The amount of time that dehydrated meat lasts will depend on how it’s dried and the storage methods that you use. Generally speaking, jerky meat can last up to a year or longer when it’s cured, vacuum sealed and frozen.
Freeze dried meat can last for 20 years, if stored effectively. Freeze dried food is specifically designed for long-term storage, which is made possible by reducing 98-99% of its moisture content.
Dry food storage is largely a matter of reducing water content. Moisture is a breeding ground and ideal environment for the bacteria that breaks down your food. As you’ll see, air and storage temperature also play a significant role in the duration of your food’s shelf life.
A meat dehydrator is a highly effective and easy to use method of creating jerky. On the other hand, there are specific things you should do to safely extend the shelf life of your dried meats, if you don’t plan to use it within the first couple of weeks or months.
Making jerky for long-term storage
The best way to make beef jerky is with a home dehydrator. They have multiple trays, allowing you to make large batches at once, and have enough wattage power to cook your meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Dried meat can be incredibly enjoyable, and doesn’t often last longer than a few days or a week in a common household. However, it can be made to last a long time when it’s thoroughly cured and dried.
The first place to start when making beef jerky, is to remove fat content. Lean meats are preferred, as fat will spoil much more quickly than the meat itself. Cut it out of your meat as completely as possible before curing and dehydrating it.
Curing your dehydrated beef will also extend its shelf life. This can be done very simply by storing it for 24+ hours in your refrigerator, while covered in coarse salt. This process will draw moisture out of your meat.
Another aspect to curing your jerky meat is nitrate content. You can purchase curing salt with sodium nitrate in it, which is often dyed pink to blend with the color of your meat. There are also methods of creating your own curing salt.
Tenderizing and flavoring your jerky meat
Dry food storage implies that you want to get as much moisture content out of your meat as possible. While this can lead to beef jerky that’s very chewy, there are ways to ensure that your meat is soft and enjoyable.
The first recommended method for tenderizing your jerky meat is to use a tenderizer mallet. Simply hammer out the tough texture of your meat, and it’ll lead to softer results.
There are also various food ingredients that will tenderize your meat. Acidic foods, in particular, such as tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and alcoholic drinks, such as beer and wine, make excellent additions to your beef jerky marinade.
The best dehydrated food for long-term storage
A food dehydrator will provide a ton of advantages for the shelf life of your dehydrated meals. Keep in mind, however, that your storage method will have a large impact on how long you can keep it for safe consumption.
It’s recommended for any kind of dried meat or other foods, to use a vacuum sealer. You can also use a zip-lock bag, but if you’re looking to extend the shelf life of your dried meals, it’s ideal to remove as much air as possible.
Dehydrated food will last much longer than anything with more than a 5% moisture content. The good news is that it retains its nutrient content, and its flavors are concentrated into a delicious whole food source. Banana chips, kale chips, milk powder and onion powder are a few common examples that many families enjoy on a regular basis.
Using a jerky dryer is an efficient and reliable way to give your meat a 6-12 month shelf life!