I remember my mother when I was young saying; -“that meat is going to spoil, and you’ll get sick”! It was a valid point when complimented by a healthy amount of hysteria and old wives tales.
Can you say phobia?
One that I cultivated well into my 30’s and in some cases maybe saved my life. Not so good once I went into the meat processing business the clichés and fear mongering rang in my head causing nightmares to blossom, usually ending up with my business bankrupted from lawsuits brought on by a salmonella outbreak or maybe worse yet; a worldwide recall of our award winning beef jerky! However, with a little research, applied facts and reason, the paranoia is not necessary.
It is very important to me that our products are properly and safely preserved , of course, but I wanted it to be all natural, no sodium nitrites or nitrates. In this article I will give you some great ideas to do just this.
And still be safe!
Salt or salt and spices: For thousands of years and still, salt is the king. It is safe. If you are smoking ribs for instance it is not necessary but if making jerky, salt will be your key player. I don’t have space to go into the science of salt as a preservative but basically, it slows the growth of harmful bacteria until the meat has reached the cooked stage, a temperature where the bad germs are dead. Spices such as garlic and pepper are also powerful anti oxidants and will help slow the spread of bacteria – but not alone, they only help. A great way to use salt is to make a dry rub and rub the meat completely, then let it sit overnight in a plastic bag or container. If you are doing barbecue, salt to taste but if you’re smoking or making jerky, more is needed. I use a dry rub that has 4 tablespoons of salt regardless of the other spices. This will do up to 10 pounds. I will publish some cool recipes in subsequent articles, check them out.
Smoke and Smoke Seasoning:
Smoking meat whether it is done slowly over water or dry needs smoke to inhibit the growth of bacteria until the meat reaches the cooked stage. Smoke is acidic and once your meat is acidic, bacteria growth is severely inhibited. One of the side effects is its distinctive taste. Initially, smoking was done for preservation not taste, now of course the main reason is taste. However, the fact still remains that if your meat is smoked you are imparting a strong natural preservative into the meat, one strong enough to eliminate the use of nitrites and nitrates. If making jerky, using a smoker is one way but if you are using a dehydrator oven such as an Excalibur or similar kind, liquid smoke will be needed and it will achieve the same preservative effect as physical smoke.
Wright’s Liquid Smoke is natural. I recommend this brand because you are getting just that; liquid smoke. In very general terms, they make hickory smoke, and run water over filters while the smoke is blown through them so that the liquid takes on a smoky flavor. One benefit is that you get all the flavors including the acids but omit the tars that come from the smoke; our bodies don’t like tar, so it is good.
Soy Sauce Based Marinades:
Make any marinade you want adding any spices but make it a soy based marinade and you can omit the chemical preservatives. This guy packs a double punch, salt and acid. That is why soy sauce works so well. I prefer using enough to immerse your meat or at least completely coat the meat until you notice that it’s dark brown and shiny.
Whether smoking your meat, ribs or making jerky these 3 kings of preservation are well proven to work. Remember; the meat MUST be fully cooked to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. When smoking meats on the grill or a smoker this is no problem but when making jerky, it can be. If you have a high power dehydrator that exceeds 150 degrees Fahrenheit you are safe, if not, try this; par boil your meat in a cooking bag, (the kind you use for turkeys) or a crock pot, skewer one piece of meat with a thermometer. When it reaches 150 degrees F you are done. Then place it in your dehydrator or your home oven. If using your oven, place the meat on the racks, prop the door open about an inch, on the lowest setting. -usually about 200 degrees F. Let the jerky dry until it cracks (usually about 8 hours or less) when bent, little white strings should be visible, but it shouldn’t break.
These tips will net you some really good, safely preserved meats! To your success!
Hank is the founder of Dad’s Jerky and Sausage Co., L.L.C., they make and sell jerky and supplies. They have been featured on Travel Channel’s Taste of America and Fox News in Phoenix, AZ because of their award winning jerky. And you can check out how to safely make jerky, get free recipes, buy jerky or equipment for smoking meats or sausage and making jerky at http://dadsjerky.com