Growing up, we tapped into our food storage regularly. And while it was a huge blessing to our family, it was also a bummer. Because 15-year-old-me didn’t have any of her favorite steaks in food storage to look forward to. Thankfully, that was a bit ago – and today there’s a different answer to this question: Can you freeze-dry aged beef?
Freeze-drying aged beef is a fantastic way to store a favorite cut of steak in shelf-stable food storage for up to a year on average. Thinner cuts of dry-aged or fresher meats freeze-dry better. Freeze-drying beef and storing it will not create a frozen dry-aged beef cut.
So while this won’t help you create an at-home, dry-aged beef, freeze-drying your already dry-aged beef is a fantastic way to make sure that you won’t have to go without your favorite steaks during a Zombie Apocalypse. Ready to be prepared? Let’s do this.
You Can Freeze-Dry Aged Beef
Contrary to what some folks believe, meat can most definitely be freeze-dried. And it actually does fairly well. The cut and fat content will definitely affect how well it freeze-dries, though. But even if you’re wanting to freeze-dry a prime cut of dry-aged beef, know that it is possible. You just need to be smart about a few things.
Here’s what you need to consider when freeze-drying aged beef.
- Cuts of Aged Beef – Thinner cuts of beef steaks will freeze-dry better than thicker cuts do.
- Fat Content of Beef – Fats and oils don’t freeze-dry as well (if at all). So pick leaner cuts – or trim off the excess fats before freeze-drying the steak. You can still freeze-dry the steak with the fat, but it will significantly shorten the overall shelf-life of your freeze-dried steak.
- Be Aware of a Shorter Shelf-Life – Steaks aren’t going to be shelf-stable as long as freeze-dried fruits or veggies are. So don’t expect to store them for 25 years. Instead, expect to store that steak for an average of up to a year. We’ve successfully freeze-dried and stored various cuts of meats for anywhere from several months to several years.
- Preparation before Freeze-Drying – How you prepare the meat before freeze-drying it will affect the end taste.
- Sous vide Is Best – For all cuts we’ve tried thus far, sous vide steaks freeze-dry and re-hydrate best.
- Freeze-Drying Raw Versus Cooked – Storing a raw steak is possible but not advisable. Freeze-drying raw foods increases the risk of contaminating the entire freeze-drying system. Plus, the end product tastes actually better if it’s precooked (or at least parboiled).
- Rehydrating Dry-Aged, Freeze-Dried Beef – This step shouldn’t be rushed – or your meat will have an odd, crunchy texture (especially in the middle!). Expect rehydration to take at least 24 hours in the fridge.
Okay, so that covers the basics of freeze-drying dry-aged beef. If you’re freeze-drying any meats, though, those same principles are going to apply.
However, just reading about freeze-drying steaks probably doesn’t have the same visual impact as seeing them does. So here’s a video I found on YouTube about how the above considerations will impact the final steak. This particular video compares how four differently prepared New York strip steaks do after being freeze-dried and re-hydrated.
The fellow in the video quickly reaches the same conclusions that we’ve made – with the main takeaway being these:
- Thinner cuts do better.
- Sous vide is a fantastic way to cook beef for freeze-drying.
- Re-hydrate well – or else you get a bit of a crunch.
- If your steaks are too thick, then you’re likely to still get a bit of a crunch (no matter how you cooked them or how well you’ve re-hydrated them).
Okay, so it’s totally possible to freeze-dry aged beef. Now let’s cover how we do it.
How to Freeze Dry Beef
Ready to freeze-dry your favorite aged beef cuts? Let’s do this.
- Select your preferred cut of beef. Remember that thinner, leaner cuts will do better reconstituting and store longer.
- Prepare your cut of beef. This could include halving thicker cuts or trimming any excess fat to improve overall freeze-drying and storage, depending on your storage goals. You can salt and flavor the meat at this time, though you’ll want to also flavor it more while re-hydrating the meat later on in this process.
- Sous vide the meat. Cook it to a degree less than your desired level of being done. If you like medium-rare steaks, sous vide it to rare. Between freeze-drying, reconstituting, and grilling it afterward, the meat will get cooked to that next degree.
- Freeze the meat. Seriously. Freeze it before you freeze-dry it. It’ll freeze-dry better this way. In fact, I recommend that you pre-freeze anything you want to freeze-dry.
- Freeze-dry the meat. Add it to the freeze-dryer once it’s already sufficiently cold (colder than your freezer) for a freezing cycle. Take the meat out on a warming cycle – that way, you don’t get a ton of condensation build-up on the food when you bring it out of the freeze dryer.
- Do a Test Storage in a Ziploc bag. Store the meat in a plastic Ziploc bag for a day or two. This way, you can test for moisture content. If the bag gets a buildup of moisture in it, you know it wasn’t properly done. And then you only lose a single Ziploc bag’s worth of food – and you know right away. Plus, you didn’t waste an expensive Mylar bag or get surprised with rotten food in a year.
- Store it in a Mylar bag for longer-term storage. Meats can last up to several years, depending on fat content and storage conditions. Eating it within one year is generally safer. Don’t forget to add the oxygen absorber before you seal the Mylar bag.
- Do a Sniff Test before eating. A sniff test won’t usually work for checking for food-borne illness, but it will tell you if the fat has gone rancid. So we like to sniff-test our freeze-dried meats – both before and after reconstituting them. If it smells off at any step of this process, it’s better to be safe in throwing it out than eating it and getting sick.
- Rehydrate for 24 hours in the fridge. Add any desired seasonings if you didn’t do that prior to the sous vide step. Put the meat in a shallow pan with some water and cover with a Ziploc bag or some plastic wrap. Check the water level every few hours. There should be enough water to look like it’s marinating. Feel free to flip the steak over several times to improve reconstitution. Piercing the partially-rehydrated steak with a fork part way through can help improve overall reconstitution.
- Sear on the grill. You’ll only need to cook it for a minute or two – just long enough to develop some texture on the outside of the steak and to cook it to your preferred level of being done.
- Enjoy! Seriously. Enjoy that steak. You’ve earned it.
Okay – so I know that a London Broil cut isn’t usually the fanciest or most amazing of cuts. But it’s one I love, as it brings back some amazing memories from my childhood. And it freeze-dries really well, especially if you slice it thinly beforehand. Here’s a batch we rubbed and cooked, right before freezing it.
It ended up freeze-drying really well – though the rubbed exterior didn’t do as well as I’d have liked. Even so, it was delicious to eat still freeze-dried, as a kind of freeze-dried jerky or reconstituted.
A Note on Freeze-Drying Dry-Aged Beef
While I’m no expert on how to dry-age beef in a controlled environment, that’s okay. Because there are butchers, steakhouses, and even a few grocery stores who do it for you. These cuts of beef freeze-dry super well. The only reason I’m noting it is this: cost.
Just remember that dry-aging beef can take up to a month. Because this is a time-intensive process, it can make the cuts a lot more expensive than a “fresher” (and less-aged) version of the same exact cut.
And not every store will sell dry-aged cuts of beef. So if you’re not sure if your local store sells dry-aged beef, ask an employee. Or better yet, ask an employee at the butcher counter. They ought to know. And if they aren’t sure, look up a local specialty butcher. Give them a call – and see if they’ve got your favorite dry-aged cuts on hand.
Finally, if you’re wanting to make your own dry-aged beef (so that you can eat it or freeze-dry it), that’s amazing. Make sure you look up an FDA-approved method to do it safely. As I understand it, you can dry-age beef in a fridge within a month or you can “cheat” at dry-aging beef in 2-3 days using ground koji rice. But that’s well beyond the scope of this article, so make sure you find a safe tutorial.
A Note on Freeze-Drying Wet-Aged Beef
Again, I’m not an expert at aging beef. However, based on my research, it appears that most supermarket-available cuts of beef are aged with this method. This method is a lot less space-and-time intensive than dry-aging.
These cuts will still freeze-dry just fine. Just follow the process as listed earlier in this article. And if you’re wanting to wet-age your own cuts of beef? Please find a safe, FDA-approved tutorial to help you do that. This article is about freeze-drying wet-aged beef – and a tutorial on wet-aging beef is beyond both my skill and the scope of this single article.
How Long You Can Store Freeze-Dried Aged Beef
Okay, so now that your dry-aged (or wet-aged) beef is freeze-dried, you’re ready to store it. But how long will it store for safely?
Well, that’s going to depend on the overall fat content, how thick the steak was, and how well you freeze-dried it. For example, if you didn’t completely freeze-dry it, then that steak is only going to last a couple of days at most.
However, if you’ve properly freeze-dried, tested, and then stored your beef, it can easily last several months. On average, it’s definitely safe to eat up to that 1-year-later mark.
We’ve tried several different types of meats – and all have been safe up to that year mark. We’ve got some various types of meats in storage past the year-long mark to see how well they store past that time frame. Most of those are lean ground beef, sliced and precooked chicken, and turkey, though.
With the higher fat content of good dry-aged beef, it’s definitely one to use sooner than later. Even so, it’s nice to know that we’ve got some good, dry-aged beef in storage for the next year – just in case.
Freeze-drying is an amazing (and delicious) way to set up your food storage. Plus, it’s the only way to build long-term food storage of things that you control and you love. We’ve loved having steaks and various cuts of beef in our food storage. If you love beef, then I highly recommend that you strongly consider adding freeze-drying to your food storage repertoire.
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And if you’re going to consider freeze-drying, I highly recommend you check out the only freeze-dryer that’s worth buying: the Harvest Right brand of freeze dryers (that link takes you to their website). If you’d rather stick around here for a minute, you can read more about Harvest Right and the other food storage tools I recommend here. It’s a good read – all the stuff you want and need to know without the fluff.
Can You Make Jerky in a Freeze Dryer? Traditional jerky needs to be made in a dehydrator or a dry environment. Freeze-drying meats can create a versatile type of jerky, but it won’t have the same texture as traditional jerky. Read all the ins and outs of freeze-drying jerky in my article here.
Why Are Freeze Dryers So Expensive – and Are They Worth It? Freeze dryers have a lot of fine-tuned parts, so they aren’t as cheap as smaller food storage units like canners or a dehydrator. However, they aren’t prohibitively expensive, and they can be worth it. Find out how you can get the best price on a freeze-dryer and why they’re worth it by reading this article next.
Are There Some Foods that Can’t Be Freeze-Dried? Some foods don’t freeze-dry well, and others won’t freeze-dry at all. Here is my article on 77 foods that can be freeze-dried and 17 that won’t ever work.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂
- Beef aging. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_aging.