In order to know how long your jerky will last, consider the factors that contribute to meat spoilage. Bacteria growth has been a primary concern for food storage, and it grows in warmth and moisture. Oxidation, nutrient and enzyme loss, and the kind of ingredients you use are also important factors.
Generally speaking, store-bought beef jerky is capable of being stored for years. You can achieve this with your homemade jerky, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and health
You can significantly increase the shelf life of your jerky meat, while providing your family with health, security and stability. Preservation methods, such as the use of chemical preservatives, meat cures, tenderizers and dehydrators, are commonly used in conventional forms of dry food storage.
Your first line of defense is dehydration. Removing up to 95% of the moisture content in your teriyaki beef jerky will eliminate that much of the potential for bacteria growth.
There’s also the ability to control temperature. Putting the process of food spoilage from bacteria on indefinite pause will also increase the longevity of your beef jerky.
You can even halt the process of oxidation. Using a vacuum sealer or pressure canner to reduce most or all of the oxygen from your packaged jerky is similar in effect to drying. The chemical breakdown of your food via its oxygen content will have that much less of an opportunity, increasing its lifetime significantly.
How to make jerky and perfect your meat storage
Our recommended tool is a jerky dehydrator. It’s specially designed to handle small to large batches of meat, and dry it consistently. Its steady heat output and perfected air flow system keep nutrients, minerals and flavors intact, without any effort on your end.
Let’s use fish jerky as an example. We’ll provide a recipe for you, and give you our advice on how to preserve its natural, citrusy seafood flavor. From there, it’ll become obvious how to replicate it with virtually any jerky recipe.
- 12 oz. salmon
- 1/5 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/5 cup lemon juice
- 1/5 cup water
- 2 tbsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. salt
Fish meat is generally much softer than beef, pork or veal. However, we’ve included citrusy ingredients like apple cider vinegar to tenderize it even more, in order to avoid chewiness, since we’re reducing as much moisture as possible.
Place the salmon into your freezer until it begins to crystallize. This will make it easier to cut it into consistent, ¼” portions, and also to slice away the skin without tearing the meat.
Combine all of the ingredients into a jerky brine. Cover your salmon slices in the fish jerky marinade and let it ferment in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Set your beef jerky oven to 165 degrees, then place the salmon on its dehydrating trays. Leave some space in between each portion, like you would with a BBQ, and dry for about 5 hours. Let them cool before preparing them for storage.
How to make jerky last longer
Half of the work of preserving your food has is done with your jerky maker. Because different meats, like turkey, pork, beef and fish will dehydrate differently, you should know what to look for. Generally speaking, there shouldn’t be any remaining moisture on each tray, although some volume will be lost after cooling.
The next step you can take is to create your own jerky cure. This essentially is a combination of drawing moisture out of meat through the use of salt, and the elimination of bacteria through the use of nitrites.
More importantly, you can also vacuum seal your dry food. An effective machine will cost around the same price of a dehydrator, but is well worth the investment. Over time, it’ll allow you to achieve tastier, more authentic results, and also save money on healthy food.
A beef jerky maker is capable of matching the shelf life of your food, without the use of chemical preservatives and nitrates!