For tips on drying meat safely, see this article on the USDA website.
Dry at 155°
This is a very easy one to do. Buy the leanest hamburger you can get. Cook it 100% done, breaking it up as much as you can , you want it tiny. When done, pour off as much grease as you can. Then rinse the meat in a strainer with hot water. Drain well, blotting with paper towels. At this point put it on your dehydrator and dry till rock hard. Figure 3-6 hours. Stir every 30 minutes or so.
You want to make sure there is no moisture left. Store in freezer bags. Store this in your freezer till you go backpacking. In camp add equal amounts of boiling water (or cover) and let sit 10 minutes or so, then add to your meals. You can also add the meat directly to your meal-adding the water for the meat at that time. How much will you need? Figure 8 ounces of hamburger per meal before you dehydrate is a good start. This will be around ½ cup dried. That will work well for two people, for one person, ¼ cup is a good amount of dried hamburger.
A Pictorial How-To:
This is about 3 1/2 lbs of hamburger being cooked in a large skillet.
Fully cooked, drained and rinsed, on a lined tray.
3 1/2 lbs of hamburger fully dried, and ready to be stored in the freezer till needed for trips.
A lot of people don’t realize that you can dehydrate canned chicken easily-and it comes back to life simply. While pop-top cans and the newer pouched versions of canned chicken are convenient, and easy to get (and affordable if bought at Target or Walmart), it can be heavy to carry, and you also have to hump out empty cans/bags. Which tend to have a strong smell. And not everyone wants to use the broth in the cans, draining it in the backcountry is not a good choice in bear country.
And you can also use the same way to dry canned turkey, tuna, or ham…which usually do not have pop top lids. You can also find lower sodium versions sometimes, and this is a great way to watch salt if you need to.
I use one dehydrator tray per can. Since there is usually two of us per meal, I use the 10 ounce size cans (or use a 7 ounce pouch). If doing for one person, you could use 5 ounce cans, or just split the 10 ounce can up after drying. I prefer to line my trays with parchment paper (or use fine mesh screens if you have them).
Open the cans, and drain well. Put on prepared trays. Using clean hands, smash up the meat, till it has no big chunks. This will will help with the drying and with rehydrating.
Spread each can evenly over one tray. Dry at 155° till dry. Expect 4-8 hours, this will vary by the temp/humidity in your house.
When dry, store in freezer bags, in your freezer till trip time. This helps the meat stay fresh. Since canned meat has some fat left in it(though if you buy chicken breast versions it is usually 99% fat free), you do have some chance of it going rancid if stored in less than optimal conditions (ie. in a hot kitchen, in summer).
As a note, canned meats work in drying as they are essentially pressure cooked. Boiling chicken at home and drying it will sadly give you chicken jerky. Though if you pressure cook chicken, it will work usually. Canned meats though tend to be safer overall.
No cooking involved and in a couple short hours you have a bag of ready to use “hamburger” that is vegetarian friendly and great for carrying in a food sack on longer trips due to their low fat content. The crumbles are a great source of protein as well.
Go to the frozen foods section of a well stocked grocery store and look for the section of veggie burgers. Here you will find “burger” crumbles in 12 ounce bags. The bag is equivalent to one pound of uncooked hamburger.
A well known brand:
Spread on lined trays. A bag takes two trays up. Set on 135° and check back in 2 hours to stir and break up any big pieces. The crumbles will dry fast so keep an eye on them – they take only a couple hours.
The crumbles are dry when you rub a piece between your fingers and it is dry all the way through. Like actual hamburger, the crumbles will darken considerably as they dry. Don’t worry about that! Once dry, let cool down and then package into a tightly sealed bag or canister. For best long term storage, store in your freezer till trip time.
Serving size: to add a bit of protein and make meals more filling add in 1-2 Tbsp per person. Rehydration ratio is 1:1 product to water.
Make your own beef jerky.