How to preserve meat 

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how to preserve meat” and discuss the different methods of preserving meat.

How to preserve meat

Meat can be preserved by :

  • Refrigerating
  • Freezing
  • Dehydrating
  • Curing
  • Smoking
  • Canning
  • Freeze drying

How to preserve meat by refrigerating

Refrigerating is one of the easiest ways to store meat. When refrigerating, it is recommended to store meat in the original packaging. Meat must always be kept on the lower shelves of the refrigerator, below other produce. This prevents the juices from the meat dripping into other products and causing cross-contamination.

It is important to maintain the proper temperature when preserving meat in the refrigerator. The recommended temperature for storing meat is between 34° and 40°F (1° to 4 °C). Microbes have the slowest growth rate at this temperature, so the meat will be preserved for a longer time.

How to preserve meat by freezing

Freezing is another simple method that can be used to preserve meat. 

It is important to maintain the freezing temperature between  – 18 °C to – 22 °C at all times.

Frozen meat can be thawed by placing it in a container in the refrigerator. Frozen meat can be also defrosted under running water, or in a microwave, if it is going to be immediately cooked. 

How to preserve meat by dehydrating

Dehydration enables the meat to be stored for a long period. Since dehydration removes moisture, it inhibits the growth of microbes.

The best and easiest method of dehydration is by using a dehydrator or an oven. 

Meat must be cleaned, cut into narrow strips and boiled or roasted before it is dehydrated. Boiling or roasting is necessary because dehydration alone cannot kill all the bacteria in the meat. The complete method of dehydration can be found here.

Dehydrated meat without any preservatives can be kept refrigerated for up to a year. Dehydrated meat must not be left outside the refrigerator for more than 2 weeks.

The containers used to store dehydrated meat must be clean and dry with no moisture. Vacuum packaging can also be used to store dehydrated meat. The containers with dehydrated meat must be kept in a cool, dark area.

How to preserve meat by curing

Curing is an ancient technique that is still being used to preserve meat.

During curing a high salt content is added to the meat. The salt draws out water by osmosis which in turn reduces the growth of microbes.

Meat must be allowed to cure for about a month in an airtight container. Cured meat has a shelf-life of about 3 months when refrigerated.

There are health concerns over cured meat. Cured meat has a very high sodium content. High sodium content has been linked to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. The nitrites and nitrates in curing salts have been associated with certain cancers.

How to preserve meat by smoking

Smoking is a technique that uses smoke to draw out the moisture from the meat while cooking it. Smoking is used to enhance the flavor as well as to preserve meat.

If smoked meat is refrigerated within 2 hours after smoking, it will last up to 3 days. Smoked meat can be preserved further by freezing. Smoked meat must be frozen in an airtight container or a vacuum-sealed bag. Properly frozen smoked meat has a shelf-life of about 3 months. Curing meat before smoking will extend the shelf-life up to a year.

How to preserve meat by canning

Canning meat requires a bit of practice, but if done correctly, canning can preserve meat for at least a year.

Canning meat requires mason jars, a pressure cooker, water and salt. Spices are optional.

Canning can be done with or without bones, on meat stripes, chunks of minced meat.

A recipe for canning can be found here.

How to preserve meat by freeze-drying

Freeze drying meat preserves it for the longest time.  Commercially freeze-dried meat has a shelf-life of about 25 years when stored properly. Commercial freeze-dried meat is packaged in nitrogen which preserves the meat for longer.

Home-based freeze drying requires a freeze dryer.

How to identify if meat has gone bad

Bad meat can be identified easily from smell and texture.  Meat has gone bad if it has a :

  • Bad smell: If meat smells foul and pungent, it must be discarded.
  • Slimy texture: Spoilt meat would feel slimy or sticky to the touch.
  • Odd color: Spoilt meat also sometimes changes color. If meat is greenish-brown or green it must be discarded.

If in doubt about if meat has gone bad, always discard without tasting.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “how to preserve meat” and discussed the different methods used to preserve meat. We also discussed how to identify if meat has gone bad.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.