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What Are the Best Tips for Preserving Meat?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Grey
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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Meat can be preserved safely by a variety of methods, ranging from the relatively easy to the very elaborate. These include drying, curing and smoking, and canning. Appropriate care should be taken, keeping in mind that improper practices when preserving meat can lead to food poisoning, which can be deadly in extreme cases. Individuals interested in preserving their own meat should have a clear and detailed understanding of whatever process they choose.

Dehydration is one way of preserving meat. Jerky can be made by drying the meat in a dehydrator or oven. A variety of meats can be dried, including lean beef, pork, venison, and turkey breast, just to name a few. The meat is sliced, marinated if desired, placed in dehydrator trays or racks on baking sheets, and dried in an oven. Usually after three to four hours, if a piece of the meat cracks but does not break when bent, the jerky is ready.

Curing and smoking is another relatively common method of preserving meat. The resulting meat is usually considered a sausage, such as bratwurst, salami, bologna, and pepperoni. Some are cooked during processing, some are not cooked, and some are dried or fermented.

The freshness and quality of the starting meat is critical for all methods of preserving meat. If the meat is not very fresh, the final product will not be of good quality and will almost certainly be unsafe for consumption. Temperature conditions are also of great importance. For example, if ground meat is being used to make jerky, a higher drying temperature is required to make a safe product.

High quality and appropriate packaging is essential for maintaining the freshness and quality of preserved meat, regardless of the method. When canning meat, it is necessary to leave a certain amount of space at the top of the can, which is referred to in some guides as headspace. Maintaining a good seal helps to ensure the safety and quality of the meat for longer periods of time. Empty jars should be sterilized before use, unless the meats are processed in a pressure canner.

Preservatives, such as nitrates and nitrites, may be added when preserving meat during curing and smoking. These ingredients delay spoilage and improve flavor. They can, however, be toxic in large amounts, so using the proper amount is imperative. Individuals preparing cured and smoked meats at home should take great care when adding these substances to the meat.

While boiling water canners were once common for preserving meat, it is usually safer and more effective to use a pressure canner. Boiling water canners often distribute heat unevenly, which may result in the meat not being properly preserved. Being aware of the recommended processing time necessary in a pressure canner is important, and the user should be aware that this time may differ from one meat to another.

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