The Beef Jerky Rule You Should Stop Believing

Whether you're a hiker, astronaut, or just love beef, jerky is one of those snacks that never seems to fall out of favor. Of course, the appeal of beef jerky is not just its great flavor but its incredible shelf-life. As a result of dehydration, jerky's flavors are extremely concentrated, which creates a salty, meaty (and slightly chewy) bite. While you might think that you know everything about beef jerky, there's one storage rule you should stop believing. 

A high protein snack, jerky can be made from just about any lean meat, including beef, pork, venison — even fish can be turned into a jerky-like treat. Regardless of which animal you source from, the process usually involves trimming the meat, cutting it into strips, and then seasoning it. After that, it is often cooked in a boiling marinade before left to slowly dehydrate, according to an article published by North Dakota State University. This eventually yields a delicious and long-lasting snack to nosh on. 

According to, a variation of the protein treat was enjoyed by ancient civilizations. JSTOR Daily reports that tribes located in high-altitude regions in South America used to make something called "ch'arki" by salting and drying pieces of meat in the sun. The preserved fare would last indefinitely, providing sustenance in times of food scarcity. However, can the same be said of modern jerky, or does it actually need refrigeration in order to keep it fresh?

Stop keeping jerky at room temperature

It's true that the salting and drying process gives jerky a longer-than-usual life expectancy. However, most food products can benefit from refrigeration. This is because cooler temperatures slow down the growth of microorganisms, which helps preserve quality and limit spoilage, notes ScienceDirect

Additionally, not all jerky is created equal. In general, commercially-produced jerky tends to last longer than homemade versions due to added preservatives. When kept at room temperature away from direct sunlight, the USDA explains that commercial jerky can be kept for one year in comparison to homemade jerky that will only last for about two months. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends refrigerating jerky to maintain its texture and flavor for a much longer extended period of time. 

With these benefits, will you be adopting the rule of refrigerating your jerky?