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Jerky is meat which has been cut into strips then dehydrated in order to keep the meat from spoiling. Jerky can come in different flavors and heat levels. It is a great snack for when you are traveling or even just on the go.
Jerky is easy to grab and carry with you and it is filling. Originally jerky was salted and then dried. The salt helps to prevent bacteria growth. This was a great way for meat to be preserved especially before refrigerators and freezers were widely available.
Now, jerky is often marinated before it is dried to bring out different flavors and jerky can be made from any kind of meat.
Can you leave jerky out on the counter after it has been opened or after you make it?
Jerky does not need to be kept in the fridge however keeping your opened jerky in the fridge will extend its shelf life. Like all foods once jerky is exposed to air it can pick up bacteria which can cause it to spoil faster.
While you don’t need to rush to put your jerky in the fridge after opening it, if you do not think you will be finishing your package of jerky in a day then the best way to store your jerky would be to place it in a zipper sealed bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal it, and then place it in the fridge.
Opened jerky should not be stored in a place where it is exposed to hot, humid, or bright conditions as this will speed up the spoiling process. To see the most popular jerky flavorings just click here.
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How Long Can Beef Jerky Be Left Unrefrigerated?
Jerky is a way to help preserve meat by drying it. The drying process removes the excess liquid from the meat which makes it last longer before it spoils.
If you have properly prepared your meat and dehydrated it correctly then it would be alright to leave it out of the fridge entirely. Jerky that has been prepared correctly can be stored on the counter in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
If you want it to last longer than that then you should put it in the fridge or the freezer.
Does Beef Jerky Go Bad If Left Opened?
Store bought beef jerky does not have an expiration date, it has a best by date. Beef jerky is a preserved meat, which means it has been prepared in a way that it will last a long time. It will not last indefinitely but it does have a pretty long shelf life if it had been prepared correctly.
But what if you leave your beef jerky open?
If you leave your jerky open it will not spoil but it will begin to lose its taste and texture. It will dry out too much leaving it a weird consistency.
So, if you realize you left your beef jerky open for a few hours or even a day or two it won’t matter too much. As long as the jerky doesn’t taste so bad that you can’t eat it then you are fine to do so.
How Do You Make Jerky That’s Shelf Stable?
Making your own jerky might seem like a daunting task but it is not as hard as it might sound.
To make your own shelf stable jerky you will need lean cuts of meat, a dehydrator or electric smoker, and plastic storage bags. The leaner the cut of meat that you want to turn into jerky the better your jerky will be.
You need cuts of meat that do not have a high fat content as the more fat a cut of meat has the more quickly it can turn rancid which will shorten the shelf life of your jerky. You can use any kind of meat to make jerky.
Beef is the most popular jerky that there is but you can also use deer, rabbit, buffalo, or even moose.
Once you have selected your cuts of meat you will need to slice them into thin slices. You will want your meat to be less than ¼ of an inch thick. If you don’t want to ask your butcher to slice the meat for you, you can slice it at home.
You will want to place the meat in the freezer for several hours, until it is partially frozen but not completely. This will make the slicing process easier.
You will need a constant low temperature to dry your meat. Set your smoker or dehydrator to a temperature of between 160 to 180 degrees. Your cuts of meat will need to reach an internal temperature between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You might think that cooking it on a higher temperature to reach your internal temperature more quickly might be ideal but you don’t want to do that.
If you cook your meat at a higher temperature, you will form a crust on the outside of the meat which will seal liquids into your meat. You want your meat to lose it’s moisture so you need to avoid forming a crust on the outside of your meat.
Cook the jerky at a low and continuous temperature until the internal temp of the meat has reached between 150 and 160 degrees. This will take anywhere between 3 and 6 hours. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that your jerky has reached the proper internal temperature.
Unlike other foods you can package your jerky while it is still warm. The condensation that will collect on the inside of the bag will help to soften your meat.
How Long Will Homemade Beef Jerky Last?
While beef jerky, or any kind of jerky for that matter, can last a long time it does not mean that it has an indefinite shelf life. Just like any other food jerky can go bad.
Jerky does not spoil in the sense that eggs, milk, or regular meat does but it can go rancid if it is not stored correctly.
Store bought jerky has a shelf life of a year. Homemade jerky will have a shorter shelf life than store bought jerky but if made correctly it will certainly taste better.
Homemade jerky has a shelf life of up to three months if it has been stored properly in an airtight bag or container. The best way to store your homemade jerky would be to vacuum seal it.
Vacuum sealing your homemade jerky will keep your jerky as tender as it was when you first made it and it will last up to three months. If you vacuum seal your jerky and place it in the freezer it can last a year or longer.
If you place your jerky into a Ziploc bag and leave it in the pantry and it will stay fresh for up to three weeks.