how long can beef jerky sit out

After opening your bag of jerky, you should eat it within two to three days if stored at room temperature. For example, if stored in your pantry or your work bag. Of course, if you wish to enjoy your jerky a bit longer, you can refrigerate it.

Beef jerky has been a mainstay of American snacks for centuries. The snack was mainly designed to last while traveling for days or weeks in the open countryside. But what about storing or refrigerating beef jerky in modern times? In this article, we’re going to answer your questions on whether beef jerky needs to be refrigerated or not!

Does beef jerky need to be refrigerated? Unopened beef jerky is sealed in a vacuum pack and will last for up to 1 year in a dry and dark pantry at normal room temperature. Refrigerating beef jerky after opening is optional but advisable. Beef jerky left open and exposed to warm, moist or sunlit conditions will reduce its consumption time.

So it depends on the situation. What about if you want to freeze jerky? Now that we know the quick answer, lets talk through some scenarios that will help you in storing your beef jerky properly, or any jerky for that matter! It’s probably useful to understand why we refrigerate food in general first…

1. Store your beef jerky in an air-tight container.

Oxygen is the enemy of fresh beef jerky.

Minimizing contact with air will improve the shelf life and freshness of the jerky. It will also remove any variables in the environment that the jerky might come into contact with such as humidity, heat, and other gases.

The original packaging is your best bet when it comes to commercial beef jerky. During the packaging process in a commercial facility, nearly all of the oxygen is removed from the inside of the package. That little white packet in the bag? That’s an oxygen absorber which scavenges and removes all free oxygen from the bag.

One of the main differences between commercial jerky and homemade jerky is the packaging quality. Commercial jerky lasts longer because of the quality of packaging. Commercial jerky is also made to specific dryness parameters that will ensure shelf life.

Once a package is open, it’s even more important to keep the jerky away from air. Most jerky bags will come with a resealable enclosure. This makes things easy. If the package does not come with a zipper, we recommend transferring the jerky to a ziplock bag. Don’t forget to remove as much air as possible.

Why doesn’t unopened beef jerky need to be refrigerated?

how long can beef jerky sit out

The secret is in the dehydration.

During the cooking and drying process, moisture is removed from the meat. This makes beef jerky lightweight, nutrient dense, and shelf stable. The term shelf stable means that the product does not require refrigeration and can be safely stored at room temperature in a sealed container.

From a scientific perspective. Different types of enzymes—bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring in the meat—require water to survive and replicate on food. Through the removal of moisture, these enzymes are unable to grow and contaminate the food, thus preserving the food.

So why does some jerky require refrigeration after opening?

The advent of modern food packaging—specifically, vacuum sealing, nitrogen flushing, and oxygen absorber—allows jerky makers to create a style of jerky that contains more moisture. The oxygen free environment of the packaging prevents any potential issues that come along with additional water activity. This changes, however, when the package has been opened and exposed to the ambient air. At this point, due to the level of moisture, it must be refrigerated.

The good news is that any packaging that requires refrigeration will be clearly labelled. If the jerky package does not have any language around refrigeration, it does not require cool storage and can be stored in the ambient temperature.

After opening your bag of jerky, you should eat it within two to three days if stored at room temperature. For example, if stored in your pantry or your work bag. Of course, if you wish to enjoy your jerky a bit longer, you can refrigerate it.


Does beef jerky go bad if left out?

Opened beef jerky stored at room temperature only lasts for 3 days. After those three days, it will not taste as good as fresh beef jerky. This is because it has been opened and is exposed to oxygen and moisture. This can introduce bacteria to the meat.

How can you tell if beef jerky has gone bad?

Mold, discoloration, or sliminess on the surface of the beef jerky are all signs of spoilage and should not be ignored. Fresh jerky should be uniform in color and free of any visible mold or growth. If you notice such signs on your jerky, it’s best to dispose of it and find a replacement.

Do you really have to refrigerate jerky after opening?

Jerky can be kept in your pantry for up to a year or until the best-by date on the package. Once opened, you should keep your jerky in the fridge. Taking these measures once opened will ensure your jerky stays fresh for up to 3 days.

How long can you leave homemade jerky out?

Properly dried jerky can be stored 1 to 2 months at room temperature. For best results, to increase shelf life and maintain best flavor and quality, refrigerate or freeze jerky.

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