How Long Does Dehydrated Meat Last?
The process of dehydration makes it easier for the user to store various different types of meat especially if you wish to carry dehydrated food for short trips like camping or hiking. This is primarily for the reason that it is not only a great and preferred way to store meat but also dehydrating the meat reduces the bulk and volume of the meat thereby making it all the more compact and eliminating or reducing the moisture content to minimal level possible, which is the main cause of meat spoilage. Dehydrating meat is actually a way to preserve meat; however only dehydrating alone is not enough to safely preserve your meat.
Proper storage of the dehydrated meat also plays a significantly important role to make your dried meat last longer and remain safe for consumption. This requires placing the dehydrated meat in appropriate containers, for a specified period time. This ensures that your dehydrated meat will remain free from mold development and bacterial contamination and therefore could be prevented from early spoilage. Hence it is as equally important to store meat properly as it is to dehydrate it.
How Long Dehydrated Meat Last’s?
- The dehydrated meat should be predominantly consumed within two to three months of its preparation. However, it is recommended that in case if the dried meat is not consumed post 1 month of preparation, it should be stored in a refrigerator to ensure the freshness and prevent spoilage.
- The dehydrated meat stays fresh and can be consumed safely for up to a maximum of six months after its preparation, if it is properly stored in the freezer.
- Homemade jerky remains good for up to 1 to 2 months. However if you want to prolong the shelf life of your jerky beyond 1 to 2 months, then you can store it in the refrigerator. Storing homemade jerky in the freeze helps it remains good for a period of up to 6 months. However, freezing can change the taste of jerky. It would be a better choice to make smaller batches and consume them within a month or two, rather than opting for making a big batch and having to store high quantity of jerky at once.
Below are some methods and hacks that will help you increase the shelf life of your dehydrated meat.
Recommended Dehydrating Process for Meat to Last Longer
Dehydrating meat means removing the maximum amount of water content from the meat. The best part about dehydrating meat is that the removal of water does not negatively impact the nutritional value or content of the meat. However doing so increases the shelf life of meat without the need of refrigeration. This is predominantly because of the fact that bacteria, mold or any other forms of microbes require water to thrive and multiply. When the meat has undergone dehydration, this makes the dried meat less vulnerable to contamination that can lead to its spoilage making them hazardous to eat and adversely impact your health.
As during the process of dehydration, the meat gets heated up to only to 140 degrees F (in some dehydrators where the highest temperature is restricted to a maximum of 140 degrees F), it does not properly cook meat and kill the bacteria. Roasting meat or boiling it in marinade prior to dehydration in an oven or dehydrator, heats the meat to a temperature 160 degree F, thereby making it safer to consume.
User can also cook the meat in an oven at a temperature of 275 degrees F. Having said this, there are many dehydrators available in the market space that allow the user the freedom of choice, to increase the temperature as high as 165 degrees F, which helps to dehydrate meat safely as this is the recommended temperature setting by FDA to safely dehydrated meat. This eliminates the need to cook the meat separately in an oven and saves both your time and effort.
Recommended Temperature Guidelines for Cooking Meat
According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), below is the recommended minimum temperature required to cook meat properly and safely.
- Cooking Whole Cuts of Pork: The USDA had lowered the recommended temperature for cooking whole cuts of pork safely from 160 degrees F to 145 degrees F with the inclusion of a 3 minute rest time. After cooking or dehydrating pork to 145 degrees F and before removing meat from the heat source, allow a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will ensure both safety and quality of pork.
- Cooking Whole Cuts of Other Meats: For dehydrating or cooking meat products like beef, veal, and lamb cuts the safe temperature is unchanged which is 145 degrees F, but USDA has included a 3 minute rest time into its cooking recommendations.
- Cooking of Ground Meat: The ground meats, for instance, beef, veal, lamb, and pork, should be cooked to temperatures of 160 degrees F and do not needs a rest time to ensure they are safe to consume.
- Cooking of Poultry: The cooking temperature recommended for safely cooking all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, is 165 degrees F.
What Is Rest Time?
Rest time is the length time required for the meat to remain at the final temperature highest temperature after it is removed from the dehydrator or oven. During this time (3 minutes), after the meat is removed the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to increase, which helps to destroy harmful bacteria.
Storage Containers for Dehydrated Meat
Dehydrated meat lasts longer when stored in containers with an airtight lid or tightly sealed Ziploc bags. This is the best way to store dried meat, which is completely free from any moisture content because moisture leads to bacterial development and growth. Glass jars and airtight containers help to keep moisture away. Users can also use vacuum packaging in order to keep their dehydrated meat pieces both dry and safe.
You can also add food grade oxygen absorbers into your plastic bag or canning jar. This is the main reason why store bought dried meat lasts longer than the one dehydrated at home. Removing the oxygen from your glass jars or plastic bags helps prevent the chances of bacteria growth, therefore extending the shelf life of your dried meat.
Additionally, you can also use vacuum packaging in order to extract oxygen to prevent the spoilage of meat. Vacuum sealers relatively inexpensive and can be easily purchased. They work best for storing homemade meat.
It is highly recommended to store dehydrated meat in cool and dark place. Users can place dehydrated meat in their kitchen cupboard, just make sure that the cupboard is not too close to any heat source. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, it is recommended to keep dehydrated meats in an unrefrigerated area for no longer than 2 weeks. Post that, place the jars containing dried meat in the freezer and/or refrigerator for using it up to one year after dehydrating.
It is essential and utmost necessary to keep the area you work in, for dehydrating meat very clean and wash your hands thoroughly prior to touching the meat. Dehydrated meats can develop molds or bacteria if moisture seeps into the container. In case you see the development of molds or bacterial growth, it is imperative to throw the meat out immediately to prevent botulism like diseases.
Note: Pre-treat pork to kill trichinella (a parasite that causes trichinosis) by freezing a piece of meat measuring 6 inches in thickness or less at a temperature of 0 degrees F for a period of 30 days. Having said this, this pre-treatment does not destroy bacteria but only a proper heating to 160 F will destroy bacteria like Escherichia coli.
Using the recommended Dehydration process is the best way to increase the shelf life of meat and make it last longer. All different kind of meats can be dried and kept for almost same length of time.
Dried meat will for sure last indefinitely if you dry it properly and if your method of storing meat is appropriate. Please make sure that you follow recommended temperature settings for the type of meat you wish to dehydrate. Proper storage of meat plays a crucial role in preserving it for a long time and It is suggested to store dehydrated meat in cool and dark place. Hygiene is an important aspect to molds or bacteria if moisture seeps into the container. Meat should be very clean and you should wash your hands thoroughly prior to touching the meat.
By following above guidelines, you can preserve your favorite meat for a long time without compromising on your health as well as the quality of dehydrated meat.