Dehydrating123: How To Dehydrate Meat For Backpacking Meals

Dried meat is light in weight and rich in protein, making it an important staple for hikers, paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts to take in their food packs. It provides us with energy, play a vital role in metabolism process, help repair body tissues (skin, bones, muscles) and boost the immune system. Meat also is rich in minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium) and vitamins (E, B).

What meat can be dried?

You can dry any raw meat (beef, poultry,game) or canned. However, each type of meat requires different pre-treatment.

How to make beef jerky

Choose a lean cut of meat in excellent condition. Remove skin and bones (for poultry).

Trim the visible fat off and throw out any filmy membrane tissue. It’s very important to trim meat well. Remember that fat doesn’t dry and can later turn rancid.

Cut into thin strips or slices, about 1/4 inch (6mm).

Marinate for 6–12 hours in the refrigerator.

Pre-cook meat by either roasting or steaming them to get an inner temperature 160–165F/71–74C. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed before drying.

Rinse off and spread on dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate at 145F/63C temperature for 4–6 hours until hard and no moisture pockets available. Meat should be dry-leathery or partly brittle when done.

Put into vacuum-sealed containers, glass jars or zip lock bags.

Store in a dry, dark place at room temperature for two months.

How to dehydrate ground beef and turkey

Choose the leanest meat available. Put it in a skillet, break into fine pieces and cook until no pink meat remains.

Transfer meat into a colander to drain the fat. Rinse with hot, boiled water. Season to taste and leave to cool.

Spread cooked ground meat on dehydrator trays, covered with non-stick sheets or parchment paper.

Dehydrate at 145F/63C for 4 to 6 hours until completely dry and brittle.  Blot off any fat with paper towel once or twice while drying.

Put into vacuum-sealed containers, glass jars or zip lock bags.

Store in a dry, dark place at room temperature for two months. Vacuum-seal or freeze for a longer shelf life.

Want to know how to dehydrate canned meat? Join our online class

Food Dehydrating Course

everything you need to know to get started with drying your own food for the trail

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  1. Starr Perez on September 27, 2023 at 11:26 am

    Where can I find cure

  2. Carol on August 5, 2021 at 2:41 am

    Will slow cooking make meat easier to dehydrate rather than pressure cooking?

    • Tanya Krezevska on August 12, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Don’t think so. Pressure cooked and canned meat dehydrates better than stewed, even in slow mode

  3. Cankle on June 16, 2021 at 12:04 am

    I’m trying to learn as much as possible about food dehydration before I hit the trail next spring. Thru-hiking the AT and looking forward to tastier meal options than pop tarts and ramen, so this will be a site I visit often. Your dehydrating class is definitely something I will be signing up for here very shortly!

    • Tanya Krezevska on June 22, 2021 at 10:06 am

      Thank you!

  4. Rachel on April 26, 2021 at 6:07 am

    I dehydrated turkey to make jerky but it came out greasy. Is this normal?

  5. Lauren C on November 24, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    Wanting to know. Can I grill 1/2” to 3/4” steak and then dehydrate it. Can it be rehydrated to eat later. If this is possible would it keep better in a malar bag.

  6. Carmy on February 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm


    Does anyone know if the beneficial bacterias in dehydrated vegtable ferments dye when vacuum sealing?



  7. Garrett on March 30, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    If I dehydrate beef in the oven at 170 degrees is that going to be good enough to kill bacteria. I know that bacteria is killed and dies at 160 degrees but I’m wondering if my jerky is getting to 160 degrees operating the oven at 170. Having some experience working in a kitchen for a restaurant and other facilities I’m pretty positive that it is but I just want to make sure. I have been doing this for a while but have never gotten sick so I assume I’m doing something right

    • Ian on February 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm


      170 degrees is 10 degrees more than 160 degrees.

  8. Rich on January 20, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Vaccum sealed with a moisture absorbing packet, stored in a cool dark place how long is dried ground beef good for about?

    • Tanya Krezevska on January 25, 2019 at 9:05 am

      I keep mine up to one year in the freezer.

  9. Leslie on October 23, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    I’m glad that i stumbled on this site… i am prepping meals for a spring hike… ….getting a lot of good ideas!

    • Tanya Krezevska on October 23, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Leslie!

  10. Kevin on September 5, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Been using canned chicken (dehydrated) but might try pressure cooking seasoned chicken to save some money and add flavor. Would you have any recommendations on the proper time needed in a pressure cooker for chicken?


    • Tanya Krezevska on September 6, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Kevin! You can find here presuure cooking timetable for different types of meat and poultry

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