Meat Preservation Methods You Need to Know

Unless we studied world history in high school or college, most of us probably don't know a whole lot about the ancient Peruvian Incas of the Andes. But one thing we do know is that they were one of the first people groups to preserve meat through the freeze-drying process.

What they would do is store potatoes and other crops on mountain peaks. The temperatures would freeze the food. Low air pressure in high altitudes would slowly vaporize water inside the food. 

Native Americans preserved meat by stretching it out on the ground where it would dry by absorbing the sun's rays.  

Of course, much has changed regarding food preservation through the centuries. These days, food is quickly frozen to start the freeze-drying process. Then the ice is turned into water vapor and removed by placing the frozen food in a vacuum. This results in a dehydrated product. 

But one thing hasn't changed over the years. And that's our need for protein. We require it as much now as ever. In fact, we need it even more as we age. And we'll need plenty of protein during a crisis.

Meat = vital protein

Here's a quick review of protein's importance before I get into different ways to preserve meat. Proteins are crucial for life because they are the main components of our cells. Considering the average human body has about 37.2 trillion cells, that makes proteins pretty darn significant. 

Proteins assist with our movements. When our protein intake is too low, muscles don't move smoothly. Numerous parts of our bodies are dependent upon protein. Including hemoglobin in the blood, muscle mass, skin, nails, hair, hormones, antibodies, collagen and enzymes. 

Protein helps fight off infection because our immune system is made up of proteins. Without them, we're more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. Protein also helps the body recover from illness and injuries.

Because our bodies do not naturally produce protein, we need to acquire it through our diets. And that means every day. Variety is important, but make sure every meal has some protein in it. Such as beef, chicken and beans. 

Short-term preservation tips

As you know, meat is expensive. It's crucial not to waste any of it. Always check expiration dates when you buy meat. Choose the latest "use by" date you can find.

Let's discuss some of the ways you can preserve the meat you purchase. Freeze-drying it or dehydrating it are the best ways to make it last a long time. Here are some short-term ways to preserve it.

  • Freeze it. Ground meat and red meats can be safely stored in a freezer. Wrap it thoroughly in aluminum foil within a plastic baggie.
  • Refrigerate it. If you're refrigerating raw meat, seal it carefully and use the bottom shelf. This will keep it cold and not allow it to contaminate other food in your fridge. 
  • Cook it. If you cook meat prior to freezing or refrigerating it, make sure it is cooked thoroughly. Bacteria will spread eventually when uncooked meat is refrigerated.
  • Cure it. Covering your meat with curing salt and storing it in an airtight container will make it last longer. Depending on its thickness, cured meat can last for several months. 
  • Can it. Various types of meat require different types of canning methods. Research the ways to do this, which involve pressure, heat or liquid. 
  • Smoke it. Cooking meat for several hours in a closed box will help preserve it. And some folks like the taste of smoked meat more than any other.

How do I know it's safe to eat? 

There is some confusion about how long meat will stay good in a refrigerator or freezer. Here are a few general guidelines.

  • Bacon – 7 days in fridge; a month in freezer
  • Sausage – 1-2 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
  • Cut-up meats (hamburger, ground beef, etc.) – 1-2 days in fridge; 3-4 months in freezer
  • Larger cuts of meat (beef, veal, pork, etc.) – 3-5 days in fridge; 4-12 months in freezer
  • Leftover cooked meat – 3-4 days in fridge; 2-3 months in freezer
  • Fresh chicken/turkey – 1-2 days in fridge; 1 year in freezer
  • Lunch meats (unopened) – 2 weeks in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
  • Lunch meats (opened) – 3-5 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
  • Hot dogs (unopened) – 2 weeks in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
  • Hot dogs (opened) – 1 week in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer
  • Canned ham (unopened) – 6-9 months in fridge; Note: don't freeze it
  • Canned ham (opened) – 3-5 days in fridge; 1-2 months in freezer

Finally, once you're ready to eat meat you've frozen, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw slowly in the refrigerator on a plate or baking sheeting.

Depending on the thickness of the meat, this could take anywhere from overnight to 2-3 days. A faster option is to place it in a stockpot under a kitchen faucet, allowing cold tap water to run over the meat (a trickle is fine) until it's thawed. 

A 'Done for you' solution

Earlier I mentioned that the best way to preserve meat is to freeze-dry it. Most folks don't do that for themselves, and if you're one of them, I have a great option for you.

It's called the Meat & Protein Deluxe Survival Food Kit from 4Patriots. Here's what you'll get – every time. Freeze-Dried Beef (17 servings) and Freeze-Dried Chicken (17 servings). 

Plus 17 servings each of Authentic Red beans, Southern Pinto Beans and San Antonio's Best Black Beans. 

And it all comes packaged in the same resealable Mylar pouches in a stackable tote that you've come to expect with our other survival food kits. It's designed to last 25 years under proper storage conditions.

Here's how to get yours…


  • John Keene - March 17, 2024

    My best way to preserve meat is to use a vacuum freezer system. I use Food Saveer. I have stored meat for 1-2 years. It tastes like I just prepared it . I keep meat at least 1 year. Also li is easier to cook, Sous Vide. Never been sick. I am interested in the 4For Patriots products. I like a variety of approaches.

  • Melissa Roman - January 14, 2024

    Great to know Thank You (:
    I’m not that much of a meat eater

  • Ray Johnson - December 09, 2022

    Thanks for the info, it answers a lot of my questions.
    I have done smoking & canning methods.
    I just wasn’t sure on the storage times.

  • Garey Scott Sr - November 18, 2022

    thanks, appreciate the insights.

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