How long does beef jerky last?

Did you know that your beef jerky can last years?

Did you buy a whole lot of beef jerky that you couldn’t finish? Well, everyone has gone through that. And why not! The beef chunks are oh so juicy and flavorful once cooked. But what are we going to do about the leftover? It surely gets us questioning, how long does beef jerky last?

Well, the answer is, if stored correctly, it can last up to 2 years. However, that is only in case it is unopened. The same would not apply to a pack of dried beef that has already been opened. So, how long would an opened pack of beef jerky would last?

Does Dried Meat Expire?

Before answering that question, I would like to get to talk a little more about what is beef jerky? It is basically chunks of meat that have sliced and dried. Thus, even if we store it, the meat will be free of bacteria as all the moisture is already removed.

Apart from drying it, manufacturers often add salt to beef jerky while packing. It adds to the preservation factor of the food, leading to longer shelf life. We often think, how long does beef jerky last, and does beef jerky go bad or expire?

Bacon jerky can be a great substitute for beef jerky and can last pretty much the same amount of time.

Well, at some point in time, yes. However, it depends on a few factors. First, whether it has been left packed or not. Second, how did you store it? In the pantry, fridge, or freezer?

An important fact to note here is that the beef jerky pack does not really have an expiry date. Yes, it does have a best before date. So to speak, beef jerky is good to eat even if the mentioned date has already passed.

Getting us to our answer, no, beef jerky does not expire. However, it may go stale if not stored well. How can I tell if beef jerky has rotten?

beef jerky

How To Know If Beef Jerky Has Rotten or Gone Bad?

Despite the long shelf life of beef jerky, it may rot away in some situations. Thus, you must make sure that you always store it in the fridge, whether packed or unpacked. So, how long does beef jerky last, and how to know if beef jerky has gone bad?

To find out whether it has gone stale or not, we can notice a few things. First comes the color of the beef chunks. Beef is of a dark red color, which occurs due to the reaction of beef pigments with oxygen. However, the more it stays open to the air, the longer this reaction will take place.

So, if I keep jerky for too long, such that it goes bad, it may be maroon or dark brown. However, in some cases, this may not be a determining factor as beef turns darker due to oxidation. That brings us to our next determinants—smell and texture.

A very prominent feature of rotten beef will be an unpleasant odor. It is usually quite strong, letting you easily know that the jerky has gone bad. Additionally, its texture will become slimy or develop a grayish layer.

Why Does Dried Beef Go Bad?

These things are most likely to occur if air finds a way to get inside the storage pack. However, if your meat is quite dry, it will not show these aspects soon. That is because the fat or moisture is the one that causes such rancidity.

In some cases, the meat tends to get hard, and we can notice it from its surface. Extra hard or slimy, off smell or color, despite these facts, it is possible that our jerky has not spoiled. Still, we must take extra care when it comes to eating and dispose of stale food.

If you think that the beef looks rotten, you must go ahead and throw it away. That said, if you want the beef jerky to last long, you need to store it under proper conditions.

Homemade Coffee Beef Jerky

How To Store Beef Jerky?

One of the downright essential factors behind a prolonged shelf life is proper storage. Therefore, you need to show the utmost care while storing beef jerky. Though the store-bought beef jerky is dried, salted, and well-preserved, it will go bad if not stored well.

You can store a packed box or packet of beef turkey in your pantry until its ‘best before’ date. However, once you unpack, you will need to follow a few steps. Here are a few points to consider.

  • Cooked or not, store unpacked beef jerky in an air-tight container.
  • You may leave it in the pantry for up to 2 weeks.
  • If the package says ‘Refrigerate after opening,’ place the air-tight container in the fridge at all times.
  • In case you want to store unpacked beef jerky for over 2 weeks, place it in the freezer.

For storing in the freezer, I usually place the beef jerky in a resealable freezer bag. It prevents any air or moisture from penetrating and also protects the meat from the low temperatures of the freezer. However, you have a few other options.

  • air-tight container
  • double-wrap with aluminum foil
  • double-wrap with a plastic bag

Once the raw jerky is well-packed, I store it in the freezer for over 4 months. However, in ace I have already cooked it, I do so only for a month. Cooked jerky may not last more than 1-1.5 months in the freezer.

Another noteworthy factor here is, unfreezing beef jerky. I always consider it best to let the pack thaw in the fridge overnight before using. In this way, I can re-freeze the jerky if I like.


What Is the Shelf Life of Beef Jerky?

Getting back to my initial question, how long does dried beef last, or what is the shelf life of beef jerky? If you leave the package unopened, the shelf life of the meat can be around 1 to 2 years. As discussed earlier, that is so because of the way it has been preserved.

Dried beef comes with a best before date. Even if I leave it a few months past that date, my jerky will remain as good as new. Also, let me tell you that if you store the pack in a freezer, its taste may slightly alter. So if it is unopened, you better leave it in the pantry or fridge.

When it comes to an opened pack of beef jerky, the shelf life may not be too long. Still, you can leave the meat over your counter for up to 2 weeks maximum. Moreover, storing it in the freezer will definitely extend its shelf life.

I usually freeze beef turkey in a vacuum bag and leave it there for 4-5 months. Much to your surprise, it is perfectly well to eat even after that long duration!


1.    Do I need to cook the beef?

Well, if you have already consumed it, you will know that beef jerky is half-cooked. Yes, store-bought jerky is not completely raw. So, if you like, you can eat it without cooking. However, that is not what most people prefer.

I, for one, like to bake the beef in the oven before consuming!

2.    Is beef jerky good for health?

If you are wondering whether dried beef is a healthy snack or not, it surely is! Similar to other meat products, it holds a high content of protein along with multiple other nutrients. If you check the list of nutrients, it contains iron, zinc, niacin, selenium, and vitamins like B-12.

While some packs may also contain artificial preservatives and chemicals, most of them are natural and perfectly healthy!

3.    What is it made of?

While you may find a variety of jerky types such as turkey and pork, beef jerky usually consists of cow meat. It is a round chunk from the rump of the animal, as this portion has a notably large muscle. Additionally, the fat content of the area is low, making the jerky quite succulent.

4.    Can I freeze it?

Freezing your jerky is the best way to extend its shelf life. However, if it is a store-bought pack, you might as well leave it in the fridge or the pantry. That is because beef jerky has a long shelf life and will not go bad if not frozen.

If, however, you have unpacked the meat, freezing is the wisest choice. Make sure you store it in an air-tight container or vacuum bag to protect it from extra-low temperature.


Beef jerky is one hell of a delectable snack, and throwing it away would certainly be saddening. So, what we got to do is store it in air-tight bags and containers, and freeze if opened.

In this article, you have learned about the shelf life, rotten stage, expiry, as well as storage requirements of dried meat. Now you can easily answer the question, how long does beef jerky last. So, go ahead and inform all your beef-lover friends!

Enjoy the succulent dish before it goes bad!

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