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Dehydrating Meat
To Make Chili
For A Backpacking Trip

Dehydrating meat is easier than I thought! If you're thinking about taking some dehydrated chili on your next backpacking trip, read on to learn how to dry the ground beef.

Dehydrating Food for Backpacking

Drying your food makes a lot of sense. When you are carrying everything on your back, you don't want to carry any extra weight.

four backpackers

If you are going on an extended trip, you'll need a lot of food - and it's heavy! Dehydrating your food makes a lot of sense. Here's what you do:

  • Remove the water from food.
  • Carry the extra-light food in your pack.
  • Add the water back in when you get where you are going.

Fortunately, taking the water out of food is easy. All you need is a dehydrator, lots of time, and a good chunk of patience.

Apparently it is also possible to dry foods in your oven at a very low temperature. I haven't tried that, though, so I can't tell you how well it works. I'm guessing that it is more labor-intensive than using a dehydrator.

Dehydrated Homemade Chili

The first dehydrated meal I attempted was a batch of chili - for 12 people!

chili with cheese

It turned out wonderfully!

The most time-consuming part of the process was dehydrating the meat. It wasn't difficult, though.

Here's what to do

Cook the ground beef

As always, I cooked the ground beef in a skillet on the stove until there was no pink remaining.

browning ground beef in skillet

My recipe advised using lean ground beef, but I used regular.

Remove the grease

As always, I spooned off the grease. There was quite a bit. If you use lean ground beef, there will be less.

Remove any remaining grease

This is a very important step. All the grease must be removed. Apparently the meat can go rancid if you skip this step.

I put a paper towel on a baking sheet and spread the cooked beef on the paper towel.

cooked ground beef on paper towel

I placed another paper towel on top, and gently pressed on it to blot up the grease.

ground beef covered with paper towel

I did this a couple of times, using a fresh paper towel each time, until no more grease would come out.

Put the beef in the dehydrator

I put in the dehydrator's mesh screen so that the beef didn't fall between cracks.

cooked ground beef in dehydrator


I checked the dehydrator every few hours in the beginning, and then every couple of hours.

Wait some more, until it is done.

Dehydrating meat takes a long time.

Continue checking periodically.

My batch took about 12 hours.

How do I know it's done?

When the beef is thoroughly dehydrated, it won't look like beef at all. It will look like big crumbs.

dehydrated ground beef

If you touch the crumbs, you'll notice that they are completely dry.

If you squeeze a crumb, it will crumble.

Package the dehydrated beef.

I put all of the ingredients for my chili in separate ziploc bags. Click here to read about how I dehydrated the rest of the ingredients.

Tips for Dehydrating Meat

Give yourself lots of time!

This is not a last-minute project! Start the process several days before you'll need the finished product - especially if this is your first time. Later, you'll have a better idea of how long it takes to dehydrate food.

If possible, put the dehydrator in the basement or in an unused room and shut the door.

A dehydrator makes a steady low noise that is not loud, but can get annoying after a while.

When you are dehydrating meat, there will be an aroma of cooked meat that is quite pleasant - for the first hour or so! After that I was tired of it.

Choose the right dehydrator.

If you are going to dehydrate food infrequently, you might be happy with a simple and inexpensive machine.

If you plan to dry lots of food, you might prefer a high quality dehydrator, like this one.

Now that you know about dehydrating meat for chili, have a look at some of my other camping food ideas.

For a wealth of advice about everything to do with camping, visit The Camping Family home page.

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