Beef jerky lasts a long time, but you get only a few days once you open the package. That brings the question: can you freeze beef jerky?
The short answer is: yes, you can freeze beef jerky, and it freezes really well. The same is true for most meat products, actually.
Of course, freezing an unopened package of store-bought jerky usually doesn’t make sense because of the long shelf life. But if you have a bunch of leftover jerky strips, chucking them in the freezer is an easy way to extend their storage time.
Freezing is also a great option if you want to extend the shelf life of homemade jerky and you don’t have a vacuum sealer. It allows you to make a large batch of your favorite beef jerky without worrying that some of it will go bad.
Interested in learning more about freezing jerky, including how freezer temperatures affect the meat and how to defrost it? Read on.
While this article is about beef jerky specifically, pretty much everything below applies to other jerky products, like pork, goat, lamb, or deer jerky.
Can You Freeze Beef Jerky?
You can freeze beef jerky and what you get after defrosting it isn’t far from the original product. In other words, jerky freezes very well, and is the go-to option if you need your strips to last for months after opening.
Freezing might alter the taste and texture of jerky, but only by a small amount that most of us don’t even notice.
Here’s my defrosted beef jerky:
You probably cannot tell it from a fresh one. I know I couldn’t.
The extent to which these qualities are altered depends on the quality of the meat, spices used, and if the jerky has any extra preservatives (e.g., nitrates). I point these out for the sake of being thorough, not because the differences are stark. They are minimal.
When it comes to the freezing process, it’s as simple as it gets. All you need is a freezer bag and, say, 30 seconds of your time to get it done.
But before we go into details on the how-to, let’s check what companies that sell beef jerky say about freezing it. Just in case you want to hear what’s their take on this matter.
If you read the labels of various jerky products, not many of them talk about freezing. The same is true for FAQ sections on sellers’ websites.
But if you manage to find that sort of info, the sellers are usually quite okay with freezing their product. The Jerky Co is a good example here.
Not all sellers share this sentiment, though. Jack Link’s, for example, advises against freezing their jerky because frozen and thawed jerky won’t provide an “optimal” eating experience.
In other words, if you’re okay with a slight change of texture and taste (that you might not even notice), feel free to freeze your beef jerky.
How To Freeze Beef Jerky
Here’s how you freeze your beef jerky:
- Package the strips. If your bag is still unopened, or it’s one of those resealable ones, you can use it for freezing. If not, grab a freezer bag and place the jerky strips in it. Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it.
- Put the bag in the freezer. Add a label with the name and date if you like.
That’s it. I wasn’t joking when I said you need like half a minute to do this.
Since the jerky is dehydrated, the strips don’t freeze together. That means that you can pop open the bag at any given moment, grab a couple of strips, and return the rest to the freezer.
In other words, there’s no need to portion your jerky, which isn’t the case for other meat products like liver or bacon. Here you can put all of your beef jerky into a single bag, and that’s not an issue.
The above process works well for both store-bought and homemade jerky. Let’s talk about the latter for a second.
Freezing Homemade Beef Jerky
You can freeze homemade beef jerky the same way you freeze store-bought jerky, and it’s (probably) the easiest and safest way to store it for a prolonged period.
If the recipe you’re following doesn’t say anything about freezing, don’t hesitate to ask the author about it. 95 out of 100 times, they will say freezing is a-okay.
Or you can freeze a couple of homemade jerky strips for a few days and see how they turn out. Again, chances are the quality will be just fine.
How Long Does Beef Jerky Last in the Freezer?
You can freeze beef jerky for up to a year without losing much in terms of quality. Like other meats, jerky withstands freezing temperatures very well.
Of course, that 12-month period is only an estimate, not a line in the sand. If your jerky sits in the freezer for a month or two longer, it should still be pretty delicious.
That being said, I recommend you eat that frozen jerky as soon as you can.
If you’re like me, you tend to forget about many of the foods you freeze. Over time, they find their way into the back of the freezer shelf or drawer, and sit there for months.
Eating them as soon as possible is a simple remedy. Unless, of course, you leave jerky there on purpose, so that you have something to snack on in your hour of need.
How To Defrost Beef Jerky
You should defrost beef jerky in the fridge. The process takes between 20 minutes and even 6 to 8 hours, depending on the amount and thickness of the strips.
Small and thin jerky strips, like most of mine that you can see in the photos, don’t really require defrosting. They don’t freeze solid, and it’s okay to eat them straight from the freezer. They just feel quite cold, that’s all.
Larger and thicker strips require defrosting before you eat them. The time it takes for the jerky to thaw depends on the setup.
As you might expect, a bunch of thick strips lumped into a big ball take much longer to defrost than those same meat pieces laid out one next to the other in a single layer on a plate.
In other words, you can control how much time your jerky needs to defrost by slightly changing the setup.
Also, there might be some moisture in the bag. It will take the form of frost if the meat is still frozen or water droplets if it’s defrosted.
You can remove that moisture with a paper towel, either before or after thawing.
You can refreeze beef jerky if you thaw it in the fridge. Contrary to popular belief, you can freeze again any food that you defrosted in the fridge.
That said, the more times you defrost and refreeze any food product, the lower its quality. And because of that, refreezing is something you should probably avoid.
In the case of beef jerky, avoiding having to freeze it again shouldn’t be difficult. As I mentioned earlier, the strips don’t freeze together, so you can always take exactly as many as you need from the freezer and leave the rest where they are.