How To Oven And Sun Dry
Preserving meat and poultry to ensure your family will continue to have protein to consume during a SHTF disaster does not require any expensive equipment, or even a dehydrator.
Drying meat for long-term preservation involves decreasing the amount of water or moisture in the meat to prevent the growth of bacteria and spoiling. Bacteria requires moisture to grow, some species of microorganisms can thrive in even miniscule amounts of water.
Eating rancid meat even before things go critical and you have access to a fully-functional hospital can be deadly. Doing so after the SHTF could be equally deadly, but in a far more rapid and painful manner.
Drying food to keep it from spoiling is one of the oldest food preservation practices. Because the drying process eliminates as much moisture as possible, it makes the meat far more lightweight and portable – a big plus during a doomsday disaster when you may have to bug out. Dried meat does not require refrigeration, another huge bonus during a long-term disaster.
Creating adequate air flow is an essential part of the drying process, especially when dealing with a thick food, like meat. Larger or thicker portions of meat will take longer and need flipped several times during the driving process. I recommend flipping thick portions of meat, like the cuts on the upper tray, once every hour.
How To Dry Meat In A Kitchen Oven
1. Line the bottom of the kitchen oven with aluminum foil to reduce the amount of clean up required after drying meat and to catch the significant amount of dripping that will occur as the meat dries.
2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees – or 180 if your oven does not go down that low.
3. Cut the meat, pork, or poultry into thin strips or cubes.
4. If you want to season the meat with either dry or liquid ingredients, do it now. This step is often reserved for making jerky and not simply drying meat to preserve it, but that does not mean you can’t go ahead and add some flavoring to the meat to enhance taste. Adding salt to the meat should help reduce the chance of bacteria growth. Marinated meat will likely increase drying time and cause more mess in the oven.
5. Place the meat strips directly onto the oven racks. Make sure they are about one-fourth of an inch apart to allow for adequate air flow.
6. How long it takes to dry the meat depends on how thick the strips are and how much fat is on the meat. Typically, it will take five to 12 hours (sometimes 18 hours) to dry meat in a standard kitchen oven.
How To Dry Meat In A Solar Oven
It is easier, quicker, and safer to dry fruits and vegetables outdoor than meats, because of their high acid and sugar content. There are just two important components to solar drying – sunshine and air circulation. Keeping the temperature as controlled as possible in a solar oven is essential to thoroughly and evenly drying meat to remove moisture and to kill bacteria.
To use the sun to dry meat, the temperature must be at least a minimum of 85F (or 30C) throughout the entire process. The higher the temperature, the more moisture will be removed in a timely manner. A humidity level at or below 60% will be most beneficial or solar oven drying – particularly for meat.
Sun Drying Equipment
A commercially manufactured solar oven, a homemade solar oven, or racks and screens placed up on blocks – or in a survival situation, the cleanest screening material you can find placed over a concrete slab.
The screens and food being dried cannot come into contact with the ground because that would infuse the moisture from the grass, dirt, wood, or concrete back into the food and prevent necessary airflow.
To keep bugs and debris off of the meat, place a screen both on top of and beneath the meat being dried if going an open rack method. Ideally, the screens and racks should be placed on top of a sheet of aluminum foil inside a DIY solar oven or manufactured solar oven. The aluminum foil will also help increase the drying temperature, especially when the racks and/or screen are placed inside a solar oven:
It is highly recommended to avoid using racks or screens that are made out of aluminum, copper, or hardware cloth (rabbit hutch wire) because is it essentially galvanized metal that can oxidize, creating residue on the food being dried.
When using an actual solar oven, whether it is homemade or manufactured, you should leave the door propped open slightly to enhance the circulation of air – about two to five inches should work just fine.
Leaving the door open to create more air circulation around the meat will cause the temperature to fluctuate more during the drying process.
Drying meat in a solar oven can take up to two days, depending upon the density and the amount of meat, the quality of oven construction, and of course…the weather.
Solar drying and sun drying are not exactly the same thing – yet both use air circulation and sunshine to preserve food. Solar drying is detailed above. Sun drying is the hanging of food stuffs outdoors, usually from a rack or tree branch, and exposing it directly to the air and the sunshine.
Sun drying is great for preserving herbs, nuts, and some types of fruit and vegetables, but not or meat. It would become rancid far before the meat would actually dry from too much exposure to air flow. The most distinct disadvantage involved with sun drying is caused by the exposure to debris during the preservation process. Wrapping the food in cheesecloth will help reduce debris from touching the entire surface of the food stuff, but will not prevent microbial contamination from debris that either touches the food or sinks into the cheesecloth.
If this type of solar preservation is your only option for meat during a SHTF situation, it might be feasible if the meat is first coated thoroughly in salt before being suspended and allowed to air dry.
Dried Meat Storage Tips
• Make sure the meat is completely cooled before placing it in its airtight container for storage. Any steam created after the meat is placed in the container will create moisture and enhance the chances of bacteria and mold growing on the preserved food.
• Pack the meat as tightly as possible into the airtight container. Avoiding air pockets will also reduce the chances of moisture forming.
• The best storage containers for dried meat include: Mason jars, vacuum sealed bags, and metal containers with a firm fitting lid. Use glass containers and not porous plastic containers whenever possible.
• Ideally, store meat in recipe or meal size amounts to reduce waste. Once you open a container of dried meat, moisture is allowed inside the bag, can, or jar, and vastly reduce the shelf life of the preserved food.
• Storing dried meat (and produce) in a cool dark area has been known to safely preserve it for 12 months.
• The hotter the temperature is in the storage area, the shorter the shelf life of the dried meat. Attempt to keep dried food in a storage area that remains roughly around 60 degrees and never exceeds 80 degrees.
• In addition to preserving and storing whole chunks or strips of meat, you can also used the preserved protein to make a powder. The meat powder can be used in stews, soups, gravy, or in other recipes to enhance the level of protein in the dish and to help keep the family strong and healthy during a long-term disaster. To make a powder from dried meat strips or chunks, pound a single piece with a wood kitchen mallet to create small particles or flakes.
Storing dried meat or produce in vacuum sealed bags should help vastly increase its shelf stability.
Meat Drying Tips
• Boil the meat cubes or strips for about five minutes before drying to get rid of bacteria before oven drying. Allow the meat to air dry completely after boiling, before placing it in the oven.
• Cutting the meat uniformly will foster better and similar drying times.
• Cut away as much fat as possible before drying to help prevent bacteria growth and to deter drying time.
• When the meat is thoroughly dried it possess a leathery texture and feel somewhat sticky and leathery.
• All smoked meat must be stored in airtight wrapping or airtight container to ensure moisture does not have the chance to reach the dried meat and once again infuse moisture into it.
• If you do not boil the meat before oven drying, use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches a safe temperature. Ground meats and pork should reach 160 internal degrees. Roasts, steaks, and various types of chops should hit 146 internal degrees. Poultry should reach 165 internal degrees.
• Properly dried meat can be stored for many months, up to several years. The meat should be stored in a cool and dry place to further deter exposure to the elements and increase the chance of bacteria growth.
• The evaporation of water content during the drying process will cause the meat to shrink at least somewhat and alter its shape slightly. Some of the meat might appear to be darker in surface color and more wrinkly, than other portions of the same piece of meat or from other chunks or strips being dried.
• The process of drying meat (and to a lesser degree, produce) is a slow one. Never attempt to speed up the drying by increasing the temperature or you run the risk of cooking the meat (or fruits and veggies) instead of drying it.
• When the humidity is high, it will take longer to dry the meat due to the added moisture in the air.
• It is possible to dry larger chunks of meat, but doing so in either a kitchen oven or solar oven would likely be extremely time prohibitive. That type of meat preservation is best conducted in a smoker or smokehouse outdoors. To preserve meat (either in large chunks like a whole roast or strips) in a smoker, keep the heat at 155 degrees for approximately 12 hours to 22 hours.
Best Types of Meat For Drying
Lean meat is always the best type to dry, or really preserve in any manner. As noted above, always strip away as much fat as possible before drying meat of any variety.
6. Pork Tenderloin
7. Pork Chops
10. Pork Shoulder
11. Pork Ribs
How To Rehydrate Meat
To rehydrate protein powder, combine the meat flakes with lukewarm water at a 1 to 1 ratio. Allow the meat particles to soak in the water for 30 minutes to a full hour, stirring occasionally.
If rehydrating (or reconstituting) dried meat strips or chunks, place the protein in a bowl with lukewarm water (cold can work in a pinch, but may increase rehydration time) and allow it to soak for 60 to 90 minutes – also stirring occasionally.
The dried meat will not need to be reconstituted if it is being used in a soup, stew, gravy or similar dish where the preserved protein will be mixed with liquid in a cook pot.