How to Dehydrate Meat

Dehydrating meat for long term storage is one way to preserve it for use at a later date. Dehydrated meat can be carried more easily than other meat sources and can be used while camping or while living off-grid.

Why Dehydrate Meat?

Meat is primarily protein, which makes dehydrated meat a snack that is easy to carry as well as being a way to preserve it to last much longer without refrigeration. Using temperatures of up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit can bring the meat to 160 which kills any bacteria or other contaminants that may be in the meat. 

What Types of Meat Can be Dehydrated?

Any meat that can be eaten can be dehydrated. This includes the common things made into jerky such as beef, buffalo, chicken, turkey, and venison; it also includes less commonly dried meats such as ground beef, shrimp, and sliced ham. 

Fresh raw meat will dehydrate well, especially after marinating in a delicious flavor. Leftover cooked meat can also be dehydrated, which eliminates much of the concern about bacteria or other contaminants, as it is already cooked. 

Meats that are already tender before dehydrating are more likely to be tender afterward. This is usually a higher quality cut of meat. 

What Seasonings Results in the Best Flavor?

Obviously, this will be different for each person. There are some people who prefer a peppery flavor, some who prefer a teriyaki flavor, and still others who prefer the basic flavors of the meat, simply enhanced with a bit of salt. It is wise to try out smaller batches of different flavors before choosing to dehydrate a large quantity of any particular flavor. No matter how nutritious dehydrated meat is, it is useless if nobody will eat it. 

Seasoning meat will depend on what the intended use may be. Meat that is well salted will go well in a stew or soup later, while meat with specifically ethnic seasoning will often only go well with a dish from that particular ethnic cuisine. 

Boil the meat 3-5 minutes in the chosen flavorings; this both gets the flavor fully in the meat and also sanitizes the meat to prevent bacteria growth.

How Does One Dehydrate Meat?

The best method for dehydrating meat will largely depend on which meat is being dried. As has been mentioned, nearly any meat can be dehydrated, though some will have better results than others. 

As much fat or oil as possible should be removed before dehydrating, to prevent it from becoming rancid. 

If using general cuts of meat, thinly slicing the meat against the grain will give the best results. If the chosen meat is ground, mixing in some grain or crumbs can help it to rehydrate better when it is added to a recipe. 

Meat can be dehydrated in the oven, in the sun, or in an electric dehydrator. When using the oven, place the strips of meat directly on the rack. Make sure air can get around all sides of the meat. 

When drying in the sun, be careful to protect the meat from bugs and external contaminants. 

An electric dehydrator is the safest and easiest way to remove the liquid from meat. Follow the instructions that came with the dehydrator.

How Should Dried Meat be Stored and For How Long?

While dehydrated meat can be kept without refrigeration for up to a month without any likelihood of decay, it can actually be kept much longer if it is properly packaged. Vacuum sealing the dehydrated meat will give it a while longer and placing the dried meat into the freezer can lengthen its lifetime by years. 

Meats that have been dried and had any oil blotted from their surface are less likely to have such oils go rancid, which might otherwise happen. 

How Does One Use Dehydrated Meat?

The simplest use is to simply eat it as a snack. Beef jerky, turkey jerky, venison jerky, and similar strips of dehydrated meat make an excellent bite that can be easily carried in a backpack or pocket. Since it will keep for up to a month, it can easily be added to camping supplies or hiking supplies. However, this is far from the only way to use it. 

Chop dried meat and toss into a pan with a bit of broth and some vegetables to make a great soup or stew.

Reconstitute dried meat; it will be chewier than the original meat, but it will add protein and flavor to any dish.