The ideal method to store homemade jerky is in an airtight container away from any heat, humidity, or direct light. The most reliable, convenient, and effective option to store homemade jerky is a resealable, plastic freezer bag.
Other options such as a mason jar, tupperware, or vacuum-sealed bag are also acceptable, but have a few shortcomings that we will discuss below.
A plastic bag creates an air-tight and vapor-proof seal that prevents contact with ambient air or humidity. The malleability of the material allows for the removal of any extraneous air inside the bag, minimizing the jerky’s exposure to air and moisture.
A plastic bag is portable enough to store away from direct light in a backpack, pantry or kitchen drawer. It’s also sturdy enough to deter most potential pests. We have found some industrious pests chew through plastic bags, but this is a rare issue.
Most importantly, it can be easily opened and closed, making reuse a breeze. You can snack on a few pieces and easily reseal the package, a feature that’s essential when you’re storing delicious, homemade jerky that will undoubtedly demand on-going enjoyment.
Without the use of professional equipment to test the moisture level of homemade jerky, the amateur jerky maker must ensure that the jerky has been fully cooked and dried. Check out our guide on how to tell when jerky is done.
Once the jerky has been fully cooked and dried, an effective storage vessel is the best way to prevent spoilage.
Our recommendation comes from a 60-day study testing the effectiveness of the most common storage options on the shelf life, freshness, and texture of beef jerky.
We conducted visual, technical, textural, and flavor testing to determine the best storage option for your homemade jerky.
Keep reading to get the science and details on the best way to store jerky.
Best Way to Store Jerky
The best solution to store homemade jerky must meet the following criteria:
- Creates an air-tight and vapor-proof seal
- Blocks UV rays from direct light
- Facilitates ease and convenience of use
- Sturdy enough to block pests
- Is readily available in the average kitchen
Here are the most common options to store homemade jerky with corresponding analysis.
1. Freezer Plastic Bag
A plastic bag might be the most obvious, but it’s also the most effective choice when it comes to storing beef jerky.
Our research shows that over a 60 day period, a plastic bag was the most effective way to preserve the color, texture and flavor of homemade jerky.
Plastic bags are also lightweight and portable which make them a great option for outdoor activity.
You can use a pen to mark the date the homemade jerky was produced to make sure you're enjoying the jerky within the best time frame possible.
One drawback, however, is a plastic bag can be breached by ambitious pests. One solution to this problem is storing the plastic bag inside of a mason jar or plastic food containers.
Pro Tip: Opt for a plastic bag graded for the freezer rather than plain storage. Freezer bags come with an extra thick plastic that is more durable and longer-lasting.
2. Mason Jar
Mason jars are an acceptable but not an ideal storage container for beef jerky.
Mason jars create an airtight seal and the lid makes opening and closing a breeze, but our study showed that the interior air within a closed jar slowly dried out the jerky quicker than a plastic bag with the air removed.
Mason jars are also much less portable than a plastic bag. Great for the pantry, but not ideal for the outdoors or road.
The glass of the mason jar does offer a sturdier barrier to potential pests than a plastic bag.
The mason jar does win points for aesthetic appeal.
3. Plastic Storage Containers (Tupperware)
Plastic storage containers offer many of the same advantages as mason jars. They are strong, durable, and can’t be breached by pests.
Tupperware and plastic storage containers create an airtight seal and the lid makes opening and closing a breeze, but our study showed that the interior air within a closed box slowly dried out the jerky quicker than a plastic bag with the air removed.
Plastic storage containers are also much less portable than a plastic bag. Great for the pantry, lunchboxes, but not ideal for the outdoors or road.
4. Vacuum Seal Bag
Vacuum-sealed bags are a great option if you are looking at long-term storage beyond 6 months and up to 2 years. The vacuum-sealing process removes nearly all free oxygen which will preserve the jerky at a high level.
Our tests revealed that the vacuum sealing process, however, can negatively impact the texture and of the jerky. The strong pull of the bag squeezes the fat and flavor from the meat.
This is a great option for preppers and those looking to build emergency kits, but is not essential for every-day jerky preservation.
Main Causes of Food Spoilage
What factors cause food spoilage in beef jerky?
It’s important to understand the main causes of food spoilage, so you can better understand the best storage methods for your homemade jerky.
The two main microorganisms of concern with beef jerky are pathogenic and spoilage.
Pathogenic microorganisms cause many of the common food-borne illnesses. Common examples include listeria, E. coli, and salmonella.
The cooking step (known as lethality) in the beef jerky making process eliminates these pathogenic microorganisms. If you’ve properly cooked beef jerky to the requisite time and temperature, then you won’t have to worry about pathogenic microorganisms during the storage process.
Instead, spoilage microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and molds are the main culprits for spoilage during the storage stage.
These microorganisms can grow when beef jerky is not properly handled or stored in the post-lethality period.
Oxidation is a chemical process that negatively impacts the color, flavor, and nutrient density of beef jerky. Extended exposure to air causes beef jerky to dry out, turn pale in color, and lose flavor.
An example of oxidation and beef jerky is rancidity, or the process of fat going bad. This is another reason why using lean cuts of beef for jerky is essential.
Extended light exposure accelerates many of the same issues as air. Light especially degrades the color and freshness of jerky. Plus, exposure to light often comes with increased temperature.
Temperature impacts the shelf life of jerky as food deteriorates faster at higher temperatures.
Additionally, extreme fluctuations in temperature can cause the jerky to “sweat,” a condition that can lead to mold.
Insects, Rodents, and Other Pests
Pesky insects, rodents, and other pests love jerky almost as much as we do. They can damage packaging causing exposure to air, moisture, and light.
Insects and rodents harbor and transmit potentially harmful bacteria. Plus, it’s pretty gross.
Improperly packaged and stored beef jerky provide opportunities for microorganisms, air, light, and temperature to enter and spoil the jerky.
The main culprits of spoilage in jerky–microorganisms, air, light, and temperature–need time to do their dirty work. More time means more chances for spoilage.
One of the most common kitchen staples—a resealable, freezer plastic bag—is the most effective way to store homemade beef jerky.
You don’t need commercial equipment or fancy tools to store your jerky. Just make sure to remove as much ambient air as possible from the interior of the bag.
Looking for your new favorite recipe? Check out the ultimate list of unique beef jerky recipes.
Looking to spice up your jerky making game? Check out our beef jerky seasonings. (Coming Soon! Sign-Up For Early Access).
We conducted hundreds of batches to find the perfect all-in-one jerky seasonings. Simply add water and meat to our seasoning and you’re ready for the best tasting jerky you’ll ever have.