How to Freeze-Dry Meat? (4 Step-By-Step Preservation Guide)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

As someone who has been on a carnivore diet for over five years, I have tried freeze-drying various types of meat, including beef, chicken, and fish, and have found it to be an excellent way to preserve meat for long periods while retaining its flavor and texture.

In this post, I’ll share easy tips on how to freeze-dry food at home with a professional freeze-dryer.

We'll also discuss the process of freeze-drying food with dry ice and with a home freezer.

Quick Summary

  • To freeze-dry meat, you need a freeze-drying machine.
  • Freeze-dried meat has to be kept in properly sealed bags.
  • The freshness of the meat diminishes as the duration of time it spends in the refrigerator increases.
  • ButcherBox is a meat delivery service that provides hormone and antibiotic-free meat sourced from local farms that follow the best sustainable practices.

Steps to Freezing Meat with a Freeze-Drying Machine

Types of freezing dried meats in a wooden bowl

If your home cooking budget allows for it, a home freeze dryer will provide the best results when it comes to freeze-dried meats.

The freeze-drying process is quick and simple.

Step 1: Use Clean, Fresh Meat

You will need to ensure you are using fresh food in the freeze-drying process; the food should last many years from the moment it is freeze-dried.

Step 2: Prepare Your Meat to be Freeze-Dried

Next, cut your meat into smaller chunks to allow all the moisture to leave your food, and place it on freeze-drying trays.

A proper freeze dryer will come with special trays to freeze dry foods of different shapes and sizes.

Step 3: Load Your Trays into the Freeze-Dry Machine

Trays with meat inside a freeze-dry machine

Make sure your meat does not exceed the height of the trays, and space it out so chunks are not touching.

Then, close the doors and set the freeze-dry machine temperature to between -40°F and -50°F.

Wait 24 hours and let the magic happen.

Step 4: Store Your Freeze-Dried Food Properly

Once your meat is completely freeze-dried, transfer it into air-tight containers.

You should use a vacuum pump or a vacuum sealer to preserve freeze-dried food at home.

Note that a mylar bag is more suitable for storing dried food than a regular plastic bag.

These bags are designed to keep out oxygen and water and are perfect for long-term storage [1].

You can add an oxygen absorber to each bag to keep the frozen food in the best possible condition.

“Botulinum is an anaerobic bacterium, which means it can survive without oxygen and produce a deadly toxin. This toxin leads to an illness called botulism and is generally life-threatening. Some C. botulinum strains do not grow well in the refrigerator, and keeping the package sealed in cold conditions can prevent its growth.”
- Michigan State University Extension

Once your meat is stored in properly sealed bags, it should last from six months to several years, depending on the cut and the effectiveness of the freeze-drying process.

Note that cooked meat is safer to dry freeze at home than raw meat, as this reduces risks of contamination and spoiling.

If you do freeze-dry raw steak, check the largest pieces for ice crystals. If there are ice crystals on the meat, continue to freeze dry the meat until all moisture is removed.

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Using The Dry Ice Method

A close up shot of dry ice that can be used to freeze-dry meats

Many online guides will tell you that you can successfully freeze dry food with dry ice.

However, the dry ice method is far less effective and practical than using a freeze-dry machine.

The dry ice method involves placing food in open freezer bags so that air can escape and putting the bags in a Styrofoam cooler full of dry ice.

The process is as follows:

  • Completely cover the food in dry ice
  • Drill holes in the cooler lid (outside, to avoid suffocating on the carbon dioxide in dry ice)
  • Leave the dry ice and food for 24 hours.

The question is: can you really freeze dry food with dry ice? Well, it's really not the best method.

You might freeze your food with dry ice, but it is unlikely to be perfectly dried and in great condition for any prolonged period of time.

Remember to use gloves when handling dry ice. In addition, store dry ice in open air or well-ventilated spaces.

Using The Freezer Method

Inside of a freezer that can be used to freeze-dry meats

Some people also swear by the freezer method when freeze-drying food like meat, fruit, and vegetables.

The problem is that this method can result in your food getting freezer burn.

Moreover, it takes about a month. It is also less reliable than using a freeze-drying machine.

If you want to freeze dry foods in your freezer, I suggest you start with simple and cheap foods like garden produce before attempting the process with a delicious cut of meat.

The process is as follows:

  • Cut your vegetables into chunks or slices and spread these pieces out on a cooling rack
  • Avoid stacking the food slices
  • Put them in the freezer and leave them for around 3 weeks

Check the drying process of your frozen food by taking a piece out and allowing it to come to room temperature. If the food turns dark, it is not completely freeze-dried. Continue drying food in the freezer.

Once the freezing process is complete, the slices will keep their color when defrosted.

This indicates proper food preservation.

Then, you can place your freeze-dried food in mylar bags, vacuum pump, and store them in a cool, dry place.

Foods You Shouldn’t Freeze-Dry

Honey as food that you should not freeze dry

Lastly, note that there are some food items you should not attempt to freeze dry.

Low-moisture and high-sugar foods like honey, pure chocolate, and jam do not freeze dry well.

Any freeze-dried food has to be safe and suitable to eat in that condition (like berries) or rehydrated (like meat) by placing it in warm or hot water.

Any food that does not meet these requirements is not suitable for freeze-drying.

These products tend to have a longer shelf life anyway.

If you can refreeze the meat, try to do so as soon as possible.

The longer the meat has sat in the refrigerator, the less fresh it is for freeze-drying purposes.

FAQs

What Are the Benefits of Freeze-Drying Food?

The benefits of freeze-drying food include extended usage and prolonged protein and sugar quality.

How Is Freeze-Drying Different from Dehydrating Food?

Freeze-drying is different from dehydrating food in that freeze-dried food keeps its flavor and shape and can rehydrate to the condition it was in before it was freeze-dried. Dehydrated food loses some flavor and food value and also changes consistency.

How Long Does It Take to Freeze-Dry Food?

It takes 24 to 48 hours to freeze-dry food. In fact, with a freeze-dryer or dry ice, meat should be freeze-dried within one day. With a freezer, it will take at least a week, and usually longer, depending on the quantity of meat you are freezing and if it is a deep freezer.

How Long Can Freeze-Dried Meat Last?

When expertly dried and stored correctly, freeze-dried meat can last at least a decade. This is because 98-99% of moisture has been removed during the freeze-drying process. You could keep professionally freeze-dried foods for 25 years and perhaps longer.


Reference:

  1. https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/information-center/packing-your-own-food-storage/why-use-mylar-bags-in-food-storage
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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, Major in Culinary Entrepreneurship Summa Cum Laude. With a deep passion for the culinary arts and a keen business acumen, Gabrielle is set to embark on a journey that promises to leave a lasting impact on the world of the culinary industry. Growing up in a family where food created memories and bonds, she sustained an interest in cooking and baking. She earned her Culinary Entrepreneurship degree with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. Gabrielle then served as an assistant private chef – she helped clients achieve specific fitness goals by prepping protein-based meals and healthy side dishes. At Carnivore Style, Gabrielle has honed her strategic leadership by analyzing the trends in meat consumption preferences. This guides our team in producing engaging content, such as recipes featuring popular cuts or cooking techniques. She envisions a community where individuals follow their culinary dreams, making every delectable dish with love and soul for people to relish. In her free time, Gabrielle loves to travel to new places, study their culture, and dine at diverse restaurants and cafes.
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