Dehydrated meat is easy to store and take with you if you're camping or hiking and is also a good way to store meat, as dehydrating reduces the bulk of meat, making it more compact. Dehydrating meat is a first step to preserving it, but dehydrating alone won't safely preserve meat.
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You also have to place your dehydrated meat in a safe place, in appropriate containers, for the proper amount of time. Taking the time to store and save dehydrated meat correctly ensures the meat will remain free from bacterial contamination and spoilage.
The Process of Dehydrating Meat
Dehydrating, or drying, meat means removing much of the water content. Removing water doesn't affect the nutrition of the meat, but does increase its shelf life without refrigeration. Because bacteria, mold and yeasts need water to multiply, dehydrating meats makes them less vulnerable to contamination that can spoil them or make them dangerous to eat.
Because dehydration alone heats meat only to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it doesn't thoroughly cook meat or kill bacteria. Roasting or boiling meat in marinade before dehydrating in the oven or dehydrator heats it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, making it safer to eat. You can also cook in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit long enough to heat the meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Best Containers for Dehydrated Meat
Dehydrated meat does best when saved in airtight lidded containers that are completely free from moisture inside, because moisture encourages bacterial growth. Glass jars or other airtight containers keep moisture out. You can also use vacuum packaging to keep dehydrated meats dry and safe.
Where to Store Dehydrated Meat
Keep dehydrated meats in a cool, dark area. You can keep dehydrated meat in your kitchen cupboard, as long as the cupboard isn't too close to the heat of the stove.
Keep dehydrated meats in an unrefrigerated area for no more than two weeks, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends. After that, place the jars in the freezer or refrigerator for use up to one year after dehydrating.
Keep the area you work in to dehydrate meat scrupulously clean and wash your hands thoroughly before touching the meat. Dehydrated meats can grow mold if moisture gets into the container. If you see mold, throw the meat out.
Treat pork or game meat to kill trichinella, the parasite that causes trichinosis — per the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention — by freezing a piece of meat cut 6 inches thick or less at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 days. This treatment does not destroy bacteria, however. Only heating to 160 degrees Fahrenheit will destroy bacteria such as E. coli.