Beef jerky is a delicious and convenient snack that can be enjoyed on-the-go or stored for later. But what if you want to extend its shelf life even further?
Can you freeze dry beef jerky?
The answer is yes, but there are some important things to keep in mind.
In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of freezing beef jerky, as well as the process of freeze drying it.
Whether you’re a fan of traditional beef jerky or looking for a new way to preserve your favorite snack, read on to learn more about freeze drying beef jerky.
Can You Freeze Dry Beef Jerky?
Freezing beef jerky is a common method of extending its shelf life. If stored in an airtight package, frozen beef jerky can last an additional 6-12 months beyond its normal storage life of up to a year. However, freezing beef jerky can diminish its sensory qualities such as taste, texture, and freshness.
Freeze-dried jerky, on the other hand, is a different story. While it won’t have the same texture as traditionally made jerky, freeze-dried jerky is far more versatile as it can be rehydrated or eaten as-is and stores well. It is also possible to freeze-dry already made jerky, though success will depend on the type of jerky and its ingredients.
When freeze-drying beef jerky, it’s important to keep in mind that the texture will be different from traditional beef jerky. Freeze-dried jerky will easily snap into two when taken apart and have a dry consistency that requires chewing to rehydrate. However, the flavor is twice as intense compared to traditionally made beef jerky.
The Benefits Of Freeze Drying Beef Jerky
There are several benefits to freeze-drying beef jerky. Firstly, freeze-drying removes all the moisture from the jerky, which means it can be stored for a longer period of time without spoiling. Freeze-dried jerky can last for up to 25 years when stored correctly. This makes it an ideal option for those who want to stock up on jerky for emergencies, camping trips, or long-term storage.
Secondly, freeze-drying preserves the nutritional value of the beef jerky. Unlike other preservation methods that can destroy nutrients and enzymes in food, freeze-drying maintains the original nutritional content of the jerky. This means that you can enjoy a healthy snack that is high in protein and low in fat.
Thirdly, freeze-drying beef jerky makes it more versatile. Freeze-dried jerky can be rehydrated with water or other liquids to restore its texture and flavor. This means that you can enjoy the taste of beef jerky in a variety of dishes such as stews, soups, and casseroles. Freeze-dried jerky is also lightweight and easy to pack, making it a great snack to take on camping or hiking trips.
Finally, freeze-drying beef jerky is a great way to reduce waste. If you have leftover beef jerky that you can’t finish, freeze-drying it is an excellent way to preserve it for later consumption. This not only saves money but also reduces food waste and helps to promote sustainable living.
The Drawbacks Of Freeze Drying Beef Jerky
While freeze-drying beef jerky has its benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider. One major issue is that freeze-dried beef jerky is already cooked before the freeze-drying process. Attempting to boil or rehydrate it by cooking it in boiling water will essentially ruin the meat, resulting in overcooked and rubbery meat that is too dry. Instead, cold or room temperature water should be used to hydrate the meat.
Another drawback is the cost of freeze-drying equipment and supplies. The machine itself can range from $2,000 to over $10,000 for small commercial ones, and ongoing costs of supplies must be considered. For example, the price for 60 mylar 1-gallon bags with 60 300 cc oxidizer packets is $24 on Amazon (October 2018), and vacuum pump oil can start at $20 a gallon. Reports on the cost of electricity have varied, with some consumers experiencing an increase of $20 to $30 a month during heavy usage time.
Additionally, the size of the machine must be taken into consideration as it is not a small appliance and requires elevated installation for ice melt tubing to drain into a container below it. The noise level can also be an issue when the vacuum pump turns on, with a noise level of 62 to 67 decibels.
Finally, freeze-drying beef jerky can take between 20 to 40 hours for a typical batch, with very dense foods and foods high in sugar taking even longer. The mid-size machine can handle between 7 to 10 pounds of food, which may not be enough for larger-scale production.
The Process Of Freeze Drying Beef Jerky
Freeze-drying beef jerky involves a process of removing moisture from the meat while retaining its nutritional value and flavor. The process starts with pre-freezing the meat to shorten the freeze-drying time. This is done by placing the sliced jerky on parchment paper-lined trays and freezing them for at least 3 hours or overnight, depending on the strength of your deep freezer.
Once pre-frozen, the jerky is placed in a freeze dryer and the temperature is lowered to -40°F (-40°C) or lower. The vacuum in the freeze dryer removes moisture from the meat by sublimation, where water molecules are transformed into vapor without passing through a liquid phase. This process can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, depending on the thickness of the jerky slices.
After freeze-drying, the beef jerky should be stored in an airtight container to prevent moisture from re-entering. Properly freeze-dried beef jerky can last up to 25 years or longer, depending on food content and storage practices. It’s important to note that fattier pieces of meat or jerky that have been exposed to too much water will go rancid faster than leaner cuts stored at a cool, dry temperature.
Tips For Freezing And Storing Freeze Dried Beef Jerky
Freeze-dried beef jerky is a great option for those who want to store their jerky for a longer period of time or for those who want to take it on the go. Proper storage is key to ensure the longevity of your freeze-dried beef jerky. Here are some tips to help you freeze and store your beef jerky:
1. Use an airtight container: The best way to store freeze-dried beef jerky is in an airtight container. This can be a Mylar pouch with an oxygen absorber or a vacuum-sealed mason jar. This will help prevent moisture and air from getting in and causing the jerky to spoil.
2. Label and date your jerky: It’s important to label and date your beef jerky when storing it in the freezer. This will help you keep track of how long it has been stored, and when you need to use it by.
3. Freeze-dry your own jerky: If you want to freeze-dry your own beef jerky, make sure to slice it thinly and remove any bones or fats before placing it in the freeze dryer. Be sure to place raw and cooked meat on separate trays to avoid cross-contamination.
4. Store in a cool, dry place: Once you have frozen or freeze-dried your beef jerky, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. This will help prevent any moisture from getting in and causing the jerky to spoil.
5. Rehydrate properly: If you choose to rehydrate your freeze-dried beef jerky, be sure to do so properly. You can either add water directly to the jerky or soak it in water for a few minutes before eating.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your freeze-dried beef jerky stays fresh and tasty for a long time.