Dehydrating meat safely

I have been dehydrating foods for decades, but not meats. Fruit, veg, mushrooms mostly.

Preserving meat is common, but looking to make it dry for long term storage. Making instant soups, curries, rice meals etc i can make and store. Perfect for camping (light weight).

But i am not so sure on the food safety aspect, so looking up. Anyone here dehydrate meats? Jerkies work but i will be making it super dry. I have large driers, but no UV lights and was wondering if it is worth installing some lights for sterilization.

We have friends with smokers that produce fish commercially but their products has a short shelf life and seems dirty as hell haha.

Would love to have a back and forth with you guys that preserve meat :slight_smile:

@_Lilith might know if she checks in. She dehydrates food.

You need to buy a vacuum sealer if you want to preserve meats. Also I ideally cook the meat first, marinade and then dehydrate for 48 h on low, then vacuum seal it.


Thanks for your reply. I have a vaccuum sealer already. also do canning, but seals are easier to break it seems.

Have been preserving lots of food the last year to prepare for issues like this current CCP virus. Now am ramping up the production end of things to be able to share with neighbours and friends.

If i may ask you for more details (i have read up on it a bit now but curious for anyones personal experience). I am also only preserving cooked meat (cricket, mealworm and beef). I wont do pork. But would like to start doing chicken as so far its the one i am scared of doing for sanitary reasons. But its fast growing and way more sustainable than beef and can be far more humane/easier to kill. Plus, old people here have no stigmas about chicken like they do with beef.

Once meat is cooked. You marinade it. Do you marinade it in the fridge for XX hours then dehydrate? Or just a quick soak and cover then dehydrate?

My worry is that bacteria will slowly start to wake up in the fridge, and whenputting out in the heat (dehydrating) it may cause a few hour period of explosive growth. I am thinking using high temp firnthe first say 6 hours (100c) the flip and lower for dehydration.

Do you add any preservatives, other than salt, to avoid high pathogen counts?

If not, once dried and vacuum sealed, is your method able to be stored without refrigeration? That is my goal as if i need to store in the fridge, might as well just freeze it and avoid the work of dehydration.

Excited to read more, as this is quite a fun and useful skill to have. Even though i am a vegetarian haha. Thanks for you thoughts :slight_smile:

So, for beef and chicken I marinade 6-8 h in the fridge ( I tried to marinade Both before and after cooking and makes no difference). Then I dehydrate first at high temp then I lower the temperature till completely dry. Once cooled I vacuum. Honestly I don’t keep them in the fridge is vacuumed but they get eaten pretty fast.

I suggest you join some Facebook groups like dehydrating tips& tricks as they have been doing this for longer than I have probably :blush:

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Can you tell us about doing that? That’s an important skill.

How long do those last refrigerated? Do you use a vacuum sealer? That’s what I’ve been thinking of on and off to make DIY MREs.

How long is it good for?

Where do you get your canning supplies? I didn’t know anyone else thought of these things.

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sorry not sure how to quote multiple sentences separately.

For dehydrating foods, lots and lots of variables. If you have specific types i can attempt to answer. I mostly dry fruit, vegetables, fungi, spices and seeds. Meat is new for me. Though i have dried insect food a lot, it was to feed animals which now seems quite sellfish to admit the food safety was less important a priority than if i were feeding people.

The main things i aim for, in this order, when drying plant and fungi foods are:

  1. Safety (contamination and washed well) some things that arent dried right get massive bacterial/fungal attacks. For example when we do large ginger runs in the machines we have to match slicin and air drying for days with a decent temperature, low humidity and bright sun (preferrably with wind) to air dry and let the ginger crystalize slightly. If dried straight after slicing if a few pieces are layered there is insane bacterial growth in low temp. Can do higher temp but it affects flavor and storage.

  2. Flavour. Things that are flavoured with essential oils and in leaf form are very easily evaporated. So washing and dry is pretty sensitive. Basil is a good example of a herb easy to dry with no flavor.

  3. Smell. Much like above…

  4. Appearance. Eapecially for leaves and fruit. Most dried fruit are aprayed qith preaervatives. I use lemon/lime juice. Ascorbic acid is used commercially a lot. Helps keep banana slices, for example, from going black and ugly. If doing potatoes will blanch them first for same blackening reasons.

Then everything else mostly based on logistics.

The soups we make are either dried soups which last a year or 2 sealed (probably more but we need to give expiry when selling). For ourselces we freeze the soups, so they last a couple years at least. We dont have large deep freezers, but back home grandma would feed us 5 year old frozen soups all the time in winter without any noticeable discomfort. I like keeping some soups, burritos etc in the freezer for long work days anyway. Makes eating waaaaay easier.

I would use vaccuum sealer whenstoeing whole items. Such as marinated vegetables or now dehydrated meat. Certain dry things as well. But not for most things as i find it bad on plastic. I use a lot of glassware, but it is really crap on space efficiency and need to be careful freezing liquids (expansion/breakage)

Canning jars i have not found here. I bring a box of mason (or kerr) jars back here everytime i visit my family in canada. Have ordered a couple times but come broken usually.

Probably later this year will be doing another order for glass jars (not canning) and was thinking if people are interested can maybe arrange a large group buy for canning jars that can tag along in the same container as our other stuff. But min. Order is 5,000 per size so not optimistic on the demand here. But can start thinking about it if anyone is interested.

check out recipes for biltong, South African dried meat. No vacuum sealing needed, minimal salt, does use a vinegar wash for safety.


serious question from someone who has no idea about that stuff.

is dehydrated meat basically just consumed as beef jerky or do you rehydrate it before eating, like those little pieces of meat(?) in instand noodles?

Both are possible. You will never recreate a great steak, though.

Biltong is dry like wood and lasts for ever, while that American jerky is really only semi-dried and needs care in storage.

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i thought so :sweat_smile:

i do enjoy some beef jerky once in a while, i actually like the taiwanese 肉乾 much more. but i couldn’t imagine eating that on a regular basis, let alone doing it from scratch with all the hassles. and doing that with chicken? :grimacing: someone better give me some free samples to believe it can be edible!!

Biltong - droooool…

This one looks very interesting, thanks for sharing.

Can deer be used as well?

I wonder if Taiwan is too humid though. The sites i read mention doing it in the cool dry months in SA to avoid contamination. I have some smaller commercial driers, about a meter tall. If i hubg it in those and turned them on, you think this would be safe? They also mention cool drying first to avoid nasty stuff growing, so wondering if it might be a bad idea.

Um. Stick it in the fridge.

Isnt the point to store meat without refrigeration?

Or do you mean when hanging it to dry use a fridge? If so there in lies a logistics issue as dehydration requires airflow to move out the moist air and bring in drier air. A fridge left open burns out relatively fast. That also seems more like dry aging. An interesting thing to do but our goal is dry, non refrigerated storage. Dry aged meat seems to need the outer portion cut off, which seems incredibly wasteful.

Ideally like you pisted the SA dried meat, it can be stored long term. That is ideal for our purpises and also without use of refrigeration (we would just freeze meat rather than go through the hassle of dehydrating if we still need to keep it cold).

The main concern is eating something that has gone off and ending up in a hospital haha. Meat is riskier in this regard. I wonder now if goat could be done this way? Pigs seem to have far more risk to human health than beef. Wonder how other mammal meats compare such as goat which is easier to source here.

Drying meat in a refrigerator is fast, painless and simple. I do it all the time: coppa, prosciutto, pancetta, salamis, etc.

Frost free fridges actively remove water from the air, so that meat dries rapidly. You may want to temporarily put the strips of meat outside again, if you are drying larger chunks, so that the surface rehydrates a bit, to avoid case-hardening. In case-hardening, the outer surface dries so hard that it become impermeable, while the inner core is still wet, and eventually goes bad. Just putting the meat into a plastic bag still in the fridge also works, in case you still want to keep it cold. You judge how much water is being lost by weighing the pieces and keeping track of water loss that way. Coppas should lose about 25% weight by the time they are done, prosciutto and salami about 30-33%

you gain the benefit of reduced bacterial growth in the cold compared to hanging outside, unless you live in Alaska.

and if you want to make salami, you will need to hang outside for a while to allow the fermentation process to complete, before you refrigerate.

i have seen fridges retrofitted with temperature and humidity controls to make even better meat curing chambers, but just for occasional use a regular fridge on its warmest setting is fine.

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Fantastic. Great info, answers a lot i was unsure of. I have a bar fridge which doeant get ice cold anymore, will be iaing that to try out.

I was reading a few places talking about avoiding fat in the meat to help avoid it going rancid. Dont sauage type meats like pancetta and salami have a good amiunt of fat in them? Do you ever dry them fully, or more like a cure?

It’s more of a dry cure for those Italian meats (salami has 20-25% fat before drying, and about 30-40% after, while guanciale has about 75% fat, for example). The slightly fermented fat is half the story for those.

For a drier meat like biltong, I avoid fat as much as possible and use strips of what some people call London Broil (or a big-ass rump). That gets down to about 5% water content after a couple of weeks, and needs a very sharp blade or better yet, an axe to cut it later. but some South Africans like a mix of fat and meat, and only dry it down to 25% water content, (meat starts at about 70%). I guess that’s more like a cross between Italian deli meats and jerky.

I do add 0.02% nitrate to the Italian meats, to protect against spoilage, because botulism will kill you. (That’s about 2.5% salt by weight of the meat, and 0.25% Pink Prussian salt number 1, which is itself a 90-10 mix of regular salt and sodium nitrate). Just regular salt for biltong.

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Fantastic! I will be trying the biltong first as i want storage out of the fridge. Botulism scares the piss out of me…

Normally i dont like additives but considering there is ground up dead animal sitting at room temp for year, small price to pay!

Please send me some muntjac biltong when you’re done.

My all time favorite is eland biltong, but hard to find most places.