Whether you’re creating your own turkey jerky or you bought a few bags here at Mahogany Smoked Meats and want to keep the goods fresh as long as possible, you may be wondering…does turkey jerky need to be refrigerated?
The last thing you want is to have to throw out your jerky early because it spoiled from improper storage - or worse, run the risk of falling victim to foodborne illness. The good news is you don’t have to stress about this any longer.
In our complete guide to refrigerating turkey jerky, we’ll help you determine if the fridge is the right place to store your jerky. You’ll learn what happens if you don’t refrigerate your jerky along with other tips on keeping your goods fresh. Let’s not waste any time - does turkey jerky need to be refrigerated?
Does Turkey Jerky Need to be Refrigerated?
The answer to whether turkey jerky needs to be refrigerated depends on whether the jerky is commercially produced or homemade. And even then, it’s not as simple as “yes” or “no”.
Professionally produced turkey jerky, such as the good stuff you’ll find here at Mahogany Smoked Meats, is often made with natural preservatives like salt. It’s also dehydrated to prolong its shelf life. These types of jerky typically do not need to be refrigerated until they are opened. However, it is recommended to store them in a cool, dry place to ensure that they stay fresh for as long as possible.
On the other hand, homemade turkey jerky does require refrigeration to keep it fresh. Homemade jerky is not treated with the same preservatives and dehydrated as thoroughly as commercially produced jerky, which makes it more susceptible to spoilage. If you have made your own turkey jerky, it is best to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Now - it's important to note that even commercially produced turkey jerky should be refrigerated after opening to prevent spoilage and the growth of bacteria. It is also essential to consume jerky within a reasonable time frame to avoid any food-borne illness. Below, we’ll progress the conversation and examine why does turkey jerky need to be refrigerated.
Why Does Turkey Jerky Need to be Refrigerated?
The cold conditions in your fridge are the ideal place for turkey jerky for a few reasons. But really, it all boils down to preventing bacterial growth and spoilage, which can cause foodborne illnesses and affect the taste and texture of the jerky. Here are the consequences of failing to store your jerky in the proper conditions:
Spoilage Leads to Foodborne Illness
If turkey jerky is not stored in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator, it can spoil quickly. This is because bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, and when turkey jerky is left out in the open, it can quickly become contaminated. This is true whether you’ve made your jerky yourself or bought it in bulk from a store.
The biggest risk of improper storage of turkey jerky is the development of foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, or E. coli. These bacteria can grow rapidly in warm and humid environments, and if ingested, can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
Off Flavors & Texture Changes
Beyond making you physically ill, not storing turkey jerky in the fridge after opening can ruin the overall experience - leaving much to be desired in terms of taste or texture. This can happen when the jerky absorbs moisture or is exposed to strong odors from other foods in the area.
If turkey jerky is not stored properly, it can become dry, tough, or chewy. This is because the moisture in the jerky can evaporate over time, causing the texture to change. Neither of these outcomes is ideal - whether you went through the toils of making your own jerky or spent your hard-earned money on premium cuts.
All of this is to say, yes - turkey jerky needs to be refrigerated if you want to avoid risks like foodborne illness, premature spoilage, or poor taste/texture. And beyond refrigerating your turkey jerky after opening it, we have a few other tips to maximize its shelf life and keep it delicious, fresh, and enjoyable for as long as possible.
Other Tips for Preserving Your Turkey Jerky Beyond Refrigeration
Proper storage is key to maintaining the quality of turkey jerky - and you now know why. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do beyond throwing that bag of meat in the fridge. You can consider vacuum sealing the contents, being careful with how you handle the jerky, and using natural preservatives.
Vacuum Seal the Contents
One of the most effective ways to preserve your turkey jerky is to vacuum seal it. This involves removing all of the air from the packaging, which can help prevent bacterial growth and oxidation.
Vacuum sealing is especially useful for homemade jerky, as it can extend the shelf life of the jerky for up to several months. It's also great for those who love to take jerky on outdoor adventures, as it helps keep the jerky fresh and free from contaminants.
This may not be necessary if you just have a small bag or two of jerky. But if you made a batch yourself or bought it in bulk, it’s a must.
Prevent Exposure to Contaminants on Your Fingers
Another important tip to preserve your turkey jerky is to prevent exposure to contaminants on your fingers. You may not realize it, but when you pull that turkey jerky out to enjoy a few pieces and dig around in the bag, you’re exposing the rest of the jerky to potential contaminants.
So, when handling the jerky, make sure your hands are clean and free from any contaminants such as dirt or bacteria. Consider wearing gloves when handling the jerky to minimize the risk of contamination. This will help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and keep your jerky safe to eat. You can never be too safe when it comes to foodborne illness!
Consider Using Natural Preservatives
If you're making your own turkey jerky, consider using natural preservatives to help extend its shelf life. Some natural preservatives include salt, vinegar, and citrus juice.
These ingredients not only help prevent bacterial growth but can also add flavor and texture to your jerky. Just make sure to follow a recipe and use the appropriate amounts of natural preservatives to ensure the safety of your jerky.
If you buy turkey jerky at Mahogany Smoked Meats, you don’t have to worry about this - we’ve already done the hard work of formulating our treats with delicious, natural preservatives to ensure you are able to enjoy your jerky to the fullest.
Final Thoughts on Refrigerating Turkey Jerky
You may have come here already knowing the obvious best practices for keeping turkey jerky safe and resh: avoid exposure to sunlight, don’t leave it out in the heat, close the bag, etc. But does turkey jerky need to be refrigerated?
You now know the answer is yes, sometimes. If you may a big batch yourself at home, then you’re best off vacuum sealing the contents and throwing them in the fridge. And even if you just bought in bulk, you can eliminate a lot of stress and anxiety by just keeping unopened contents - and in some cases, even larger opened bags - in the fridge.
If you’ve had food poisoning before, we don’t have to remind you how miserable the experience can be - and so it’s worth a bit of extra work to preserve your jerky properly. And now that you know all that goes into that, it’s time to bring our conversation to a close.
If you want to learn more about turkey jerky, you can explore our blog for detailed resources on topic like using turkey jerky for weight loss or whether turkey jerky is keto friendly or not. You can also learn more about topics related to jerky freshness in our blog - like how long does beef jerky last, how to store beef jerky after opening, can beef jerky go bad after opening, and can you freeze beef jerky.
We are also your one-stop shop for premium jerky online - and not just turkey jerky. In our online storefront, you can order beef jerky online as well as find elk jerky for sale, buffalo jerky for sale, wild boar jerky for sale, and even fish jerky for sale!
The unique mahogany smoking process we employ leads to a delicious, one-of-a-kind experience that will have you craving more and more. With so many cuts and varieties to try, you’ll never get bored of Mahogany Smoked Meat’s premium, small-batch selections!