Fish jerky has made quite a splash with its tantalizing taste and chewy texture. And don’t even get us started on the nutritional value of this type of jerky - it’s among the healthiest jerky types out there
Whether you made your own fish jerky or bought a bunch in bulk, you’re now racing to enjoy it all before it goes bad. But let’s take a step back - can fish jerky expire? And, if so, how long does fish jerky last?
You’ve come to the right place. We’re going to cover everything you need to know about the fish jerky shelf life in this guide to help you put that stress of eating spoiled food in the rearview mirror.
You’ll learn about the signs of spoilage to look out for to keep yourself safe. Plus, you’ll discover what you can do to prolong the shelf life of your fish jerky and enjoy it for as long as possible.
That being said, let’s start with a simple question we get asked all the time here at Mahogany Smoked Meats: can fish jerky expire?
Can Fish Jerky Expire?
Fish jerky, much like its meat counterparts, isn't immune to the march of time. Though it's dried and seasoned to slow the deterioration process, it doesn’t hold the eternal shelf-life that one might wish for.
Yes - Fish Jerky Can Expire
Every bite of fish jerky encapsulates hours of craftsmanship - the selection of premium fish cuts, meticulous dehydration, and the artful balance of seasonings.
But, despite this preservation process, the jerky still retains a limited lifespan. Moisture, air exposure, and microbial activity can all play spoiler to your snack. This is why it's pivotal to heed expiration dates and storage recommendations.
Remember, while jerky might seem dry, it still contains residual moisture, and this moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria over time. But what’s the big deal - what happens if you eat expired fish jerky?
What Happens if You Eat Expired Fish Jerky?
The consequences of eating expired fish jerky can range from simply an off-taste to potential health repercussions.
Fresh fish jerky offers a robust, flavorful, and textured delight. But when expired, it might taste stale, overly dry, or even rancid.
On the health front, ingesting spoiled jerky can lead to foodborne illnesses. Symptoms might include stomach upset, nausea, or even more severe conditions, especially if harmful bacteria like salmonella or E. coli have made a home in the expired product.
The rule of thumb is to always prioritize safety. When in doubt, giving up a packet of fish jerky is a small price to pay for ensuring your well-being.
The good news? You can enjoy peace of mind and avoid all this by simply following along as we dissect the fish jerky shelf life. Let’s look at the factors influencing how long fish jerky lasts.
Factors Influencing the Fish Jerky Shelf Life
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long fish jerky lasts, just as with questions like - how long does beef jerky last after opening? It's a dynamic value influenced by myriad factors ranging from the type of fish to how it's stored.
Type of Fish Used
Choosing the best cuts for jerky of any sort is paramount to taste, texture, and nutritional benefits. But it also influences the longevity of your jerky.
While all fish can be used to make jerky, not all are created equal in terms of shelf life. Lean fishes, devoid of high fat content, generally offer longer shelf lives.
For instance, Coho salmon is often considered superior for jerky purposes compared to its more oily counterparts because of its optimal fat-to-muscle ratio.
How the fish is processed pre-jerking is pivotal. Properly cleaned, filleted, and adequately dehydrated fish yields a jerky that stands the test of time.
The dehydration process, in particular, is crucial. Removing as much moisture as possible without compromising the fish's texture ensures a jerky resistant to spoilage
There are multiple ways to make jerky - with smoked jerky vs dehydrated jerky being the most common debate as to which is superior. You can read our blog to learn more.
Additionally, the seasonings and marinades used can act as natural preservatives, further extending the product's life.
Even the best-made fish jerky can falter if stored improperly. Jerky thrives in cool, dry places away from direct sunlight.
A humid or warm environment can reintroduce moisture to the jerky, shortening its shelf life and making it a haven for bacteria. If you live in particularly humid regions, consider storing your jerky in a refrigerator or using desiccant packs to ward off moisture.
This is something you can learn more about in our guide on how to store beef jerky, as those same tips apply here.
Last but certainly not least, packaging plays a colossal role in the fish jerky shelf life.
Vacuum-sealed packs, which remove and block out air, are the gold standard for preserving fish jerky. Oxygen, after all, is a prime player in the oxidation process which can make fats go rancid.
Moreover, high-quality packaging protects the jerky from external contaminants, ensuring the product inside remains as fresh as the day it was packed.
How Long Does Fish Jerky Last?
So, how long does fish jerky last? Its longevity is one of its most desirable traits in comparing fish to the other different kinds of jerky. Compared to fresh fish, which needs consumption in days, fish jerky stands resilient against the ticking clock of perishability.
But, all good things come to an end eventually. So how long does fish jerky last?
Under optimal conditions, properly dehydrated and sealed fish jerky can last anywhere from 6 months to a year. The dehydration process, a cornerstone of jerky production, removes the moisture that bacteria and fungi thrive in, thereby substantially extending the fish's shelf life.
However, this 6-month to 1-year window isn't set in stone. As we previously discussed, various factors influence this timeline.
For instance, fish jerky made from lean fish in a vacuum-sealed package stored in a cool, dry environment might edge closer to that one-year mark. Conversely, jerky stored in sub-optimal conditions might not fare as well, even if it's made with the best fish and technique.
Most commercially produced fish jerkies will come with a “best before” or “use by” date. This provides a solid estimate, based on the producer's knowledge of the fish, processing method, and packaging.
However, always remember: this date is a guideline for optimal quality. If stored correctly, your jerky can outlast this date, though some decline in taste and texture may occur.
On the other hand, it’s important to resort to your senses in determining if fish jerky is still fresh. We’ll discuss this below.
Signs Your Fish Jerky Has Spoiled
Not knowing whether your jerky is still safe to eat or not can be a huge source of stress. Fortunately, just as with how to tell if beef jerky is bad, there are a number of ways you can determine if it’s still safe or not:
Visual Clues: Discoloration, Mold, and More
Healthy fish jerky should maintain a consistent color throughout. If you notice any unusual dark or light patches, it's a sign that something's amiss. These could indicate mold, bacterial growth, or oxidation.
White, green, or black fuzzy spots are clear indicators of mold. Mold thrives in moist environments. If your jerky wasn't dehydrated correctly or has been exposed to humidity, it can become a breeding ground for mold.
Last but not least, an overly oily or slimy surface can indicate bacterial growth or rancidity, especially if the oil smells off.
Olfactory Indicators: How It Should and Shouldn't Smell
Good fish jerky will have a smoky, fishy, or marinade-inspired aroma, depending on its preparation. This is the smell of quality. You’ll still get a whiff of fish, but it should smell fresh.
A sour or off-putting smell is a strong indicator that your fish jerky has spoiled. This can result from bacteria, fungi, or the natural fats in the fish turning rancid.
Textural Changes: From Chewy to Soggy or Overly Dry
Fish jerky should be chewy but not soggy. If it feels too moist or soft, it may have been exposed to excess moisture, making it susceptible to bacterial growth. Give it a little bend and a pinch to see how it responds.
The opposite end of the spectrum - overly dry and brittle - can also indicate a problem with your jerky. While this doesn’t necessarily mean it's spoiled, fish jerky that's too dry may have been over-dehydrated, impacting its taste and palatability.
Taste Test: A Last Resort to Determine Freshness
If your fish jerky has passed the visual and olfactory tests but you're still unsure, a tiny taste can be your last resort.
However, exercise caution. If the jerky tastes sour, overly bitter, or just “off”, it's likely spoiled. Spit it out and throw it away.
Tips on Preserving Your Fish Jerky For as Long as Possible
Whether you took the time to make your own jerky or you bought in bulk, preserving your fish jerky for as long as possible is imperative. Here’s a quick guide to ensuring its freshness, and maximizing its shelf life.
Proper Storage: Keeping It Cool and Dry
Store your fish jerky in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Ideally, the temperature should be below 60°F (15°C).
Now, does jerky need to be refrigerated? Not necessarily - but it does extend the fish jerky self life dramatically compared to storing it at room temperature.
Just remember this above all else: moisture is the nemesis of jerky. Store your fish jerky in low-humidity areas to prevent it from becoming soft and susceptible to microbial growth.
Resealing After Opening: The Importance of Minimizing Air Exposure
Ensure you reseal your jerky tightly every time you open it. Air exposure can lead to oxidation, making your jerky rancid over time.
It may be worth investing in a vacuum sealer if you’re a regular consumer. You dramatically reduce the risk of spoilage by removing air from the storage bag.
Freezing: A Viable Option for Long-Term Storage?
If you have more jerky than you know what to do with, you may be wondering…can you freeze jerky? You sure can! There is a trade-off, though. It can slightly alter the texture. But, if it’s the difference between getting to enjoy all your jerky and having to throw some away, it’s worth it.
Just ensure you use freezer-safe bags to prevent freezer burn. Also, consider portioning the jerky into individual serving sizes, so you only defrost what you need.
The Role of Desiccants: Keeping Moisture At Bay
Desiccants are small packets you often find in food products, and they absorb moisture. They play a crucial role in extending the life of your fish jerky.
If your fish jerky came with one in the package, we encourage you to keep it in the bag even after opening it. It will continue to protect your jerky from unwanted moisture.
Final Thoughts on How Long Fish Jerky Lasts
So, how long does fish jerky last? In summary, it all depends on the specific storage conditions, the type of fish, how it was processed, and more. That being said, you can reasonably expect a fish jerky shelf life of 6-12 months in optimal storage conditions. It’s important to always watch for signs of spoilage, though.
You can learn more about the exciting world of jerky in our blog. We have articles covering the amount of protein in beef jerky, average beef jerky prices, our favorite elk jerky recipe, the link between beef jerky and pregnancy, does beef jerky expire, and more.
If you're looking for premium-quality smoked fish jerky for sale online that stands the test of time, look no further than Mahogany Smoked Meats. We’re the best jerky brand online with more than 100 years of experience in smoking delicious, natural, long-lasting treats.
We still work in small batches, use top-quality cuts and natural ingredients, and a unique mahogany wood smoking that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
But why not taste the difference firsthand? From the rich, smoky flavors of our fish jerky to the vast array of other jerkies we offer, each product promises satisfaction in every bite. Get yours today!