1-2 years past its expiration date. But once opened, its shelf life decreases significantly. Read on for jerky’s shelf life in different conditions.

Shelf Life of Unopened Beef Jerky

At room temperature:

  • 1-2 years past printed expiration date

In the refrigerator:

  • 1-2 years past printed expiration date

In the freezer:

  • 2-3 years past printed expiration date

Unopened, store-bought beef jerky lasts about 1-2 years on the shelf due to preservatives and oxygen-free packaging. Refrigeration extends shelf life slightly. Freezing prevents growth of bacteria and mold, keeping jerky safe for about 2-3 years.

Frequency of Occurrence:

  • refrigerator: 2
  • freezer: 2

Shelf Life of Opened Beef Jerky

Once opened, beef jerky has a much shorter shelf life. Exposure to air and moisture decreases its freshness rapidly.

At room temperature:

  • 3-5 days

In the refrigerator:

  • 1-2 weeks in original packaging
  • 2-3 weeks in airtight container

In the freezer:

  • 6 months in airtight container

At room temperature, opened jerky only lasts a few days before drying out or spoiling. Refrigeration extends shelf life to 1-3 weeks. Freezing for 6 months prevents spoilage. Use airtight containers to exclude air and moisture.

Frequency of Occurrence:

  • refrigerator: 3
  • freezer: 1

How To Know When Beef Jerky Has Gone Bad

Beef jerky lasts a while, but it won’t last forever. Check for these signs that your jerky has spoiled:

  • Dry, stiff texture

  • Strange odors – sour, bitter, moldy, rotten

  • Change in color – too light or too dark

  • White spots or fuzzy mold growth

  • Slimy texture or shiny appearance

  • Rancid taste

If you notice any of these signs, toss the jerky. Don’t take chances with spoiled meat.

Tips for Extending Beef Jerky’s Shelf Life

Here are some tips for keeping beef jerky fresh for as long as possible:

  • Buy small batches instead of bulk packages.

  • Seal opened packages in airtight bags or containers.

  • Store jerky in cool, dark places like pantries and drawers.

  • Keep jerky away from heat, sunlight, and moisture.

  • Check expiration and best-by dates.

  • Freeze for long-term storage.

  • Use clean utensils to handle jerky to avoid contamination.

  • Dry wet jerky with paper towels before re-sealing.

Proper storage and handling is key to enjoying beef jerky before it goes bad. With the right conditions, you can keep jerky for months or even years.

The Bottom Line on Beef Jerky’s Shelf Life

When stored properly in cool, dark, dry conditions, beef jerky can stay fresh and tasty for an impressively long time. Unopened packages last 1-2 years. Once opened, jerky lasts about 1-3 weeks in the fridge. For maximum freshness, keep jerky sealed tight and freeze for up to 6 months.

With its enticing smoky flavor and satisfyingly chewy texture, beef jerky makes an ideal snack for any occasion. Learning its shelf life in different conditions will ensure you can always have this convenient protein source on hand. So grab a bag of jerky and rest assured it will stay safe and delicious until the last piece!

Jerky for Survival Preps: Shelf Life, Storage and Uses.


Does beef jerky go bad?

Beef jerky is dehydrated meat, so it does not spoil like perishable products. However, it is not immune from bacteria and other issues you want to avoid. If your jerky has gone bad, often you will know right away. As this is meat, it will start to decay when exposed to high temperatures, oxygen, and moisture.

How long is dehydrated jerky good for?

Generally, commercial beef jerky is best enjoyed within one year. However, to enjoy the jerky’s premium flavor and textures, we recommend consuming it within six months of purchase. Homemade beef jerky, on the other hand, should last one to two months if you store it in an airtight container after making it.

How long will jerky last if vacuum-sealed?

By creating an almost airless environment, you significantly slow down the degradation process. A properly vacuum-sealed bag of homemade beef jerky can last up to 6 months in the pantry and up to a year in the refrigerator!

How long does Jack Link’s beef jerky last?

Once the package has been opened, be sure to refrigerate or eat within three days. We advise against freezing the meat snacks as they won’t provide an optimal snacking experience. Sure, they’re still perfectly fit for consumption, but their texture and taste can change (rarely for the better).

Leave a Comment