Drying Meat Without a Dehydrator

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I have some concerns about what my boy and I are going to find when we return to Venezuela. I expect there will be a massive amount of people returning. There will likely be isolation (concentration?) camps. In these camps, the meals are scarce and lack nutrition. My son and I are used to eating properly these last couple of years. We have not been eating fancy meals, but at the very least, the meals are complete. 

Food is an absolute necessity. We all know this. When it comes to prepping, making sure you have what is needed to sustain you, and those with you is crucial. Being in isolation could make it quite hard for us to get the nutrition we need. So, I have been thinking of ways to make sustainable foods that I can keep with us in case of isolation. 

How will you make sure you have the food you need?

Learning about nutrition is something I have been doing lately, and I have been using this knowledge to review the types of food I have in my stock. I have learned that our bodies need certain minerals to develop and function normally. Minerals essential for health include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium.

Making sure we have the foods that will replace those minerals is extremely important.

My goal is to fill a backpack with enough dry food to keep me and kiddo well-fed for up to 2 1/2 weeks. 

Dehydrating food without a dehydrator

We do not preserve food in Venezuela, except in very remote places. It was something lost in the shadows of the pre-refrigeration era. So, being the engineer that I am, I decided I would make a dehydrator. After all, if I can make it, I am NOT paying for an already built one. 

My first idea was to use silica gel as an element to dry something in a bowl covered with a glass lid. No Bueno. Getting silica gel is a pain unless I go to a shoe store and ask for some there.

Then I remembered that rice, charcoal, and salt are highly hygroscopic. Meaning they have a great affinity with water. I had all of these items on hand.

Experiment 1

I put 1 cup (1/4kg) rice in a frying pan on my stove with a low flame. Then I took the steak I had, chopped it up, and salted both sides. But, not too much. 

Without having a “drying machine” other than the Peruvian spring sun, this was the perfect opportunity for me to experiment. I made a rice bed about 1 cm thick on the bottom of my stainless steel pot and threw in a charcoal piece to absorb moisture.

Before placing the pot outside, I covered the lid’s plastic handle with a toilet paper layer, then some regular printing paper, and aluminum foil. That was to protect the handle from the UV. (Yes, I’m that kind of guy, I know it, and I like the way I am). 

The pot was left for six hours in the full sun. I went to check a couple of times and wiped off the excess moisture inside. When I checked for the third time, not a single drop of moisture was condensed inside the lid. I have to mention: there was no place the moisture could get out of the pot. I made sure there was no way a fly could get in and do whatever Nature tells it to do.  

Now it was time to cover the rice bed with aluminum foil and place the meat on top. Again, it went out in the full sun for 12 to 14 hours. The result was two little pieces of leathery stuff, but you could tear it apart with your fingers. 

Try it. You’ll like it.

Being the nice Dad that I am, I did not ask my boy to try it first. I tried the meat first. I was the “guinea pig,” as they say, for my experiment. 

The meat was quite good, I must say. It didn’t taste like a homemade meal, but it did taste like meat. It was quite salty, of course. My feeling is, it needed some more aeration. 

Now the most exciting part of the experiment, at least for me. My son has always been selective about what he eats. He took a little piece I gave him and suddenly asked for more. 

I was surprised by this. My boy often rejects foods because of the way they look. And without even asking, he ate half of the meat I had prepared. I had prepared enough for at least a month. He just opened the plastic bag I had stored it in, got some bread, and start chewing.

More experimenting with different ingredients

I went and got some more ingredients and came up with a recipe of my own. I have not done it yet, so I do not have the result. But, I am looking forward to seeing if kiddo likes this one as much as that dry stuff he ate nearly half of. 

These are the additional ingredients I got: 

  • Red pepper (1 Tsp)
  • Oregano (1 Tsp)
  • Salt (1 Tsp)
  • Sugar ( 1 tsp)

I will place the lean meat in a small container and make sure these ingredients cover all the meat. Then I will give it another try with the help of the sun. 

After that first experiment, I bought a few items to put together a different setup with a glass piece. I hope to use fruits with this set to make high energy snacks. 

More experiments to come and a menu of isolation food

I have been putting together a menu for the few weeks we will have to be in isolation. So far, the menu includes foods like oatmeal, dry beans, rice, pasta, dried tomatoes, garlic, onion, and herbs.

Once the “drying” experiments with lean meat are a success, I will start with pork. I am a bit hesitant to use the port around here. But if I use the ham they call “Ham of the Country” because it is soaked with nitrites, it should be ok. 

Updates to follow on the experimentation.  Do you dry meat without a dehydrator? How do you do it? Please let me know in the comments.

Thank you for your continued support. We truly appreciate it. 

Stay tuned!


About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

Picture of J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

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  • As you are researching and practicing with this, I might recommend researching and trying Pemmican which is a Native American preparation.

    It’s lean, dried strips of meat, pounded into paste, mixed with fat and berries and pressed into small cakes.

    A little time consuming to make, but very tasty and easy to pack and carry.

    • Dear Stephen,
      Yes, I’ve read about how to make Pemmican. It seems like trying a variation with locally fruits and ingredients sounds like a good possibility. We will need food enough because we don’t know what we’re going to find once we arrive, and the few money we could have, we better make it last. Sd things worked out, anything with meat will be ingested by my kid. And that is good enough for me.

      • Dear Jose,

        Here in Brazil there is in many regions, especially in northeastern Brazil, the culture of beef “sun meat”.

        I don’t live in the northeast, but I learned the technique with some older “matutos” and I do it at home constantly. As the price of “normal” meat is already very expensive, sun-dried meat is even more expensive, as it involves technique, time and work.

        To prepare sun-dried meat we need meat, refined salt and, of course, sunlight.

        The longer the meat stays in the sun, the drier it will be and the longer it will last. But, I recommend not leaving it in the sun for too long, so it doesn’t lose its softness.

        I’ll just say: the flavor is unparalleled!

        This link below explains it well (just translate):


  • That method using alot of salt is a no go for those of us that have high blood pressure… You got another way?????

    • I took eye of round, cut it into thin strips, marinated it (with only enough salt to taste), and then dried it over a low temp smoker for 6 hours.
      Tasted great, if you like smoky flavor.

    • Dear jw in the thunder

      You’re absolutely right. I’m going to try that method, too, but will need to make an investment to make some guys that work with steel sheet close by, and give them the templates with the design of my folding rocket stove and use smoke. I’m sure this is going to be a great alternative. I shouldn’t be ingesting so much salt, too, to be honest. However, you could always rinse off the excess, and our intention is to add little bits of meat to our meals, just enough to make them more palatable. But you’re right, I should try smoking too because it would work great for us there in Venezuela too, just in case even the salt starts to be scarce. That without any fuel could become a sudden reality.

  • Good article Jose, Dehydrating without a machine is a subject near and dear to my heart. Living in SW Colorado, We’ve successfully dried fruits and vegetables, but I’ve been hesitant to try meat (Meat prices being what they are).
    What is the relative humidity in your area (we’re fairly steady at <30% most of the year)?
    Spice preperation is a matter of taste (personally, I despise Oregano LOL), but were any of your spices you listed moist or all dry (that may factor into drying times)?
    I look forward to your sharing of future experimentation in this area.
    Thank you

    • Dear Bemused Berserker,
      Lima is a coastal city, and while I write this, the sandy mountains I can see from our rooftop are covered with mist. Not exactly a lovely sight because I grew up in a country where sun shines the whole day (sometimes even while it rains), so humidity is high, over 55%-60% when there is no sun. In Venezuela is much higher, but the sun (and wind) is so strong and for so much time during the whole day, that with this method we should be able to preserve meat for at least 3 weeks to one month.
      You’re right, spices are personal preference. Kiddo decided to leave oregano for his pasta, and asked for some more black pepper added to the mix, which we did with the 2nd batch that is now stashed. I preferred white pepper, but didn’t find it in the super I use to go.
      All of the spices were the kind you find in the grocery store, already dried, and surely that helped a lot to absorb moisture.

  • Excellent article.
    one thing he did not mention, was the actual thickness of the meat,but this is really good look into how one can experiment with different methods of dehydration.
    There are other preservation methods like smoking and a true brine “Salting” of meat, which could make for some other good articles.
    These are some of the skills and mental attitudes that Preppers need, not just buying more “stuff”.

    • I am working on that now.
      Takes time to cure 5 pounds of bacon.
      Been doing it now for years.

      I have made salted cod, that leeched out so much moisture, it was still pliable even after being in the freezer for two weeks.

    • Dear Mic,
      You’re right, forgot to mention the thickness.
      These steaks were already prepared in the super shelves. It was cut at 1 centimeter thick, no more than that. Remember that these should be as thin as you may cut it. If you’re skilled enough to cut it in half centimeter, the better. It will dry faster and no risk to get spoiled.
      Stay tuned for the smoking article. However, this will depend on the fabrication of the foldable rocket stove I have designed, which will depend as well of the sponsoring and people’s support for this little projects.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Jose, here are a few resources for you:

    How to Preserve Food by Drying [dehydration]


    Including lots of resource links


    18 Best DIY Solar Dehydrators



    Tammy Gangloff’s food dehydration website — books, videos, resources


    While Tammy’s knowledge base is focused on using electric dehydrators bought at retail, her extensive knowledge of what foods cooperate best with dehydrating (and which one’s don’t), what time and temperature settings make the most sense, etc should also be invaluable for any DIY solar dehydration projects as well.

    Finally … I remember reading that in the pre-electric era the French had a habit of dehydrating foods by hanging them 30 to 40 feet up in the air where the daytime breeze would keep any bugs away while the sun heat did its work. They probably had to bring those foods down and put away at night so the nighttime humidity wouldn’t put moisture back into those foods.


    • Dear Lewis,

      As usual your contributions with wonderful materials.
      Oh, and YES, you HAVE to put away whatever you’re trying to sun-dry at night, preferrably with some means to absorb humidity (as I said, I wrap the meat in tin foil and get it into a ziploc bag with raw rice until the next day) and expose it again to sun the next day.
      I totally understand those in colder climates using machines to dry. However, one could always go and manufacture a very simple structure, as I have done. As I don’t have the means right now and here, and have the urgent need, well, we have to make it work with a little information and using the brains. Nothing fancy, but it worked. LOL.

  • Yup good stuff but there are things that need to be addressed like humidity, fat content and predators during the process.
    Smoke drying is a good method as well.

    • Dear Matt in Oklahoma,
      You’re positively right. That’s why I took pictures of the fat content of the meat. Lima’s weather in this time of the year is starting to be sunny, but it’s still cold and damp. I have to stick to Internet data on this, because my measuring tools for this were left behind.
      The only predator to the moment has been my son. I suspect that, if I scale up the “production” level, maybe a few neighborhood cats will show up. Which is fine by me. I love those furry things. But using spices and salt maybe will be a deterrant.

  • I’ve heard of people having great success drying strips of lean meat on a rack placed on the dashboard of a parked car. With the windows slightly cracked to allow for the release of condensation, the intense heat built up in a car, especially in the summer months, seems like an ideal possibility. Laying a cheese cloth, or other light material over the meat will keep the occasional stray fly or other insects that may get in from the cracked window from directly touching the meat.

    Doing an herbal rub and/or marinading the meat will also add to its flavor when finished.

    • Dear Serenabit,
      This is a real working method. Specially in Venezuela where you have temps over the 32-34 Centigrades the whole year. And sun. As a matter of fact, I have already stashed there some old bus glass to make a 2mx2m sun-drying rack because one of my goals is to preserve stuff not just for self consumption but as a side business. However, the car should be protected so any odors be vented, and maybe a tray underneath the rack for dripping is a good idea if you go this way.
      The cloth or mosquito screen is a must! in my country flies are everywhere the whole year. And the nasty ones, green and huge, with tons of larva eggs. Yuk. Ewww. I hate those.
      Yes, herbal rubs or marinating is a great idea. I plan to prepare a few different mixtures, like lemon, and ground non-spicy peppers. There are some interesting local varieties around here, different to our “sweet” Chili, tasty but non spicy, used to season many meals in Venezuela.

  • I looked up a while back how to make BILTONG.
    pretty simple.
    However i have no idea if this works with chicken.

    Build your self a box between 2′ and 3′ tall with a top that opens with small vent holes in top and bottom to vent heat and moisture..
    Get your beef preferably in steak form
    cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices does not matter how thick the steak is.
    thoroughly coat the meat in your preferred spices, I used teriyaki sauce/smashed peppercorn, turmeric/ oregano and some other things.
    hang these inside the box from the top not touching anything inside/other meat

    put a 60watt light in the bottom.
    takes 2 to 3 days.
    you have to check every few hours to get the tenderness you want.

    this will when done keep for a while but not long term, this is to make the meat last for a week or three
    if refrigerated after.

    This is RAW meat, yes it works great but I over spiced mine a bit.

    Look up biltong
    or how to make biltong
    I used cardboard boxes taped together.

    • I am in South Africa and this is how we preserve meat since I can remember. It will stay ‘fresh’ in a cotton bag for years to come. Biltong is raw and lately they also sell chicken and bacon. Have no idea how to do that or what it tastes like ..
      My dad use to hang the meat in an outside building with hooks through the meat on a wire high above the ground. Always in winter – the summers are to hot.

      Thank you for this article – we will definitely try this method

      • Dear Ann,

        I almost grew being a South African. My grampa wanted to migrate there when my mom was like 8 years or so, but the freedom he enjoyed those years in Venezuela was too attractive, and he always was a peaceful man, looking to stay away of any human conflict. Many people say the 2nd half of the 30s decade up to the middle 80s was the best time of my country to live in. I’m happy he could enjoy most of those years. It’s great to learn that.
        Thanks for commenting! and stay tuned.

  • This is a must save and I need to try it so I can do it.

    I am trying to figure out freeze drying, because that is lighter weight, longer lasting, and above all, more nutritious than canning or dehydrating.

    A small home freeze dryer is $2000 to $3000 from Harvest Right, which is doable for a great many of us. But that is over my head.

    I found lots of freeze-dried fruit and veggies at Family Dollar today for only $1 a package. I hope this news gets some of you to check them out. But that is still more expensive than making my own and limited to what I can find.

    To freeze dry, you need a very cold freezer, and then a vacuum chamber with a pump that can pull a vacuum down to 120 Torr (about 120 mmHg). Some of these cost $3000 and others cost $150 or less. Auto places might have vacuum chambers. I am currently searching for a 3 to 5 gallon one–and a HAND pump so that I can use in in a grid down if need be.

    • Nancy look at an account or refrigeration parts place you can get a hood vacuum pump for under $500. You will need to get detergent less oil for pump… everyone over fills and it makes a mess… get a vacuum line with manifold and 2 or 3 shut off valves that way 1 pump for more than one person.

      The biking recipenis missing vinegar… that is main part of its curing. Biting also has less salthan.

      Smoked meat last longest when near total dry less when softer… softer tastes better.we have eaten 5 year old smoked meat done to dry I think was4% no illeffects.

      For lady with salt issues use salted meat technique for preservation but before you eat rinse and soak to pull salt from meat… it’s how the British seamen in 1400 used to do to eat salt pork and beef.

      If getting a smoker a modern pellet one works best for cheapest how ever after shot no pellets so know how to use wood ( debark it no green wood)

      You can preserve meat with alcohol as well

      Chinese have special urns with water times tops for lard preserving meat look on you tube.. that way of doing preserves is 2000 plus years old.

      Jose I am sure you can find a black garbage bag…. if you cut a small hole in top and a larger opening on bottom it will auto convection. Large hole away from sun side. Make a rack hang meat and put the plastic garbage bag over it to dry. You can reuse bag…. we tape a gauze squart over the holes to stop flies. Don’t let meat touch garbage bag as they have been treated with nasty chemicals for odor control and anti microbial.

      If you are in dry area you can make a low point in garbage bag and collect water to drink if in dire situation… at that point who care about some chemicals.


  • I have seen devices (mostly at Asian supermarkets but also on Amazon) that are open air dryers, with several trays hanging inside a mesh cover to keep the bugs off. You can hang them in a breezy spot and dry things that way. With something like meat though I would only do that if it were summer or if my climate were extremely dry.

    • Dear Redbranch,

      My dad ordered once a little box with mosquito screen and some 2×2 tinder. It was big enough for a chunk of white cheese, the kind we make in the Venezuelan Llanos, where I come from. We rubbed some mixture made with used ground coffee leftovers, and black crushed pepper on it, and let it drip the excess of moisture. It would be dripping for quite some time, until it was completely dry. You could grind this after taking the layer of pepper and coffee grounds, and this is a GREAT flavored cheese. It lasts for years.

  • A recipe I used years ago was for venison, a pretty lean meat like our grass fed beef. I believe it used 1 part soy sauce to 2 parts water plus lots of garlic salt depending on your volume. After marinating for 2 hours I dryed it on racks in the oven but it could be done over a camp fire like the first nation’s people did. It was delicious and never lasted very long at our house.

  • Where I am from people commonly dehydrate jerky (often venison) in the regular oven.
    With an oven set to ‘warm’ it is usually somewhere around 200 degrees F. If you ocassionaly open the oven door to let out a little heat and a bit of moisture that is ideal. In a dehydrator I dehydrate at 180 deg F. It will take a couple hours (maybe 2-4 depending on how thick sliced) in the oven.
    This will often last a few months, depending on how fatty the meat is and how warm the air is. Watch for mold. We store jerky in the freezer and take it out when we are ready to eat it soon. This way it lasts as long as you have freezer capacity.

    Also a car parked in the sun is an effective passive dehydrator. Put meat (sliced thin- 1/4″ or thinner) on grates or racks. If you have something fat can drip through and air can flow that is best- but it can be done on a baking pan too – just turn the meat over) Be sure to cover racks with cheese cloth or thin cotton to keep flys away.

    I have also known of an old man (who lived an old lifestyle) who dried strips of meat hanging from a rack over the wood stove in winter. It was like a jerky mobile in the ceiling- but I suspect that jerky picked up a smoked flavor which might have been quite nice.

    To test jerky to see if it is ‘done’ bend the meat. If it feels dry and folds it is done, if it snaps, it is over done. (you can still eat it- but it will take more chewing)

    Hang in there Jose

    • Dear Swan,
      Thanks for those anecdotical data. I love hearing from people who witnessed how others used ancient customs that our modern society has lost, favoring chemical-filled foods.
      I have the strong feeling that my resistance to the bioweapon (I will NEVER stop calling it like that) SARSCOV2 has been because of the changes in my diet. Lots of fresh citrum fruits, bananas, and mangoes. These last ones with skin and all. Fish is cheap here. I can have a huge bowl of fish soup with seafood for just 1,5 USD. Ate this twice a week, full of lemon juice. Yummy. Meat, maybe once a week when I was living alone. Now, I feed most of this to my kid. but we eat two or three times a week a small steak. His portion is always larger than mine, as I’m noticing I don’t need that much as I grow older. These last few weeks I’ve been craving for greenies, like germinates, lattuce, cucumbers and spinach. Maybe I should write about this with more detail.
      However, the main goal for this is to have some means to kept us well fed once in the concentration COVID camp back in Venezuela, as I’ve mentioned already.

  • News to me that Fluoride is good for you. I’ve understood it to be toxic. I stay clear away from it and use a water filter to eliminate it from my water. You lost me at fluoride.

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