Does Beef Jerky Go Bad? Shelf Life Of Opened, Unopened & Refrigerated Jerky

Unlike other types of cooked beef, beef jerky doesn’t go bad, at least not quickly. If you found a bag of jerky in the pantry or freezer and it’s many weeks past its printed date, you want to first know if it’s safe to eat it.

While beef jerky is not a snack that easily goes bad, it doesn’t last forever. For this reason, you should adopt the best storage conditions for leftover jerky and even the extra packs you bought.

Continue reading to see more information on the shelf life of beef jerky.

What is beef jerky?

Beef jerky is a ready-to-eat snack that is made from lean-trimmed meat.

The word ‘jerky’ was gotten from a Quechua word ‘ch’arki’ which in English means ‘dried, salted meat’. Beef jerky has become a very popular snack among many nations of the world.

Jerky, in general, can be made with beef, pork, goat, lamb, deer, kudu, and bison. Jerky goes through a series of processes that makes it delicious and helps to prevent spoilage.

The meat is first cut, trimmed, and marinated in sauce and spice. Then it goes through curing, smoking, and drying. In addition, jerky is rich in protein and minerals but low in carbs. This is what makes it a very healthy snack for everyone.

However, while beef jerky is almost irresistible, you should eat it with caution because of its high sodium content. Also, it is overly processed. Eating jerky without moderation can put one at risk of getting cancer.

Does beef jerky go bad?

Yes, it does but takes a long while.

Beef jerky is highly processed, and this makes it last very long. This can make you think it will never go bad. Jerky goes bad if it isn’t cooked, packaged, and stored properly.

Another thing worth noting is how the jerky was prepared. Homemade jerky will not last as long as store-bought jerky would. Also, the best-by date and how you store a pack of jerky can influence spoilage.

Does beef jerky go bad after opening?

Yes, it does.

Jerky that still contains a good amount of moisture will go bad after three days of opening the pack. On the other hand, a drier jerky can last a little longer after opening, but it won’t taste as palatable as it used to.

After opening a pack of jerky, you should reseal and refrigerate it to keep moisture and oxygen away.

If the pack is not reusable, store the jerky in an airtight container or a plastic bag devoid of air and freeze it.

Can beef jerky go bad in the fridge?

While the fridge is one of the best places to store jerky, there is an off chance that the jerky will go bad in the fridge.

If you don’t put the jerky in an airtight container, away from odorous foods, it will pick up smells from foods like onion or other vegetables.

Consequently, these smells will lead to quick spoilage.

Will beef jerky go bad if left out?

Beef jerky will last for only two weeks at room temperature.

However, if you keep it in a vacuum-sealed container and keep it unopened in the pantry, you can expect it to last up to one year.

Does beef jerky go bad if unopened?

Beef jerky will remain at its best quality if it stays unopened. However, it may go bad if the pack gets ripped or soaked with water.

If you made the jerky at home, store it in a vacuum-sealed container to keep it for up to a year. Also, store-bought jerky will last years as long as it remains unopened.

In addition, always check for the best-by date on the pack of store-bought jerky.

What is the shelf life of beef jerky?

Beef jerky lasts long, yet it has a shelf life.

This shelf life depends on how the jerky was prepared and where you store it. An unopened pack of jerky will last between one to two years, whether you store it in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.

An opened pack of jerky will last for a week in the pantry and several weeks into months in the fridge or freezer.

Can expired beef jerky make you sick?

Eating expired jerky is like eating spoilt beef. It could make you ill.

You could experience signs of food poisoning like diarrhea, nausea, and fever. If you notice signs of spoilage, discard the pack of jerky.

How to tell if beef jerky is bad

What does the jerky look like?

Carefully examine the jerky for signs that say you should not eat it. Check for jerky mold that manifests as white, fussy growth.

Examine the jerky for color discoloration and excess fat that makes it too greasy. If you notice any of these, discard the jerky.

What does the jerky feel like?

Sweaty, soggy, overly soft, or hard jerky is no longer okay to eat. Good jerky should feel firm, perfectly dry, and not too oily. Any deviation from this is a sign that you should trash it.

Check for water droplets inside the pack

If there are water droplets inside the pack of jerky, it’s a telltale sign that the jerky didn’t dry properly before packaging. It is no longer fit for food. Throw it away.

Beef becomes a breeding ground for microorganisms if it is not dried properly. Eating beef like that could result in food poisoning.

What does the jerky taste like?

Tasting food to check for spoilage should be the last test when you can’t see, smell or feel any sign of spoilage.

When you get to this point, you should bite only a little amount of the jerky. If it tastes nothing like jerky, throw it away.

How to preserve beef jerky

  • Store jerky at room temperature in an airtight container, plastic bag, or vacuum seal bag
  • An alternative for vacuum seal containers is canning. Keep jerky in mason jars or clean, empty cans to keep it for months
  • Also, if you’re making homemade jerky, trim all the fat to make the jerky last longer
  • Additionally, make sure the jerky is crisp and dry before you pack and seal it
  • Keep jerky away from sunlight and oxygen
  • Keep opened packs of jerky in the refrigerator or freezer
  • Freeze the jerky if you want to keep it long-term


Does beef jerky go bad in heat?

Yes, it does.

Opened or unopened, beef jerky doesn’t do well in hot environments. Exposing jerky to direct heat (sunlight) will make it spoil quickly. The heat leads to condensation and subsequent mold growth on the jerky.

How long does vacuum-sealed beef jerky last?

Vacuum-sealed jerky can last two to three months.

But when you open the container you should consume the jerky within one week.

What’s the best way to preserve jerky?

The best way to keep beef jerky fresh, spicy, and full of flavor is by refrigerating or freezing it.

Put the jerky in a Ziploc bag, and squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing it.


It is quite rare to find jerky that has gone bad except in a case where a bit fell somewhere. This is because beef jerky is an almost irresistible protein-rich snack. However, there is an off chance that jerky may go bad.

In essence, if you have leftover jerky, store it properly. Always put your senses to work when you find an old bag of jerky. Most importantly, if it’s store-bought jerky, go by the best-by date first.

Thanks for reading.

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