We were watching one of those television shows about end-of-the-world preppers the other day and got into a discussion about what types of long-term food options we would stockpile if we were to start preparing for the end of the world. Overwhelmingly, steak was the top choice.
Of course, the obvious issue is that almost all apocalypse scenarios involve losing electricity, which means no refrigeration, which means you only get a few days to enjoy steak before it spoils. Well, we know that freeze-dried meals have gotten a lot better in the last few years, so we decided to make some calls and find out whether freeze-dried steaks are something worth adding to a survival kit.
Can You Freeze-Dry Steak?
It turns out that you can freeze-dry just about anything. Not only does freeze-dried food last a long time, but it also retains nearly all of the nutritional value the item started out with. A freeze dryer removes moisture content from foods, allowing the item to be preserved for a 25-year shelf life. When you want to eat the food, just rehydrate with warm or hot water for a delicious meal anytime, anywhere, even at the end of the world.
How Do You Cook Freeze-Dried Steak?
Steaks that are freeze-dried are raw, so when you rehydrate them, you'll also need to cook them. The good news is that the cooking process is the same once they are rehydrated. You can grill your steaks on wood or charcoal, sear them on a cast iron skillet, or even cook them sous vide and you'll be eating tender steaks in no time.
The Process of Freeze Drying Steak
The process of making freeze-dried steak isn't something that is easily tackled by the DIYer. While it is possible to build your own dry freezing machine, the safest and best way is to purchase one. Unfortunately, these are not inexpensive tools, so the initial investment is pretty steep. If you are planning on buying a freeze dryer, you should plan on using it fairly often to get the most benefit.
How Freeze Drying Works – The Basics
A freeze dryer is a fairly complex piece of equipment that uses extremely low temperatures and pressure to force moisture from a solid state to a gas without it becoming a liquid first. This process allows nearly all of the moisture to be removed while ensuring that nutrients are preserved. A home freeze dryer is a great way to improve your food storage options, even if you aren't worried about the end of the world.
Food is placed in the drying chamber, typically on wire racks that expose as much of the item as possible to air. The drying chamber is connected to a refrigerant chamber that allows temperatures to be dropped to minus-40 degrees. Then, a vacuum pump draws the air from the cooling chamber, through the drying chamber, and then into a moisture collector.
An average load of steak in a freeze dryer will take about 24 hours to reach the proper level of dehydration. Commercially-made freeze dryers often have sensors that automatically turn the machine off and let you know when the product has achieved the proper level of dryness.
The Types of Steak You Can Freeze Dry
Pretty much any type of steak can be freeze-dried. Fresh sirloin steaks work well, along with other lean cuts. It's possible to freeze-dry fatty cuts like prime rib, but fat doesn't release as much moisture as the meat does, so it won't have anywhere near as long of a shelf life.
With that said, you can trim excess fat from most meats and they will freeze dry pretty well. One key is that you don't want to try and freeze dry thick steaks. More than about three-quarters of an inch and you'll have a hard time getting the meat all the way moisture-free and it will take an excessively long time in the machine.
Raw Meats vs Cooked Meats
You can freeze dry both raw or cooked meat and get great results. If you freeze-dry an already-cooked steak, you won't need to worry about flavoring it when it is rehydrated and it will also be more food-safe as it rehydrates.
You'll find that many commercial sellers offer freeze-dry raw steak. Raw meat dries very well, particularly when the fat is removed. Once it is rehydrated, you can flavor it and cook it. You'll have to handle it like it is raw, though, since it will be just as susceptible to spoiling as fresh meat.
Does Freeze Dried Meat Taste Good?
Everyone's tastes are a little different, so some freeze-dried food will taste better to some people than to others. Generally, we'd say that when properly prepared, a freeze-dried steak is pretty darn good. There are some tips and tricks we've picked up that can improve your results.
You can use a sous vide machine to partially cook steaks before dry freezing them. This makes the steaks rehydrate better and also lets them cook a little better, giving you a little more texture.
Pre-freezing the steaks helps to speed up the dry freezing process and improves the finished product. Most machines have a setting for pre-frozen meat that you should select when starting the process.
Be patient when rehydrating steak. There is no substitute for making sure that you let the steak fully rehydrate before cooking it. One of the tricks is to start with thinner steaks. They rehydrate quicker and tend to have better texture overall. Give freeze-dried sirloin steaks at least 40-minutes to absorb moisture.
Benefits of Freeze Dried Steaks
The freeze-drying process works by removing moisture, and with that complete, the meat also weighs significantly less. Water can make up about 80 percent of the weight of a steak, so once you've freeze-dried sirloin steaks, you'll have freeze-dried beef that weighs a fraction of the original uncooked sirloin.
One of the biggest benefits of freeze-dried meats is that they are easy to store for long periods of time. A freeze-dried steak stored in airtight containers will last for at least 20 years and might last much longer than that. Adding an oxygen absorber to the container will improve the shelf life.
Since you don't have to rely on refrigeration to keep the steak fresh, you'll have steak available no matter where you are or what the situation is like. You'll be able to have a steak anytime you want one. The process also makes it easy to take a steak on a backpacking or hiking trip so that you can have a delicious and nutritious meal at the end of the trail.