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Ways of Preserving Meat at Home – Overview

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

The ways you can preserve meat at home are varied, but I’ve found there are some overlaps in the techniques, and since you can’t always rely on the freezer,

Some of these other methods of preserving meat at home could help create a new passion; that’s what I’m hoping for. It started me on the journey.

I’ve done much-preserving meat, so this site is all about cured meats. There are a few other styles that can also be used. The lack of comprehensive articles about this led me to create this resource for you.

I’ll explore the refrigerated vs non-refrigerated options, as well as modern vs traditional techniques of preserving meat at home, you can learn.

Overview of Preserving Meat

Below, I’ll elaborate on all the ways of preserving meat you can do at home, which are:

Different Preserving Methods

  • Salt
  • Fermentation
  • Acidity
  • Smoke
  • Air Dried/Dehydrating
  • Freezing/Fridge
  • Canning/Thermal Process

Different Preserving with Combined Methods

  • Salt, Fermentation
  • Salt, Acidity
  • Salt Fermentation, Cold Smoking
  • Salt, Hot Smoking
  • Salt and air-dried

To begin with, here are some universal rules I use for preserving meat:

  • Using fresh, good quality meat, ideally know where it’s been and what it’s eaten
  • Hygiene is adhered to always
  • Generally, work at cooler temperatures to minimize unwanted bacteria

I’ll highlight that some techniques for preserving meat at home are a combination and also the easier ways with or without a fridge/freezer.

Different types of meat, whether fish or red meat, have different levels of water content.

I salt-cured pork (dry or wet, more on this below) is generally 70% water, 20% protein, and 10% other components.

I have often reduced the water content by 35-45%, creating an environment inside the meat with less moisture; therefore, less water activity (aw), more aw, is what the unwanted bacteria need to multiply.

I have 4-5 years old preserved meat in the fridge, it’s been sat-cured, and dried over several months, then once it’s lost that moisture. I’ve vacuum packed it, this is for fine quality charcuterie preserved meat (Amino acids break down during this process, I’ve read the protein is actually easier to digest once dry cured).

Fish has higher moisture content than pork, for instance.

Let’s review the different styles or methods for preserving meat (article on easiest ways to preserve I wrote) at home.

Categorizing curing and preserving has always been challenging, even though I’ve been reading, teaching, making, and learning about it for over 25 years.

Here is a quote to highlight the ambiguity of it:

For example, dried fish are often salted prior to drying and some products usually considered salted may also be partially fermented. At the broadest possible level of product type categorization, all products may be categorized as either dried or fermented. Smoked fish, for example, are dried using smoke rather than sunlight, whereas fish sauce is a by-product of fish fermentation

To do preserving at home, here, an easier approach for more straightforward and proven methods.

Dried fish at the intersection of food science, economy, and culture: A global survey

Preserving Meat with Salt

Methods of curing meat with salt large
What you see here is preserved meat I’ve done at home. Salt is dry cured, either with a subtle level of salt (equilibrium cured) or a high preservation amount (saturated method). One was cold smoked as a secondary task for flavor and preservation.

This method covers preserving meat with a dry (dry curing) or wet cure.

Salt is often the first step and is used in combination with some of the other methods.

How Is Meat Preserved with Salt?

Salt is a powerful preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria, molds, and other microorganisms that cause spoilage. It involves coating the meat with a layer of salt or submerging it in a salt solution, which inhibits the meat and slows down water activity (Aw) for unwanted bacteria.

Salt can be used lightly or heavily to achieve different levels of preservation with meat, as you see in the picture above.

Different Ways to Preserve with Salt

  • Dry Curing (for Dry Cured Meats)
  • Wet Brining
  • Saturation Salt Curing (for Salt Pork, Salt Fish)
Dry Curing Meats at Home

I’ve been practicing and learning about preserved dry-cured meats at home for decades. It’s about 2 main aspects in the meat with salt binding and diffusion. Salt can stop some water activity; hence, bacteria will grow slower.

This is my preferred method of preserving meat. It lasts a long time, tastes very good, and can be stored for years with some care.

Different levels of salt will also affect the meat differently.

This is not salting meat before cooking, this is forcing or equalizing the salt on the outside of the meat, to go into the meat and have these beneficial effects.

Tens of thousands of years have led us to refine this process into art, craft, and science (in my opinion)

3000 BC, preserving meat has been shown on records. If you’re interested in the history of preserved and cured meats, I wrote this article.

Resources on Dry Curing Meat at Home

You can do small meat projects in a normal kitchen fridge I’ve found, if the temperature was similar outside the fridge – you could achieve similar results also.

I wrote this popular article about using a regular kitchen fridge or not to cure and preserve meat.

Wet Brining Meats at Home

For example, in dry curing, you want to use a saltwater mixture (brining, wet curing, wet brining) to inhibit the meat.

Salt takes time to ‘travel’ to the center of the meat when preserving, whether with dry or wet curing.

Meat that isn’t as thick will be able to cure or dry a lot quicker.

Salt brining can be used for a more dried or cold smoked product like:

Smoked salt-brined herrings, sardines, and oil anchovies are all labor- and equipment-intense projects.

For at-home meat preserving, I often prefer dry curing vs. wet brining.

Wet cure brining can also be used to hold moisture on the surface of the meat for cooking or hot smoking, such as:

Wet Brining a Turkey or Chicken for Roasting or Hot Smoking

Nowadays I use a meat syringe for this task, it speeds up the penetration of the wet brine into the meat. The commercial version of this is called needle injection which is done for bacon and many other cured products you can buy.

I’ve used very strong wet brines, with a lot of salt (80-degree Baum salt levels) to very quickly bring a large number of fish from a good day out. Then we hot-smoked the fish after drying it out to form a pellicle (a key step when hot or cold smoking).

For smoked and cooked ham, you can actually wet or dry-cure the meat.

Dry Curing is more intense, especially if you add spices and aromatics

Wet Curing is more subtle, from my experience.

I wrote this about curing with dry or wet methods.

Saturation Dry Curing Meats at Home

‘Saturated dry curing’ is fully salt-saturated for the meat for full preservation.

Examples of this are Salt Fish, Salt Pork, and Salt Beef.

There are commercially available in Western culture and come in a vacuum-packed wet brined – this is a ‘commercial’ version that isn’t preserved sometimes for the long-term outcomes.

Salted meat was used in long ship voyages to explore and discover the world. The salted meat was able to be stored onboard the ship without refrigeration.

Salt pork 2 large
Salt and Pork I cured fully at home.

Saturating the meat with salt is one of the best ways to slow down the unwanted bacteria from spoiling meat.

Salt pork homemade large
Cured, changed salt once after 2 weeks, used fatty piece so it didn’t shrink. Lasted 2 years without fridge at home. Made a nice keyring.

I made salt pork which looked like this.

It was very solid. The salt and drying process has removed a large amount of the 70% water content, likely 50-60%. Also, fat contains less water- which means it doesn’t shrink as much when saturation salting (also known as the excess salt method).

I wrote this about salt pork preservation.

Preserving vs Holding Moisture Whilst Cooking or Smoking

You can hold moisture on the surface when the meat is cooked, this is done by salting the cooked meat.

You may already be using this method at home, it’s not preserving – just another way to use salt for a desired outcome.

Done for cooking steaks, for ‘dry brining’ turkey – which technically is not a very good description in my eyes, since a ‘brine’ should be a liquid base.

Types of Salt for Preserving Meat at Home

Pure sea salt is the preference because it has no additives that affect the curing.

Iodized salt or salt with anti-caking agents – can lead to undesirable effects when curing/brining meat for longer-term projects, that are more than 1 week.

Sodium Nitrates and Nitrites

For at-home use, a retailed product called ‘pink curing salt’ (Number 1 or Number 2) is available in many countries around the world.

Other names for this are:

  • Instacure (Number 1 or 2)
  • Tinting Curing Mix (TCM) – (Number 1 or 2)
  • Prague Powder (Number 1 or 2)

Himalayan Pink Salt

Is Not Pink Curing Salt – it does not contain sodium nitrates and nitrites. The color comes from many of the minerals that are present in this salt.

Simple Techniques You Can Use to Preserve Meat at Home

  • Dry Salt Curing to Make Salt Pork, Salt Beef, Salt Fish (long-term preserving)
  • Dy Salt Curing for Dry Cured Meat in a Kitchen Fridge or Cellar (medium-term preserving)
  • Salting Oily Fish to Create Lox, Gravlax, (short-term preserving)
  • Dry Curing Bacon and Hot Smoking to M(medium-term preserving)

Preserving Meat with Fermentation

Lactic acid is used to ferment at home. Often the first step will be salt curing/brining then fermentation.

Dry cured salami penniclin large
Good mold on the outside and inside to help preserve the meat

This definition is an accurate description,

One ancient form of food preservation used in the meat industry is fermentation. Fermentation involves the addition of certain harmless bacteria to meat. These fermenting bacteria produce acid as they grow, lowering the pH of the meat and inhibiting the growth of many pathogenic microorganisms.

Meat Processing, Britannica

Different Ways of Fermenting Meat at Home

Fermented fish products across the Philippines, China, and Japan (many other Asian countries) are mainly sauces and paste/spreads.

Such as the pungent fermented shrimp paste (one of the smelliest things I’ve encountered).

Short-term beef fermentation at home can be achieved like Nen Chua (cured fermented minced/ground beef). This will last about 1 week in the fridge.

Fermented products across Europe or Western countries often have lactic acid for taste and preservation in salami or dry cured whole muscle meats.

As I’ve been writing this, I would say all dry-cured meats have some level of fermentation. WIth traditionally made dry-cured meats.

Good molds large
Believe it or not, these all show good mold on preserve meat I’ve made

Fermentation is mainly secondary to a salt cure/brine. It’s another layer of protection that can be used to preserve meat at home.

Common Good Bacteria Used to Ferment Meat at Home

Behind the scenes of meat fermentation, a diverse community of beneficial bacteria performs their magic!

Let’s explore some of the good bacteria:

Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB): These superstar bacteria play a vital role in meat fermentation. They convert sugars into lactic acid, preserving the meat and enhancing its flavors. Strains like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are commonly used in various fermentation methods.

Like in French cheeses, some commercial yogurts, and Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)

For preserving meat in the past, certain natural strains in salami-producing regions of Italy have been known for their distinct flavor because of their naturally occurring flora.

Nowadays for at-home preserving, you can buy standardized starter cultures of lactic acid strains in various countries. The above picture shows ‘natural’ strains that were present around the meat, and grew due to the salt keeping unwanted bacteria away (a suitable environment for dry cure helps too).

Starter Culture

Utilizing a starter culture introduces specific strains of LAB to kick-start the fermentation process. I use these cultures specifically to achieve different results and create unique flavor profiles with dry-cured salami.

Mold cultures
Natural external mold (mold 600 is one of the commercial names), on pork in my drying chamber

The main category for fermented dry cured salami cultures is slow fermentation or fast fermentation. Fast fermentation often has a tangy/sour taste, you may have experienced this with some salami.

Although, cheap salamis sometimes just use additives to quickly drop pH and make meat shelf stable (days to make not months like traditional dry-cured salami).

Natural Good Bacteria & Buying/Inoculating

In the realm of fermenting meat, natural lactic acid fermentation is a time-honored technique that relies on the meat’s own microbial population.

A commercial operator called ‘Smoking Goose’ in Indianapolis I visited, showcased where they ferment whole muscle cured meats for 20 days in favorable conditions, moist and warmer than dry chambers.

This helps flavor as well as preservation, this is a process where the natural LABs in the meat are digesting the sugars in the meat, from what I understand.

Another example is when I once made dry cured salami, I inoculated some with starter cultures (more on this below), whilst I also added red wine to one, and added nothing to another. All the salamis dropped the pH, the natural lactic acid was operating inside all of the salami, you can see this in the table below:

Salami ph charcuterie den 2022

As the meat undergoes fermentation the present beneficial bacteria transform sugars into lactic acid acting as a natural preservative. This process not only extends the meat’s shelf life but also bestows it with a complex and tangy flavor that is hard to resist for most!

Buying/Inoculating with Starter Cultures
Ph testing salami 2 large edited
pH testing makes salami making way more consistent, ferment first -then dry.

Technical, but if you want to get consistent preserved fermented dry cured salami, this is important.

Different styles of good lactic acid bacteria are captured and standardized in the laboratory for use at home or commercial for preserved cured meats:

  1. Bactoferm T-SPX: Bactoferm T-SPX is a popular starter culture for salami. It contains a blend of Staphylococcus carnosus and Lactobacillus sakei, which contribute to flavor development, acidification, and preservation.
  2. Bactoferm F-RM-52: This starter culture consists of a mix of Staphylococcus xylosus and Lactobacillus sakei. It promotes a slow fermentation process, resulting in the development of traditional flavors and textures in salami.
  3. B-LC-007: B-LC-007 is a freeze-dried starter culture containing a specific strain of Lactobacillus curvatus. It contributes to the acidification process, enhances flavor, and helps control undesirable bacteria.
  4. FLORA™ Italia: FLORA™ Italia is a blend of lactic acid bacteria, including Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus xylosus, and Pediococcus acidilactici. It aids in acidification, flavor development, and the inhibition of pathogens in fermented sausages.

These starter cultures can be purchased from specialized suppliers or online retailers that cater to home charcuterie enthusiasts.

These are kept in a freezer in a small sachet, then you rehydrate them and add them to the mix when making certain styles of dry-cured salami. Adding them and measuring the pH is the foolproof way for more consistent results.

For most folks that ask, I’ll first recommend whole muscle dry curing to preserve meat at home. Salami is more complex to master.

If you’re interested in dry curing at-home meat for preservation and flavor, I wrote an article about the joys I get out of it here.

Natural White Mold Penicillin on Salami

The white mold commonly seen on dry-cured salami is typically a species called Penicillium nalgiovense.

The above is fermentation internally in meat, the following is an exterior protection. This specific mold is beneficial and desired in the traditional salami fermented curing process.

Here’s why:

  1. Flavor development: The white mold contributes to the development of unique flavors in cured meat. It helps break down proteins and fats, contributing to the complex aroma and taste of the salami.
  2. Natural protection: The growth of Penicillium nalgiovense creates a protective layer on the surface of the salami, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and molds that could spoil the meat.
  3. Moisture regulation: The mold helps regulate moisture on the surface of the salami, promoting an ideal environment for the curing process. It aids in maintaining proper moisture levels, preventing excessive drying or moisture retention.

At home, you can naturally ‘grow’ the good mold on your meat or meat casings – or you can buy a laboratory-created ‘culture’ which can be placed onto the meat before drying and weight loss begins.

Many ‘salamis’ you will find in supermarkets are produced quickly using acidity to kill off unwanted bacteria fast. These will often be seen without white mold – they are not a traditional dry-cured salami which can take 1 to 6 months to dry and complete.

At home, this can be one of the most rewarding ways to preserve and eat meat, though it’s definitely in an advanced meat-preserving at-home category!

Preserving Meat with Acidity

Above I mentioned changing acidity with fermentation. You can also use acidity such as vinegar or citrus (lemon or lime), to also lower the pH, therefore creating an acidic environment.

Short-term types of ‘pickling’ meat to preserve at home are Corned Silverside and Beef (I wrote a full article about preserving beef in another article) Pastrami. Short-term preserving for a few weeks in a refrigerated area.

Whilst Pickling meat with pressure cooking/sterilization can last months.

Vinegar and Preserving Meat

Type of Pickling Meat & Shelf Life

This is a generic and approximate table since so many variations of this type of preserving at home exist.

Type of PicklingShelf Life
Quick Pickling1 to 2 weeks
Meat Pickled in Vinegar1 to 6 months
Fermented Pickled Meat3 months to over a year

With pickling you are lowering the pH of the meat, either with or without beneficial bacteria.

Fermented Pickling: …… lacto-fermentation. This method relies on beneficial bacteria, specifically lactic acid bacteria, to ferment the food. These bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which acts as a natural preservative and creates a tangy flavor. Fermented pickling usually requires a longer fermentation period, ranging from several days to weeks or even months, depending on the recipe and desired flavor profile.

AI answer, with my help

Also, at home, I make a South African preserved meat called ‘Biltong’, which is a salt, acidic, dried preserved meat product.

Homemade biltong jerky
homemade biltong, beef/venison one of the simplest preserved meats

Worcestershire Sauce and Vinegar (malt often) are used in combination with salt and spices. Some recipes also include cold smoking, then it’s dried either in a ‘drying box’, drying chamber, or oven at a very low temperature (with the door slightly open).

I wrote a post about making preserved biltong here.

Takes under a week to make, and lasts 2-4 weeks. You can vac seal and it will last many months.

Many at-home biltong makers use a box with a 40-60W bulb for heat and a fan to circulate and dry.

It’s a very dry preserved meat made out of many different types of animals in South Africa.

Citric Acid and Preserving Meat

Some hunters in hot climates in recent years have used a spray water bottle to cover game bags and meat harvested from the wild in warmer temperatures.

Citric Acid (originally from lemons) is of course acidic, the pH effect is applied to the meat surface which presumably makes the surface acidic.

Preserving Meat with Smoke

You can also use campfire smoke to preserve meat, the distance between fire and meat will have to be enough for the smoke vapor to cool. This creates a ‘cold smoke’ and air-drying effect to dry the meat for preserving. However, I prefer to have salt added as a precaution for preserving meat.

This is more of a survival preservation technique than something someone would do regularly at home. Unless your home is rural or in a forest!

Smoke preserving is done with cold smoke, not warm or hot smoke, since its a drying effect. Hot Smoked / Pickled meat like pastrami, can last 2 weeks refrigerated

Cold smoke technically is a smoke vapor that is in a humid environment (60-80%), with a temperature under 30°C/86°F. It has a focus on drying and the cold smoke vapor flavors carry beneficial properties of being antifungal and antibacterial.

The reason for this is around 86ºf/30ºC pork fat begins to melt, and fish slowly starts to cook.

The first stage of cold-smoking meat at home is to preserve it with a salt cure the meat.

So really, cold smoke is part of the more consistent way of preserving meat at home – it’s like another layer of protection.

Helpful Links to Preserving Meat with Smoke At Home

https://eatcuredmeat.com/how-to-cold-smoke-the-complete-guide

Preserving Meat with Air Drying/Dehydrating

In certain Central and South East Asian cultures, seafood is directly placed in the sun on racks.

Some people make DIY dehydrated meat for hiking, camping, or other reasons.

Although you can dehydrate directly in a dehydrator, the USDA recommends cooking the meat first and then dehydrating it.

Traditional this was done without salt (like to info about drying without salt). Dried fruit was added to very dry meat/fat and mashed together by the Native American Indians, this was used as a traveling meal, more info on Pemmican

This type of preservation can make meat last years, especially if in a vacuum-packed bag, even without refrigeration.

Helpful Links to Preserving with Dehydrating At Home

Here is a link to a summary write up – dehydrated meat

Here is a write-up from a commercial dehydrating site.

Preserving Meat with Freezing

A common approach used in many Western households, whether in a bag or vacuum packed, the meat will be well preserved and will last several months, or in my experience, it can be several years.

Here are some tables illustrating times for preserving different types of meat in the freezer as a rough guide.

Preserving Meat in Freezer Storage Guide

MeatStorage Time (Bagged)Storage Time (Vacuum-Packed)
Beef (Steaks)6-12 months12-18 months
Beef (Ground)3-4 months6-8 months
Chicken (Pieces)9-12 months12-18 months
Chicken (Whole)1 year or more2 years or more
Pork (Chops)4-6 months6-8 months
Pork (Roasts)4-12 months12-18 months
Lamb (Chops)6-9 months9-12 months
Lamb (Roasts)6-12 months12-18 months
Fish (Lean)6 months12 months
Fish (Fatty)2-3 months4-6 months
Based on this info – foodsafety.org

Preserving Meat in a Fridge

Again a common approach is for fresh meats which can be preserved for a short period of time.

Here is a table illustrating various types of meat and approximate times.

Please note – this is based on my experience. The level of freshness of the meat, how it was stored before being placed in the fridge, and the number of harmful bacteria before – will all affect these approximations.

Type of MeatBagged (Refrigerator Storage Time)Vacuum-Packed (Refrigerator Storage Time)
Chicken1-3 days4-7 days
Beef (Steaks)3-5 days1-3 weeks
Beef (Ground)1-2 days5-7 days
Pork2-5 days1-2 weeks
Lamb3-5 days1-2 weeks
Fish1-2 days3-6 days
Shellfish1-2 days2-3 days
Healthline some more info on refrigration

Preserving Meat with Canning (Thermal Processing)

What is Canning?

Canning is a preservation method that involves sealing meat and other foods in airtight containers, typically glass jars, to create a vacuum-sealed environment. Either with pasteurization or a sterilization method. This prevents the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms, providing long-term stability to the preserved meat.

From my research, the technical commercial name for canning is thermal processing.

At home, we use sterilizing for preservation.

Pasteurization vs. Sterilizing at Home

When it comes to canning, two key terms often pop up: pasteurization and sterilization.

Let’s differentiate between these methods and understand their implications for home canning.

Pasteurization: Pasteurization involves heating the canned meat to a specific temperature that kills harmful bacteria, yeast, and molds, while still retaining the quality of the product.

It eliminates most spoilage-causing microorganisms, rendering the meat safe for consumption.

Pasteurization is commonly used for low-acid foods such as meat and is achieved through precise time and temperature control.

Sterilizing: Sterilization takes preservation to the next level by subjecting the canned meat to higher temperatures for a more extended period. This process eradicates nearly all microorganisms, including spores, ensuring long-term shelf stability.

Sterilization is often required for high-acid foods or when long-term storage without refrigeration is desired.

Canning is an involved process, here are some points about preserving that are key.

Important Aspects of Canning at Home

  1. Quality and Freshness: Start with high-quality, fresh meat. It’s vital to work with fresh cuts, free from any signs of spoilage or degradation, to achieve the best results in terms of taste and safety.
  2. Proper Preparation: Thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment, including jars, lids, and utensils, to maintain a sterile environment. Follow recommended food safety guidelines to prevent cross-contamination and ensure hygienic practices throughout the canning process.
  3. Recipe and Processing Time: Use trusted canning recipes that provide precise instructions for processing times and temperatures. These recipes take into account factors such as the type of meat, jar size, and altitude to ensure safe and effective preservation.
  4. Pressure Canning Equipment: Invest in a reliable pressure canner specifically designed for canning meat. Pressure canning is essential to achieve the high temperatures required for sterilization and eliminate the risk of botulism.
  5. Labeling and Storage: Properly label your canned meat with the date and contents. Store the jars in a cool, dark, and dry place, away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. Regularly inspect the jars for any signs of spoil

Helpful Links to Preserving Meat by Canning at Home

I’ve dealt with Ashley the publisher before, she knows her topics – https://practicalselfreliance.com/canning-meat/

Secondary Measures to Preserve Meat at Home

I wanted to highlight some information about preserving meat that doesn’t get talked about much.

The secondary aspects aren’t often primarily preserving but can assist the main aspects like salt curing.

Spices and Herbs

Salami spices recipe large

While spices and herbs themselves do not possess the ability to directly preserve meat, they can play a role in meat preservation by providing antimicrobial properties and contributing to flavor development. Here’s how spices and herbs can contribute to preserving meat:

  1. Antimicrobial Properties: Many spices and herbs possess natural antimicrobial properties, which can inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms on the meat’s surface. For example, ingredients like garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and rosemary have been studied for their antimicrobial effects. They can complement other preservation methods and help delay spoilage.
  2. Meat Outside Protection: A barrier can help prevent moisture loss, protect against contamination, and potentially slow down the growth of microorganisms. Certain spices and herbs, such as cayenne pepper, black pepper, and chili flakes carry many beneficial properties.

It’s important to note that while spices and herbs can contribute to meat preservation, they should not be relied upon as the sole preservation method. Proper curing techniques, such as the use of salt, controlled temperature and humidity, and other proven preservation methods, are still essential for ensuring meat safety and longevity.

Removal of Oxygen

As you will see above in the tables about vac packed in fridges or freezers.

Vac-packed shorten the time meat can be preserved, this can be combined with salt, fridge temperature, freezing, thermal processing, spices, etc.

Dry curing equilibrium cured large
preserving pork and duck

You can help preserve meat at home by inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria and microorganisms that require oxygen to thrive.

The removal of oxygen contributes to meat preservation by:

  1. Prevents Aerobic Spoilage: Many spoilage bacteria and molds are aerobic bacteria, meaning they require oxygen to grow and multiply. By removing oxygen from the meat’s environment, you create unfavorable conditions for these aerobic microorganisms, slowing down or preventing their growth. This helps extend the shelf life of the meat.
  2. Inhibits Oxidation: Oxygen exposure can lead to oxidation, which can cause changes in the meat’s color, flavor, and texture. Oxidation can result in rancidity and the breakdown of nutrients, compromising the quality of the meat. Removing oxygen helps minimize the oxidative processes, preserving the meat’s freshness and taste.
  3. Reduces Oxidative Spoilage Enzymes: Enzymes present in meat, such as oxidases, can react with oxygen and contribute to the spoilage process.

To remove oxygen and create an oxygen-free environment for meat preservation at home, here are a few common methods:

  • Vacuum Sealing: Using a vacuum sealer, you can remove air from the packaging and create a sealed, oxygen-free environment around the meat. I’ve found reusable vac-pack bags for dry cured salami at home, rather than single-use vac-pack bags
  • Oil Immerison – Submerging meat in oil, can be done for steaks for instance, I’ve seen this used at commercial kitchens, the extra virgin olive oil is kept in the fridge, and the aged steaks could last up to 2 weeks.

It’s important to note that while removing oxygen helps preserve meat, it should be complemented with proper temperature control and other recommended storage practices. Maintaining low temperatures, refrigeration or freezing as necessary, and practicing good hygiene and sanitation are crucial for safe and successful meat preservation at home.

Vacuum Packed

Vacuum packing is a highly effective method for preserving meat due to its ability to create airtight packaging and remove oxygen from the surrounding environment.

If I have a large amount of meat, vac sealing the meat, the freezing will make it last many years (as long as no long power cuts) unless you have a generator.

Oil Immersion

Oil immersion is a preservation method that involves submerging meat in oil to create a protective barrier against oxygen, moisture, and microbial growth. This technique can help preserve meat at home in the following ways:

  1. Oxygen Exclusion
  2. Moisture Protection
  3. Microbial Inhibition
  4. Enhanced Flavor and Tenderness

Anchovies and sardines often come in cans of oil whether it’s sunflower, vegetable, or extra virgin olive oil. This can be done at home to preserve meat but would be an investment in time and money!

Oscar’s canned anchovies are salt brining and canned in oil (it’s a commercial product though).

I just use this as an example of salt brining and oil immersion.

When using oil immersion for meat preservation at home, here are some important considerations:

  • Choose a high-quality oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
  • Ensure that the meat is fully submerged in the oil, with no air pockets or exposed areas.
  • Store the oil-immersed meat in a cool, dark place to prevent rancidity and maintain quality.
  • Properly clean and sanitize the containers used for oil immersion to prevent cross-contamination.

You’ll find oil immersion is typically more suitable for short to medium-term preservation, since we don’t have commercial ways of sealing and canning, well most of us don’t.

Always follow safe food handling practices and consult trusted sources or recipes for specific guidelines when using oil immersion as a meat preservation method.

Traditional vs. Modern Methods of Meat Preservation

Nowadays we can combine the methods to create new ways of preserving meat at home as well.

Traditional MethodsModern Methods
CuringRefrigeration
SmokingFreezing
Drying/DehydratingVacuum Packing
Fermentation

Traditional Methods of Meat Preservation

Curing: Curing involves the use of salt and spices to dehydrate and preserve meat. In traditional curing, meats are coated with a curing mixture or immersed in a brine solution. The process enhances flavor, texture, and shelf life while preventing bacterial growth.

Traditionally, a cornerstone of preserving meat.

Smoking is often incorporated into the curing process, adding further preservation and flavor nuances.

Drying/Dehydrating: One of the oldest methods, drying or dehydrating meat involves removing moisture to prevent bacterial growth, often with salt to cure to assist the drying more effectively. The thinly sliced meat is air-dried or cured with salt, transforming it into a type of charcuterie!

A popular method of preserving (with enhancing flavor) at home.

Examples: Jerky, Biltong, Dry Cured Salami, Dry Cured Whole Muscle Meats

Fermentation: Fermentation is a time-honored method that uses beneficial bacteria and microorganisms to preserve meat.

Through the controlled growth of lactic acid bacteria, meat undergoes a transformative process, resulting in enhanced flavors, improved preservation, and increased shelf life. Traditional fermented meats, such as salami and sausages, are celebrated for their distinct taste and character.

Modern Methods of Meat Preservation

What you find below, is all these methods involve basically an electrical piece of technology, unless the environment is conducive to the given temperatures.

Refrigeration: The advent of refrigeration revolutionized meat preservation. By maintaining low temperatures, typically between 32°F and 40°F (0°C and 4°C), refrigeration slows bacterial growth, extending the shelf life of fresh meat. This method allows for short-term storage, ensuring meat’s freshness and reducing the need for extensive preservation techniques.

I often use a fridge for dry-cured preserved meat at home, during the curing phase, before drying.

Freezing: utilizes extremely low temperatures to halt microbial activity. By freezing meat, cellular metabolism slows down, preserving the quality and texture of the meat. Freezing provides long-term storage options, allowing meat to be preserved for months or even years.

Vacuum Packing: Removing air from the packaging and sealing the meat in an airtight environment. This technique prevents oxidation, inhibits bacterial growth, and maintains the meat’s freshness. Vacuum-sealed packages are popular for both short and long-term storage, as they protect against freezer burn and maintain quality.


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