Does Jerky Go Bad?

Does jerky go bad? You might think jerky will keep fresh for a long, long time but it won’t it if is not stored properly. Jerky often refers to lean meat that’s been dried to extend its shelf life. The meat could be anything from beef to turkey. The drying process includes salting the meat to draw out moisture and preserve the product.

Jerky is a popular snack especially among survivalists because it is high in protein and will keep well for a long time. Since salt keeps bacteria at bay, jerky will keep for months on end especially if a pack has been unopened.

does jerky go bad

Image used under Creative Commons from Chris Tan

That being said, jerky will still go bad if it’s been left exposed to moisture! In fact, an unopened pack of jerky left exposed for a few days will start to go rancid. If you’d like to know how to store jerky to keep it from going bad, continue reading below:

How to Store Jerky?

To maximize your stash and extend the shelf life of the jerky, you can either store it at room temperature (in the pantry) or freeze it. Refrigeration may seem like a great idea but this method will alter the taste of the product. Since the jerky is exposed to moisture, the meat will absorb all that fridge flavors.

Storing Jerky in the Pantry

This is a great method for both opened and unopened packs of jerky. For unopened packs of jerky, there is no need to transfer the product to another container. Just place the jerky in the coolest, darkest spot in the pantry and you are done.

As for opened packs of jerky, you can either secure the opening with tape or paper clips or use a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container to protect the jerky from moisture. Just transfer the product into your desired container, seal it, and keep the jerky in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.  If you have a vacuum sealer, now’s a good time to put it to good use. But if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, just keep the openings sealed.

Image used under Creative Commons from Arnold Gatilao

Storing Jerky in the Freezer

If you are storing unopened packs of jerky in the freezer, there is no need to transfer the product to a different container. Just lay the jerky flat on the freezer and you’re done. On the other hand, if you are freezing leftovers or opened packs of jerky, we highly suggest adding an extra layer of protection prevent frost. Seal the opening, place the product in a resealable plastic bag – original packaging and all – seal then stick in the freezer.

Shelf Life of Jerky

Jerky has a notoriously long shelf life because it’s made from lean meat and it’s laden with salt. Unopened packs of jerky will keep for 1 to 2 years, maybe more if the storage conditions are ideal. One thing to remember, the leaner the jerky, the longer the shelf life. Opened packs of turkey will last for 3 to 4 months. Homemade jerky will only keep for 2 to 3 months due to the lack of preservatives.

How to Tell if Jerky Has Gone Bad?

If you know your jerky, then it is easy to tell if the product has gone rancid. Usually, the color of the product will become darker and the texture, harder. The jerky’s aroma will be different too; it would smell moldy or sour. If this is the case, do not eat the jerky, discard it. If the meat has gone crumbly or the texture is off for some reason, the jerky has gone bad.


Does jerky go bad? It will take a while before jerky will go bad but yes, it will at some point. So don’t waste your favorite snacks, learn how to store jerky properly! Storing jerky properly is the best way to maximize your favorite snack.