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Dehydrating Meat

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Hello, everyone! 


My husband and I are starting to get back into camping and backpacking, and I have been researching and preparing dehydrated meals for their ease while we're out in the woods.  Some of the meals call for dehydrating meats at home -- including ground beef or turkey, chicken, and even things like shrimp.  


Is this safe?  I have only dehydrated fruit and vegetables up until now, including a tasty vegan chili macaroni.  I don't dehydrate rice at home because I'm scared of that bacteria that grows in rice -- I just use packaged Instant Rice.  Dehydrating meat at home seems a little fishy to me, but if it's okay I'll make some of the meals that call for it.  


Thank you so much for any wisdom you are willing to share!  :) 

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What it is, is making jerky with the meat and dehydrating it. I have done that many times. I don't know if you have a Bass Pro shop or not but a shop like that has all the seasonings and things for making it. You could try checking out some of the pro shops like Bass Pro shop. You might be able to check them out online. 

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You are going to find all kinds of opinions as to whether dehydrating ground meat is safe.  It's called "gravel" if you want to look it up. 

Dehydrating shrimp is safe, but the best result I had was dehydrating the tiny canned shrimp.  As much as good fresh or frozen shrimp costs, the stuff you get out of dehydrating it is really disappointing.  Dehydrated, the little ones can add a lot to a camp meal.

Dehydrating venison and beef is easy, and I have always done it with normally a lot of success.  With venison, a little goes a long way, and cut it against the grain or you will be chewing forever.  I tried a lot of marinades, since I try to minimize soy, and ended up with a dry pack of salt with some sugar and spices, which the meat juices liquefy pretty quickly.  Massaging this in gets it distributed pretty well, but not as uniformly as a liquid marinade, and it's more intense than a liquid marinade.  I compensate by cutting the beef a bit thicker, twice the thickness of a saltine cracker instead of one saltine thick, and along the grain, and by drying it to a harder stage.  The result can have like a corned beef flavor, but doesn't have to.  

Most US store-bought pork has so much fat in the muscle that it goes rancid no matter how you try to dry it.

Getting turkey at the holiday sales and drying that very lean breast meat while eating the dark meat fresh (or canning it) is a great move.  You dry (slow-cook) poultry at a high salt level and/or high dryer temp, of course.  Also, given the state of poultry packing houses, smell it constantly to check for off odors unless grew and slaughtered it yourself and are sure of the health and cleanliness of the meat.  

It's best to put an oven thermometer in your drying chamber, so you know you are keeping your food out of the "danger zone" of bacterial growth until you are sure your salt/sugar concentration and/or dryness is sufficient to block bacterial growth.

If stuff is too salty to enjoy at the other end, you can simmer it to draw the salt out, and use the salty water to cook other things in.  However, if you're hiking and camping, your taste will probably run to enjoying more salt than you like at the house because you're sweating out more.


Danger Zone" (40 °F - 140 °F) | Food Safety and Inspection ...

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Yes, if you are making jerky for long term storage it does need to be frozen after it is made. For short term it must be used up within I think it was either a week or two weeks but in fridge. After that it must be frozen. I stopped making it years ago due to DH's low salt intake diet. For me canning it would make more sense for long term use. If you use the food saver bags and do it that way for freezer you can store it in there longer with no freezer burn. 

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Well made and vacuum sealed, it's good for at least three months, or until a week after you open it, assuming any lasts that long.  If any does, I'd question whether it was well made.  Most of the time, for us vacuum sealed meant in a ziplock bag, because that's what we had.


Here's a riddle I never figured out.  Fat with no meat in it can stay good.  Meat without fat can stay good.  Pemmican is completely lean meat mixed with a ton of purified fat, and it stays good (or as "good" as something as essentially nasty as pemmican ever gets).  But fatty meat goes rancid.  I'm sure someone has figured this out but, as I said, I never did.

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Thank you all! The meat in these recipes is not jerky; it’s stuff like chili macaroni with home-dehyrated ground beef or Turkey, or chicken rice with home-dehydrated chicken. I wasn’t sure about the safety of dehydrated meat because I have canned meat, and you have to be SO careful with the canning process — it made me wonder if bacteria could grow on the meat while dehydrating it. The thermometer graphic was helpful. It seems that if you dehydrate meat at about 145 degrees, it would be safe?  For now I’ll stick to the meatless recipes, but since y’all said it’s safe to dehydrate lean meat, I may get the courage to branch out! :)

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I have dehydrated meals for camping in the past, including meat.  Though many will disagree and dehydrate it raw my rigid rule for dehydrating meat is to cook it to safe temperatures first.  Ambergris has a good chart above. My second rule is to only dehydrate at continuous temperatures above 145° until dry.  Some dehydrators have settings to allow for that but some do not and most of those go only to a hundred so do use a thermometer.  If your oven stays a consistent temperature above 145° you can use that but not if it gets too hot.  I’ve often wondered if an air fryer would work but don’t have one to test. 

The key I’ve found to making up quick cooking dehydrated meals is to make sure the longer cooking ingredients are cut into small dice.   I usually dehydrate meat in thin slices and then cut them smaller after dehydrating to use in meals.  Instead of sealing the entire meal together as one dump and cook meal I usually seal the meat in small meal portioned packages to bring separately.   I either staple the meat package to the meal package or if I’m not making the meal package too far ahead I tuck the sealed package in the container with the rest of the meal ingredients to open and add them at the last minute before cooking.  I store extra sealed meat packages in the freezer to ensure they keep well long term. 

Not what you are asking but If you are leery of dehydrating your own meat I have noticed some interesting commercial meat options on the market that would be great for camp meals though some might be a bit heavy for backpacking.  Prosciutto for instance and the foil packets of tuna, chicken, ham and even spam would be easy to carry along and open in camp.  Precooked bacon is light and easy to carry and there are various versions out there including uncurled all natural bacon bits that come in shelf stable packets. And there are summer sausages, pepperoni  and lots of other cured meats that would be shelf stable. You can of course buy already dehydrated meat. You can get it in bulk packages to save some of the cost and break it down to seal into smaller portions.  

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From the Purposeful Pantry





Easy Tips to Dehydrate Ground Beef

Dehydrating ground beef is an awesome way to preserve beef for your pantry, hiking, and camping trips, and to make quick meals in a jar that your family will love! Come learn how to stock your pantry with shelf-stable meat that doesn’t require a pressure canner or freeze-dryer!






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