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Beef Jerky Food Safety Question.


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What are the steps/procedures/techniques one should follow to minimize food safety risks during the making of uncured beef jerky? Is it sufficient to keep the beef refrigerated during the marination process and then move it directly to a 150 - 175 degree smoker, leaving it at that cooking temperature for 8 or so hours? Clearly the food would - in that process - never be in the "danger zone" for more than an hour at the most.

What about keeping the finished product - safely - following the cooking process? I did bite the gadget bullet and buy a FoodSaver vacuum sealer. If I seal the finished jerky in one of those bags, should it be refrigerated or frozen? How long will it be safe to eat if not refrigerated? If not frozen? I'd like to send some to my son, in Alabama. Will it be safe (vacuum sealed) for, say, a week?

Finally, what should one look at or for that might be a clue that the jerky has moved from "safe to eat" across the line to "not such a good idea"?

Thanks for any thoughts you might be willing to share.

Milt

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Ok so my first comment is going to be a huge old disclaimer: I think most of the national food safety "rules" are way excessive. They're designed to protect not only the weakest in our population (elderly, children, people with immune deficiencies) but they're also designed to dictate a procedure that can be followed in a commercial kitchen where there could be a dozen people or more handling a single item of food and long term food storage and cleanliness can be suspect. A lot of the food safety rules have been created specifically to protect those who are most at risk in our general population - children, elderly, those with suppressed immune system. For a lot of us in home kitchens, the extreme level of (in my mind) overprotectiveness is not always necessary. 

 

That said, here are the USDA and OSU Extension guidelines for making jerky at home safely. 

 

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/sites/default/files/documents/pnw_632_makingjerkyathome.pdf

 

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/jerky-and-food-safety/ct_index

 

Use your own best judgement after reading these. 

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Thank you, Kara, for the information, the posts, and - most importantly - the appropriate disclaimers. I promise not to sue you or anybody else in connection with or as a result of any ideas, suggestions, practices, information or advice than has so far been or may in the future be posted hereon in response to my request for information. This promise is and shall be binding on myself, my heirs and/or assigns and on any person or persons claiming under or through me.

/s/ Milt Tootle

Now, all that being said, and with all due respect to the fine folks at the USD&A and the Extended Oregonians, if any readers/users/lurker seeing this have actually successfully made, kept, eaten, and shared uncured beef jerky at home without having killed off or hospitalized any Framily Members (what can I say ... at least for now, Sprint is headquartered here in KC), I would sincerely appreciate any practical this-is-what-I-do-and-ain't-nobody-dead-yet tips s/he might be willing to share.

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I have made it at home, smoked on the kamado, stored in Ziploc baggies, and eaten on it for up to 10 days with no refrigeration.  (It rarely lasts longer than 10 days around here.)

 

I think you'll be fine barring the meat sitting in a UPS/USPS/FedEx  truck or sorting facility at 90º+ for an extended period of time...but I'm no expert so proceed at your own risk.

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If I use lean beef and dry it out well I have no issue keeping it in the pantry for a month.  When I make a ton I will freeze it in a zip bag.  I would't personally think twice about mailing it to a friend or family member.

 

The key for me is lean meat and well dried.  Your mileage may vary.

I personally watch for odor and color change.  If I was really concerned I would use pink salt in my cure to help it last much longer.  Lean meat....

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