Dehydrated meat is a benefit that every household can enjoy and practice. If you are an avid camper or hiker, using stored, dried meat is an excellent choice for extra food rations.
These foods are also much smaller than ordinary meat, which makes it even easier to contain. And the best part? This food can be stored and preserved for up to one year—and there are many paths to get there.
If you are interested in learning how to dehydrate your meat for future storage, then you've come to the right place. Our guide is designed to educate you on how to preserve dehydrated meat, how to correctly save it in the correct containers, as well as offer tips to maintain your dried food and keep it free from bacteria or going spoil.
How To Dehydrate Your Meat
If you've ever wanted a step-by-step process into dehydrating your steaks, pork, poultry, fish, and more, then look no further. You can start by extracting and removing all water content. This method is critical because it can increase the longevity of your food without any refrigeration; it also does not hurt the overall nutritional quality of the meat.
Water is the conduit for all types of bacteria and mold within yeast, which is a primer for multiplication and sickness. Dehydrated meat is not as vulnerable as ordinary, room-temperature food; it won’t spoil or contaminate.
But to get it ready for drying, you have to enact the process by roasting your meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will heat your meat and kill bacteria. Dehydrating your meat may be a crucial first step, but it indeed isn't the last. You will have to go beyond merely drying your meat to preserve it for months or a year.
Cure Meat With Salt
Salt has been used for thousands of years to preserve meat. For those that do not know, the benefits of salt-curing are ideal: Salt not only works to dehydrate the flesh, but it is also anti-microbial.
Salt curing begins with either rubbing the mineral against meat, then carefully draining the juice from the meat itself. Then repeat. Eventually, you get dry meat from this process. But there are also other ways to utilize salt:
- Brining. For those that prefer an extra salty flavor saturated through the whole meat, consider brining, a process of preservation through salt solution.
- Biltong. Vinegar—which can be apple cider, balsamic or household—can work as a great meat tenderizer, and can be used as a solution to marinate meat before you cure it with salt, add any additives, and start the dehydration process.
Also, for a better, lasting flavor, you can also add your favorite spices, herbs, honey or even brown sugar to the process.
Types Of Salt To Use
When preserving meat, salt is not mad equal. That's often because commercial salt contains additives. And the more chemicals you have in meat, the higher the chances of bacterial contamination or spoilage.
You can avoid these circumstances if you opt for kosher salt, which does not carry additives when curing meat. Most brand name department stores offer to cure salt to protect your meat safely; however, if used beyond the USDA recommended a limit of one ounce per quart of water, you become more vulnerable to possible health risks.
What Containers Can I Use To Store Dehydrated Meat?
Dehydrated meat must be separated from air to stay clear of moisture, which can create bacteria. That is why we recommend that you keep your items stored in a container with an airtight lid or seal, one that locks outside air away, much like a glass jar. Vacuum sealed packaging is also a unique, reliable option for dry, secure storage.
Vacuum Seal To Preserve
Vacuum sealers are highly recommended tools designed to preserve meat and maintain quality longer than other methods. After you load meat in a sealed bag, the mechanical device removes oxygen from the pack.
This action eliminates the growth of bacteria. You can then store your meat in a freezer with complete confidence; studies have shown that vacuum sealers preserve meat up to five times longer than regular preservation methods, all while maintaining freshness.
Vacuum sealers have additional benefits and considerations, such as:
- The packaging for vacuum sealers also reduces any potential freezer burn due to the lack of oxygen that can absorb the moisture in the meat.
- Secure, proper packaging is paramount to success. And bacteria are not all the same; some are anaerobic or does not need oxygen to thrive. It is possible for bacteria growth in an improperly sealed vacuum environment.
- Refrigerator shelf life can be extended when using a vacuum seal but must be unsealed and prepared by ten days to avoid anaerobic bacteria.
Types Of Storage Areas
Dehydrated meats should be kept in a cold room that is devoid of light. A kitchen cupboard can even work, however, avoid placing the meat anywhere near radiated heat from your stove. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends that dehydrated meat can remain unrefrigerated for, at most, two weeks.
Using A Refrigerator To Preserve Meat
A refrigerator is a staple for first-world households and can ensure that food remains fresh for at least a day or two. But different foods have different life spans of freshness; for example, poultry, ground beef, and seafood can be set aside in a refrigerator for no more than two days.
Steak, pork cutlets, lamb, and others can remain fresh for three to five days. Also, evaluate this handy guidance chart from Colorado State University to determine best-used-by refrigerator dates.
Also, safety is always first; when refrigerating meats, you’ll want to keep a few precautions in mind:
- Keep your refrigerator temperature just above 34 degrees through 40 degrees.
- Store dehydrated, raw meat at the bottom part of the kitchen drawer.
- Keep a plate beneath the thawed meat to collect juice spillages.
- Also, clean up and dispose of leftover items when you have finished.
If You Plan To Use A Freezer On Store Meat
Want to preserve your meat beyond three days? Consider a deep freeze below 0°F. At this temperature, any present mold and bacteria growth—whether with salt-cured meat or unprepared cutlets—is slowed. It's a strategy that you can confidently trust to preserve your meat for up to a year.
Here are some strategies to prepare, pack, and maximize your cold-storage treatment:
- Rewrap grocery meats. Don’t save store-bought meat in the grocery store plastic or paper packaging. There are a few reasons behind this: Plastic is not vapor or moisture resistant. With plastic, meat can dry out and even develop freezer burn often at a much faster rate. Tip for success: Rewrap all meat in a more reliable packaging, such as with a vacuum sealer or specialized freezer bags.
- No vacuum sealer or freezer bags? No problem. Though we have touted the benefits of an airtight seal to your meat, you don’t need one. Tips for success: You can eliminate most air with tightly wrapped butcher’s paper. Also, scotch or masking tape can serve as a temporary seal.
- Freeze faster. Freezing speeds vary among freezer models. And slow-freezing meat can cause a buildup of ice crystals in the flesh. It's a subtle issue that you won't notice until months—or a year—later when defrosting your meat, allowing a flow of juice to flow from your packed meat, ruining it. Tips for success: Store meat on any quick-freezing shelves you may have, or surround it with ice packs or previously frozen foods. The goal is to not just prepare the meat for preservation but to freeze it fast, so it stays that way.
Safety Tips To Follow
Food dehydration and preservation is a delicate process that requires an immaculately clean environment. So before you even touch meat, wash and clean your kitchen, hands, and any utensils.
Also, pre-clean your containers and inspect them to see if they are indeed airtight; dehydrated meats can develop mold when exposed to moisture. Make a clear line with any dehydrated meat and throw out anything with a hint of mold growth.
Treat all meat, especially those obtained when hunting and pork. These meats can carry the parasite Trichinella, and frozen temperatures should go below zero for a month to remove risk.
The USDA recommends a few major tips to avoid bacteria:
- Bacteria is very strong. It can survive in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Always heat beyond and freeze below the bacteria temperature ranges.
- Like all living things, bacteria need oxygen to survive and grow.
- Meats contain two primary bacterias: spoilage and pathogens.
- Detect spoilage bacteria by observing any changes to the appearance, odor, and taste of food.
- Pathogenic bacteria grows between 40° and 140°F and is not safe to consume, but can be deceptive since it will look, smell, and even taste fine, when it is toxic. This undetectable sign means that any meat left out in the open for more than two hours should not be eaten. Throw it out.
- Thawed meat should happen within the fridge itself or cold water solution. Room temperature thaws invite the growth of bacteria and are not safe.
By following these tips and strategies, you will be well on your way to drying, storing, and successfully thawing meat.