Summertime is one of the most popular times of the year to get out and enjoy the wilderness. No matter where you live, there are abundant opportunities for camping and hiking adventures. One of the best ways to make an outdoor adventure even more memorable is to finish the day with a juicy, tender, delicious steak. Of course, getting a fresh steak to your campsite means you'll have to lug around a cooler or run the risk of having spoiled meat for dinner.
The solution is to source high-quality freeze-dried meat for your next adventure. We know what you are thinking – how can a freeze-dried steak even taste good? Isn't it going to be tough, tasteless, and gross? Is it even safe to eat freeze-dried meat that has been in a backpack all day or all weekend?
Freeze drying has come a long way in recent years as the demand for high-quality products grew, leading to companies that specialize in everything from freeze-dried meat to complete freeze-dried meals that you can shove in a pack and take with you.
When it's time for dinner, just add a little boiling water and like magic, you've got a tasty and delicious meal ready in minutes.
How Long Can Freeze-Dried Meat Last?
One of the reasons that freeze drying is popular for survivalists, preppers, and hikers alike is the incredibly long shelf life that the process results in. Most people agree that freeze-dried meat will still be edible for 20 to 25 years if it is properly stored.
We know this sounds like something crazy – how is it even possible that a piece of fresh meat could possibly still be edible in 25 years? The freeze-drying process (along with proper storage) results in a product that has nearly no ability to spoil.
Why Does Freeze-Dried Food Last So Long?
The reason that things like freeze-dried beef, freeze-dried vegetables, and freeze-dried fruits can last for such an incredibly long time is because the drying process forces moisture out of the food.
Unlike dehydration which requires heat to convert moisture into a gas, freeze drying is done at sub-freezing temperatures and under pressure, where ice becomes a vapor without becoming a liquid.
This process results in a finished product that contains less than one percent of the original moisture content. Without moisture, bacteria that causes spoilage can't grow, so your meat stays fresh. Of course, the key is that you'll need to store your products properly or run the risk of moisture reabsorption, which will lead to spoiling.
What's the Best Way to Store Freeze Dried Food for Prepping?
There is no getting around the fact that freeze drying is only effective so long as you can prevent moisture from coming into contact with the finished product. That means there is only one solution that truly works – vacuum sealing. If you aren't already using a vacuum sealer, this is a great opportunity to pick one up.
While not essential for freeze drying, you'll also find that you can store raw meats, nuts, and fruits in your freezer without the risk of freezer burn. This extends the length of time that you can store frozen food and also makes it easy to package, label, and store food in bulk.
Once you've stored freeze-dried food in a vacuum storage bag, you won't need to put it in the freezer or refrigerator. You should avoid placing it in a place that sees high temperatures or where it is exposed to light. A cool, dark spot (like a closet) is ideal for storing freeze-dried meats, veggies, and fruit.
How Does Freeze Dried Food Taste?
You might wonder whether freeze-dried food tastes okay and you'll be surprised to find that properly freeze-dried meat tastes pretty good. The freeze-drying process removes excess water, but not flavor. Once you rehydrate the freeze-dried meats, they'll retain almost the same flavor as they had when they were fresh.
What About Texture?
The secret to getting a meaty texture from freeze-dried food is proper rehydration. Rushing the process can lead to tough, chewy meat. Using too hot of water can also cause the texture to get strange, just like if you accidentally cook a steak a little too much when searing.
The thickness of the cut will also impact the texture. Thicker cuts are more difficult to freeze dry and tend to have a more strange texture than thinner cuts. Typically, freeze-dried beef is cut into about three-quarter-inch slices.
Can You Pre-Cook Meats Before Freeze Drying
You'll find that most commercial producers of freeze-dried meats prepare the meat raw. The primary reason is because once you rehydrate the meat, you'll want to cook it (or at least heat it up). If it is already cooked when you try to reheat it, you are going to end up with overcooked meat.
Some people who freeze-dry at home partially cook their products before freeze drying, usually using a sous vide machine. Partial cooking allows the meat to be cooked quickly, speeding up the process when you are camping.
What Else Can Be Freeze Dried?
Beyond freeze-dried beef, you can also pack freeze-dried chicken and freeze-dried sausage crumbles. One of the best products for freeze-drying is wild game. That's because wild game tends to be lower in fat content. Fat doesn't dry freeze very well so cuts of freeze-dried meat with more fat are more likely to go rancid.
One of the best freeze-dried foods you can have in your camping gear or survival food storage kit is freeze-dried nuts. Nuts are high in protein and fat and can go rancid rather quickly. They tend to freeze dry very well and you can eat them as a snack without having to rehydrate them.
Freeze-dried fruits and freeze-dried vegetables are also a great way to add ingredients to your kit that can help to make a meal complete. Vegetables like carrots, green beans, and onions are easy to rehydrate, while fruits like strawberries are excellent for snacks and desserts.
What Else to Prepare
One of the best things you can store as a freeze-dried supply is herbs, spices, and products like milk, cream, and coffee. Simply add water to have all of the best quality ingredients you'll want to be able to make a gourmet meal far from a kitchen. Creating meal items with shelf-stable freeze-dried ingredients is a great way to enhance any adventure.
Any serious hiker or backpacker will tell you that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Starting your day with healthy proteins and fats, along with a good bit of carbs is ideal for a healthy and successful day on the trail. How about freeze-dried eggs?
While it may seem a little strange, and you certainly aren't going to be doing them over easy, freeze-dried eggs are a great addition to your camping pack and there are a few things easier to fix quickly. When prepared at home you can make them in bulk and store them in your bag.
You can even freeze dry bread for tour recipes and meal planning kits. Bread has very little water in it so it dries very quickly. You'll be able to add variety to your recipes and you'll be able to make a tasty chicken or beef sandwich for lunch.
For the Dogs
Freeze drying is also a great way to make dog treats, cat treats, and even fish treats. While many of the parts of a carcass make good treats, organs like the liver offer dried proteins that your animals crave. You can even freeze dry bone broth to make healthy snacks your pets will love.
Best Ways to Store Freeze Dried Meals
While the typical clear plastic vacuum bags can work, you should invest in mylar bags designed for freeze drying if you are planning to commit to doing it at home. Mylar bags resist heat and light, and are far more durable than regular plastic bags. There are also lots of survival uses for mylar bags that make them useful tools in your kit.
Where to Buy
There are several commercial companies that make freeze-dried foods for survival and camping. Mountain House is one of our favorites for meal kits. You are unlikely to find freeze-dried meals at grocery stores, and finding meats is even more unlikely, but Mountain House has excellent options.
Freeze drying is a great way to make sure that you have family healthy meal options for long-term storage, whether that is for camping and hiking trips or for preparing for natural disasters and emergencies.
The Bearded Butchers are dedicated to providing as much information as we possibly can to help you understand how to best process and prepare meats of all kinds. To help you, we maintain a blog and YouTube channel with lots of free, high-quality information. The Bearded Butchers and Beardedbutchers.com are also a participant in affiliate advertising programs, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products we love. This means that The Bearded Butchers may receive a commission if you click on a link above and make a purchase using one of our codes.