How to preserve meat in the wild

How to preserve meat in the wild? ( Top 12 Methods )

Surviving in the wild without a constant and reliable source of meat will be a challenge, we as humans not only need the protein from the meat but also the fat as fat plays a vital role in the correct function of our body.

You can preserve meat in the wild by draining the meat of fluids, dry curing, wet curing, using curing salts, smoking meat, making jerky, cold smoking, canning meat, preserving meat in lard, preserving meat in ash, using preservatives, and by making pemmican. Preserving meat is fairly easy, you just have to know how to do it correctly, just remember to always try and use local materials for preserving meat and to not to actually cook the meat.

Your best option to preserve meat on the long run will be smoking, although you do not actually need to build a smokehouse, my personal recommendation is to get a charcoal meat smoker as it is fairly small, doesn’t need any electricity and is extremely easy to use Click here to check it out on Amazon.com

Preserving meat will probably be your number one priority when it comes to food. Although a lot of people think that they could easily hunt and fish in an SHTF situation, but few consider how will they actually preserve the meat. There is simply no point in hunting wild game if you do not have the means to preserve meat, at that point you are just going to eat as much as you can and let the rest of the animal to rot away.

During an SHTF situation if you manage to down a large animal than this could provide food for your entire family for several weeks, provided that you know how to preserve meat. Humanity has been preserving meat in the wilderness in one form or another for centuries if not millennia. The problem nowadays is that most people do not know what their options are when it comes to preserving the meat in the wilderness, especially for longer periods of time.

A lot of people think that they will forage and grow crops during the summer and during the wintertime, they will hunt as the cold temperatures will allow them to preserve meat. There are several problems with this idea, hunting during the winter is actually a lot harder than during summer, although preserving meat during the wintertime shouldn’t be that difficult but having the carcass of an animal next to your home is just an invitation to the local predators.

During extreme survival situations even if you have the know-how to preserve meat you will probably make a mistake or two which will spoil your meat in just a couple of days. The last thing which you want in an SHTF situation is to eat rotten meat, cooked or uncooked it will still make you regret your decision. In some extreme survival situations, some people have actually eaten grass, for more information check out my recent article Can you eat grass to survive? ( Not so Fast ! ).

How to preserve meat in the wild

Draining the meat of fluids

The fluids in the carcass will be the first ones to get spoiled and not the actual meat. The problem is that once these fluids get infested with bacteria they will also contaminate the surrounding meat which will start to rot eventually. A lot of people will tell you that the first thing you should do is to freeze the meat if it is wintertime, the problem is that during mild winter days these bacteria will still be able to decompose the meat and while they are doing this they will generate a lot of heat and this will only make rotting of the meat a lot faster.

Generally speaking, you should drain the fluids from any animal larger than a rabbit, including rabbits. You will have to let gravity o its job and put the animal on an elevated position, this way you will channel all the fluids to come out from one place. At this point, it is also a good idea to skin it and to remove all the stomach contents as this is the first thing that will start to rot. Do not throw away the vital organs, instead cook them.

Although this is a primitive meat preservation technique, but no matter how you plan to prolong the shelf life of the meat you should always start with this one, as you will slow down the rotting substantially, no matter in what kind of climate you live in.

Dry curing

Curing the meat simply means that you will use salt and even sugars to kill off the bacteria and to dry the meat. This is fairly simple, just cut the meat into thin slices and cover them up with salt and sugar. A lot of people will say that sugar is there for the taste, but the truth is that sugar has very good antibacterial properties. Once you have cured the meat you can either put them out to the sun to dry or you could put them in jars.

No matter which method you choose to do, make sure that there is plenty of salt and sugar covering all sides of the meat. The problem with this method is that if you have hunted a larger animal like a deer or elk then you will need a lot of salt and sugar, but for a smaller game, this method is excellent for preserving meat. How long does salted meat last? In ideal conditions, salted meat last for around 2-3 years. You do not actually need fire or electricity to cook, for more information check out my recent article How to cook food without fire and electricity? ( Top 5 Methods ).

Wet curing

Wet curing is when you put the meat into a bath mixed with salt, sugar, and water. Leve it in the bath for a couple of minutes and start rubbing the meat so all that salty water enters deep in the meat. After this, you can simply put it out on the sun to be dried and dehydrated. If it is wintertime, and the sun isn’t that powerful than you can do this indoors, just place the meat somewhere on an elevated position and this will work fine.


Depending on the ambient temperature and the local humidity the meat will be dried in a couple of days. Salting meat has been used to preserve meat for centuries, and before the invention of the refrigerator, this was the main way how people have preserved meat.

Curing salts

There are some salts that are specially made for curing, the major difference between normal salts and curing salts is that curing salts have a high concentration of nitrates which will actually prolong the shelf life of the meat considerably.

Smoking meat

Smoking meat has been around for a couple of millennia already and it is an excellent way to preserve meat by only using the local resources. The great thing about smoking meat is that you can do it both during the summertime and during wintertime. Most people who try for the first time smoking meat fail to preserve the meat for long periods of time, mostly because they are actually cooking the meat and not smoking it.

You might think that placing the meat close to the fire will result in better smoking, the truth is that this will only start slowly cooking the meat and this is not how you will preserve the meat. Once you built a fire make sure to place the meat on an elevated position but close enough to be reached by the smoke. When I personally smoke meat I have a simple rule, I place the palm of my hand above the fire at the approximate hight where the meat will be placed.

If I can keep there my hand for 10 seconds without getting my hand to hot then it should be an ideal elevation for smoking. If it is too hot then you will need to raise the elevation of the meat. You should aim to have the meat in an elevated position where it isn’t getting enough heat to be cooked, but it gets plenty of smoke.

You might want to be tempted to use coniferous trees to fuel your fire as these will give out a lot of smoke, the problem is that these contain resins that will get stuck to the meat. These resins are not only unhealthy but they also alter the taste of the meat significantly.

Here are the best woods which you should use for smoking meat

  • Hickory
  • Cherry
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Applewood
  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Maple
  • Beech wood

You should also make a small ditch where you will place the fire, this way you can channel the smoke a lot easier, although it isn’t necessary, but in a windy day, this could be extremely helpful. In addition to this, you can also build a small smokehouse.

Jerky

If you want to know how to make jerky in the wild, then it is fairly simple. Cut thin strips of elan meat and make sure to remove all the fat. Generally speaking the thinner the slices the better, just keep in mind that as the meat starts to dehydrate it will shrink and if you have sliced it too thin then it will crumble when you touch it, at that point, you will be eating powdered jerky. After you have cut the meat put it in a mix of salt and sugar as this will be your preservation agent.

Gently rub the meat with salt and sugar and leave it out so the sun can dehydrate it, or just place it in your kitchen or cooking area where it is fairly hot. Keep in mind that you do not have to actually cook the jerky. Sometimes you will notice fungus growing out from the jerky, this is because the meat hasn’t dehydrated fully or because the humidity in the room is fairly high, just throw it out at this point or use it as bait for fishing.

smoking meat

Cold smoking

Cold smoking meat preservation is an excellent way to preserve the meat of small game and fish. Normal smoking will produce a lot of heat and if you are not careful you could end up cooking or even burning the meat. However cold smoking can be fairly difficult to do in the wild as you will have to figure out a way how to smoke the meat without letting the meat get exposed to the heat. generally speaking, people who cold smoke meat they make a small fire in one area and channel the smoke to the meat with the help of ventilation.

The trick which most people will not tell you is that if you want to cold smoke meat is to never place the meat above the fire, especially if you cold smoking fish as this is fairly sensitive to high temperatures. I personally do not recommend cold smoking, mostly because of botulism, as the temperature of the smoke will not be enough to kill dangerous bacteria and parasites although it will preserve the meat.

On the other hand if you hot smoke the meat then you will kill off most of the parasites and bacteria as the heat will most likely kill them off.

Canning meat

Canning meat is probably the best off-grid meat preservation, it is fairly easy to do and you do not need any fancy equipment. All you need is a couple of jars and a large dish where you will be placing all the cans. Chop the meat into cubes or slices, add them into the jars, add one or two tablespoons of salt to the meat in each jar and put water in each of them, after this put the lid on the jar.

Take the large dish and add water to it, and place each of the jars inside the large dish. After this start to slowly boil the water, you will see trough the jars when the meat is cooked around 1-2 hours depending on the temperature and of type of meat you are canning. After you see that the meat is ready and the water inside the cans is brownish then itis time to take them out, place them indoors on a blanket, and also put another blanket on top of it, leave it like this for a couple of days until it cools down and there you go, you have successfully canned meat.

As a side note if you want to know which canned foods have the longest shelf lives, then check out my recent article Longest lasting canned foods ( Up to 30+ years ).

Preserving meat in lard

Lard has been used to preserve meat for centuries, generally speaking, preserving meat in lard is a lot of work and it only preserves the meat for around 6-9 months. Before you preserve meat in lard you will have to first cure it with salt and even cook the meat, although this will depend on what kind of meat you are preserving. After you have cured the meat, just place it in the lard, and make sure that the lard covers the meat entirely.

Just make sure that you are actually using lard, as there is a lot of lard on the market which is heavily processed and it is closer to soap than lard, although you can also make soap from lard, but this is a story for another time.

Preserving meat in ash

Preserving meat in ash isn’t as simple as you might have thought. The ash will not be the primary preserving agent but it will definitely prologue the shelf life of the meat. In order to use ash to preserve meat, you will have to cure the meat first with salt after which you will have to place it in pork loin. The pork loin will not let the ash enter the meat as this will probably ruin the meat. You can not use any kind of ash, people who cure preserve meat with ash almost exclusively use the ash from bread ovens because it is fine dust.

I know that you probably will not be able to preserve meat in ash in the wild, but I thought that this is an interesting method worth sharing with you. If you ever have the chance to visit Italy, make sure to taste salami which was preserved in ash, you will not be disappointed.

Preservatives

There are some meat preservatives which you can find in almost any store. Most of these will contain citric acid or some combination of citric acid with different acids, this is fairly good to keep meat somewhat fresh, the problem is that the meat will go bad after a couple of days, so if you are planning to preserve meat just by using preservatives then you should probably rethink it.

Pemmican

Pemmican is a great way to preserve meat in the wild, although you will have to work a little harder. Pemmican is basically jerky meat mixed with fat, although it doesn’t sound too tasty, I can assure you that it is in fact good and that it can last for 6-9 months. For making pemmican you will need to cut the meat into thin slices just like with the jerky, but this time around you will leave the fat on it.

You will need to use heat to dehydrate it, some wills ay that you should leave it on the sun, but I disagree as you will need higher temperatures to make the fat tender. Just place the meat above some hot coal and let the heat dehydrate it, just remember that you do not want to actually cook the jerky. Once the meat is dehydrated just down the fat and place it in a hot dish, now stir the fat till it gets liquid, will take around 10-16 minutes.

While you are waiting for the fat to melt, grab the jerky meat and simply crush it till it is powder. Once the dried meat is in powder form, you can have it in chunks also than add it into a jar. Now slowly start pouring the liquid fat into the jar and stir constantly. Some people will also add herbs and spices into the pemmican, if you want to also add, then make sure that these are also dehydrated, as green herbs contain water which will diminish the shelflife of your pemmican.

If you have done a good job, then your pemmican can last for years, or even for decades.

In conclusion

Your ability to preserve meat in the wild is crucial if you want to stay in the wild for prolonged periods of time. Just make sure to practice some of the above meat preservation techniques as most people will get it wrong the first time they will do it, and the last thing you would want in a survival situation is to put in all the work for preserving meat only to find that the meat has been spoiled.

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