Take a look at the average prepper’s pantry and you’ll see lots of rice, beans, pasta, canned veggies, dehydrated fruits, and so forth. But take a look at their daily diet and you’ll see lots of beef, steak, chicken, and other meats. See the problem?
Many preppers love to eat meat, but unfortunately, they have a tendency to only store it in the fridge or freezer. What are they going to do for meat if the power grid goes down and the refrigerator no longer works?
The good news is, there are more ways to store meat that most people realize. In this article, we’ll take a look at ten ways to preserve meat without a fridge or freezer, divided into the five most common and the five least common.
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Five Most Common Meat Preservation Methods
1. Canning Meat
Canning is simply a process where food is preserved by being sealed in an airtight container, with an expected shelf life of around two to three years at a minimum.
Canning meat is definitely one of the more popular and well-known methods for preserving meat, but it’s also one that will require some practice to get it right, and you’ll want to be very careful so you don’t end up with botulism.
Whereas some foods can be canned with a water bath canner, you can’t safely preserve meat this way. Rather, you’ll need to use a good pressure canner.
It works by heating water and trapping the resulting steam in a pressurized container, which raises the temperature to 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, killing any and all bacteria. It might sound intimidating at first, but pressure canners are perfectly safe once you know how to use them.
Here is a guide to canning meat.
2. Curing (aka Salting)
Curing, otherwise known as salting, is one of the oldest known meat preservation methods. In fact, this method was even used by the Ancient Romans.
Curing is also a unique process because it can be used effectively for most types of meat (poultry, pork, fish, beef, etc.) and it works for both cooked and raw meat as well.
To cure meat, first, you’ll want to remove as much fat as possible. Then you can rub salt and any other spices you want over the meat, completely covering it. You’ll then want to refrigerate it for at least a week (or place it outside in cold–but not freezing–weather, out of direct sunlight). Finally, rinse off all the salt and other mixes with water.
Afterward, you’ll need to tightly wrap the meat in cheesecloth. Store the meat in a dry and cool place and it should be safe to eat for two to three months. Below you’ll find a detailed guide to curing meat at home.
Solar dehydrators have the unique advantage of not requiring electricity, though they are also dependent on getting plenty of sunlight.
If you choose not to use a dehydrator, you can use an oven. Or if you prefer a more traditional path, you can simply hang the meat in the sunlight. You’ll just need to make sure your meat has been cut into very thin slices with as much fat removed as possible.
4. Freeze Drying Method
In order to freeze dry meat, you will need to purchase a freeze dryer. Unfortunately, they are very expensive, which means that this may not be the most practical option for many of you. That being said, if you do choose to purchase a freeze dryer, then this method is certainly one of the best options available for preserving meat.
Furthermore, just about any food can be freeze-dried. You can even freeze-dry leftovers if you want to. In fact, some of the most popular survival foods on the market are freeze-dried. You can also arrange them in jars, and since almost anything can be freeze-dried, you can easily create a good all-around meal in a jar.
By purchasing a freeze dryer as well, most of the steps that you would need to take will be done for you. You’ll simply need to slice up your meat into thinner pieces and then place them on the trays of the freeze dryer. The freeze dryer will then drop the temperature inside to as much as fifty degrees below Fahrenheit, creating a vacuum around the meat.
After that, the inside of the freeze dryer is warmed and the water is converted into vapor, removing it from the meat. So the meat is frozen, then dried. Thus the term, freeze-dried.
Last but not least, smoking is easily one of the most traditional meat preservation methods in existence, and it’s been around for centuries.
Historically, meat smoking has been used in areas with high humidity where dehydrating or air drying meat was simply impossible. Though of course, those were in the days before dehydrators were invented.
Meat smoking also has the distinct advantage of making your meat very flavorful. Most people who smoke meat don’t do it for preservation, but rather for the taste.
In order to smoke meat, you’ll need to have a backyard. Basically, you soak wood chips in water for a full day, and then place those chips into the smoke box. You set the temperature of the smoker to how you want it, then you spread the meat over the racks within the smoke.
You’ll then need to cook the meat until you get it to the right temperature (different meat types have different temperature requirements) and continue to add smoke. You’ll need to continue to add more wood chips to the smoker as well. It’s the smoke that produces the flavor.
Five Least Common Meat Preservation Methods
Biltong is a process where pieces of meat are marinated in vinegar for several hours before being flavored in rock salt, whole coriander, black peppercorns, and sometimes brown sugar, baking soda, barbeque spice, or cloves.
The meat is then allowed to sit for a few hours before being hung out to dry. This method is similar to the process of creating jerky, and the meat will be able to last for a long time outside of the fridge or freezer. Watch the video below to learn how to make it.
Brining is a more traditional form of meat preservation. If done properly, it can make your meat last for several years.
Brine is simply a mixture of water, salt, and brown sugar (the sugar is optional). You soak your meat in the mixture for several weeks, and you can eat it at any time. When it’s done, after a month or so, you can store it at room temperature. Although to be on the safe side, you should keep it as cool as possible.
It works because salt gets into the meat and stops bacteria from spreading. Meanwhile, the water keeps it nice and moist. Here is some more information about brined meat.
Another old-school method for preserving meat is to preserve it in lard. This can actually be a very practical preservation method if you have a lot of fat on hand. Basically, you just place your meat in a crockpot and cover it with melted lard.
This works for preservation because the lard stops air from reaching the meat, thus stopping bacteria from growing as well. This method is very cheap and easy, and it’s also effective.
Afterward, you’ll always want to store the meat in a cool and dry location. Under no circumstances will you want to store meat covered in lard in a hot environment.
Here’s some more information on preserving food in lard.
Rillette isn’t so much a meat preservation method as much as it is a meal on its own. Basically, you take some port and chop it up, salt each piece, and then cook it in fat until it can be shredded. You then wait for the meat to be cooled until you can form it into a paste. Finally, you pack it in glass jars.
Usually, rillette is used as an addition to meals, such as spreading it over bread. You can add herbs to it such as thyme, oregano, or lavender to greatly increase the flavor. When properly done, rillette can last you for at least a month. Watch the video below to learn how to make it.
10. Sugar Syrup Method
Did you know that you can also preserve meat by using sugar? In fact, this may be one of the most accessible methods for the ordinary person. Examples of foods you can preserve using sugar include ham, pork, bacon, and fruit.
What you’ll need to do is chop up your meat into small pieces. Place that meat into a clean mason jar, then fill up the rest of the jar with sugar syrup. Proceed to seal the jar completely shut, and you’re all set. It works because the sugar prevents the growth of bacteria.
Everyone needs protein in their diet, especially in a survival scenario, so unless you plan on stockpiling tons of nuts and beans, you need to store some meat. And if you’re currently relying on a fridge or freezer to store your meat, you need to look into some of these other meat preservation methods while you still can.