Freeze-drying beef is a revolutionary new way of storing this popular protein source. It extends preservation shelf life without sacrificing nutrients, taste or texture, unlike traditional freezing. If you’ve ever frozen meat and found that the taste and texture are changed after several months, you’ll appreciate freeze drying. But the benefits don’t just stop there – freeze-dried beef is incredibly lightweight, the perfect choice for storing over the long haul, planning for backpacking trips, or as part of your emergency food prep. Just read on. How do you actually freeze dry beef? A freeze dryer essentially consists of a chamber that’s cooled below the freezing point of water. Your food is frozen in this hyper-cooled space, after which the moisture gets removed from the product by submersion in a vacuum. The water molecules in the food sublime, turning directly from a solid to a gas. This lack of liquid retention is what makes freeze-dried foods light on the palate and in your backpack. Follow this step-by-step guide for how to freeze-dry beef at home.

The Benefits of Freeze-Drying Beef

Long Shelf Life:

Properly freeze-dried and stored beef can last for years without refrigeration.

Nutritional Preservation:

Most of the nutrition in beef is preserved in the freeze-dried mixture.

Convenience:

Tender, lightweight, compact, freeze-dried beef easily rehydrates for camping trips, long hikes, and emergency food supplies.

Flavour Retention The solids used in the process ‘lock in’ the beef’s flavour so that the beef – after it has been rehydrated – tastes as good as fresh.

Equipment Needed

Like any method of freeze-drying with the intention of preserving food, you need to a freeze dryer to do this in your home. Even if you have a chest freezer, it won’t get you to the vast vacuum required to create sublimation. And while home models are becoming more mainstream, they’re still a serious investment. For anyone looking to seriously preserve food, though, this equipment is a true necessity.

Preparing the Beef for Freeze-Drying

Choose and Prepare the Beef: Choose beef cuts that are as lean as you can, since fat does not freeze-dry well, and can shorten the shelf-life of your beef rolls. Trim away as much as you can, then cut the beef into strips or small cubes, or dice if you want to make something like taco meat or ground beef.

Cook Beef Before Freeze-Drying:

Freeze drying fruit and vegetables allows you to preserve them in a raw, fresh, just-picked state, but for safety reasons, beef should be cooked before freeze-drying. It can be cooked to your taste, but a completely cooked beef, browned or roasted, is the easiest to rehydrate. Don’t season your meat heavily before exposing it to freeze-drying heat, since flavours are concentrated during the process.

Advance freezing:

Spread the reheated meat on the tray as a flat layer and freeze solid (advance freezing speeds up the freeze-drying process).

Freeze-Drying Process

Loading the Freeze Dryer:

After your beef is properly frozen, you transfer it into the trays for the freeze dryer. Be sure that pieces are not touching so that each food has an equal amount of access to the freeze dryer’s power.

How to Run the Freeze Dryer:

Start your freeze dryer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the quantity and thickness of your beef, it should take about 24-48 hours.

Testing for Dryness:

Take a piece of dry to room temperature to test it. It should be dry and leathery. If the beef is moist at all, give it a few more hours in the freeze-drier.

Storing Freeze-Dried Beef

Keep the freeze-dried beef in airtight packages or vacuum-sealed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to avoid moisture and air and be able to use it at a later date, or store it in a cool dry dark place to get the best shelf life.

Rehydrating and Using Freeze-Dried Beef

To rehydrate, place in lettuce water for about five minutes. If the water is already hot, this will shorten the rehydration time. The beef will be back to its original texture and ready for use in almost any recipe that calls for cooked beef. Excellent in stews, soups, casseroles and added to other meals as a protein enhancer.

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