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Freeze Dried BBQ

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  • binarypaladin
    Club Member
    • May 2017
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    Freeze Dried BBQ

    When COVID-19 made its first rounds, I went out go get groceries after seeing some of the horror stories online. It will be sometime, if ever, before I forget walking into a super market and seeing many of the food sections stripped bare. Rationally, I knew it was temporary. I knew I wasn't going to starve. It knew it wasn't the apocalypse. I knew neither me nor my children were going to go hungry. I understood all of this rationally.

    Yet... just seeing the empty shelves was really unsettling—really unsettling. While having adequate food storage has been something of a family and religious tradition my whole life, the truth is that as a child of the 1980's living in the USA I've never known hunger. Food storage for me was a "some day" item and while having children pushed it closer to the front of my mind more often it has been a very easy thing to "tomorrow" on.

    The empty shelves were enough. What if it wasn't temporary? What if it had been weeks or months? I would have known hunger and so would my kids. That's quite scary.

    So, I resolved to not be in that position again. It's time to take food storage seriously. And here's the thing, I don't want to live off rice and beans. In fact, switching my diet up to what a lot of people use for their emergency foods would probably result in me getting ill. I eat a lot of meat, eggs, and dairy. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables.

    As a result, I invested in a freeze dryer and have been experimenting with it for about a month. I've mostly been focusing on what I consider to be high value, high nutrition foods. I know places like Costco are actually starting to sell emergency food kits in 5 gallon buckets, but if you look at the contents it's a lot of rice, pasta, and beans. Yeah, they keep well, but in terms of nutrition it's pretty weak. (And then, of course, there's the commercial preservatives and other such things.) I've become very used to controlling my food and it's done wonders for my health and my waistline.

    So, let me say this: BBQ and freeze drying go together in so many good ways—in particular the "pulled" type meats. It works really well for a few reasons:
    1. It's very easy to cook a lot of meat at once using this method. I've started doubling my usual cooks using a one for now, one for later. If I started using my WSM instead of kettle, I could probably do 4-6x the amount.
    2. A lot of the moisture is already removed from the meat, which makes the drying process much, much faster—especially if you freeze the meat before using a freeze dryer.
    3. Shredded/chopped/pulled meat has a lot of surface area which also aids in in the drying process.
    4. Reconstitution is dead simple: add warm or hot water to rehydrate. It's smoked and rubbed so even without sauce you have an excellent starter.
    Ribs would require more work as you'd have to strip the meat from the bones which, in my opinion, is best done straight into the belly, lol. If I was going to do brisket in this manner I would definitely chop rather than slice.

    Sous-vide is excellent for this purpose too. You can sous-vide steaks to your liking, freeze dry them, and then reconstitute with water, and just do a quick sear.

    Finally, I moved to a new house last year with fruit trees: apple, fig, and lemon. It's going to be nice to actually harvest this stuff for year round use.

    Anyone else familiar with freeze drying? I intend to try out some other food preservation techniques, but I can't think of a better method if you want very quickly build up a store of food that lasts a long time, reconstitutes well, and retains almost all of its original nutrition. The price is kinda high for the units (I got mine from Harvest Right) but I think it's a worthwhile investment. It's pretty cool to be able to preserve 16 cups of cheddar broccoli soup in a way that will make them usable in years if necessary.
  • JCGrill
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    #2
    And so after it is freeze dried it is shelf stable? I know nothing about the process and very little about the results.

    Comment


    • THE Humble Texan
      THE Humble Texan commented
      Editing a comment
      Freeze drying does not stabilize fat. That contains fat has to be store in the freezer if you want to keep it for a long time. One shelf in my freezer is filled with various types of meat.

    • binarypaladin
      binarypaladin commented
      Editing a comment
      It depends on the fat content and what it's intermixed with. For instance, eggs freeze dry wonderfully and there's plenty of fat there. Cheese can also be freeze dried. Butter, on the other hand, not so much—at least not in whole cubes. Storing with oxygen absorbers is important here to prevent fat oxidization.
  • Mr. Bones
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    #3
    Very Cool, Brother!
    I have zackly Zero experience with freeze dryin, but applaud what yer doin,listenin, an learnin.

    Comment

    • texastweeter
      Club Member
      • Jul 2017
      • 2895
      • Republic of Texas

      #4
      BRE brisket ready to eat Mr. Bones

      Comment


      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm All In, Brother!
        Lived offa MRE's fer more years than I'd care to repeat
        A' BRE Comopnent' would have had every GI >680,000 feelin closer to Home, fer a few minutes, when I was on 'vacation' in SWA.

        texastweeter BRE that there's Funny, I don't care who ya are, Brother!
        Last edited by Mr. Bones; May 31, 2020, 11:59 PM.
    • binarypaladin
      Club Member
      • May 2017
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      #5
      Originally posted by JCGrill View Post
      And so after it is freeze dried it is shelf stable? I know nothing about the process and very little about the results.
      For long term storage you seal the food in mylar bags which are really tough and block light. You pop in an oxygen absorber. That food usually gets labeled as good for 25 years. The number seems arbitrary but the idea is, a really long time.

      I'm not clear on how stable the short term stuff is if you just keep it in a mason jar or a zip lock bag or something. That's a topic I'm researching now since, as someone who would prefer to cycle my storage once I have a few months worth, I don't need 25-years (and mylar isn't cheap either).

      The process itself is interesting. The food is frozen, then a pump creates a vacuum, then the chamber is slowly warmed. Water pretty much goes from solid to gas. If you've ever had "astronaut ice cream" it's pretty much just freeze dried ice cream.

      It's pretty neat though. I fit about 60 (now powdered) eggs in a bag that's smaller than a gallon bag. The other nice thing about this is that a through hike on the Pacific Crest Trail is on my bucket list. You can carry a lot of very lightweight food this way.

      Comment


      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        Cain't remember th brand, gold bags, but I usedta buy dehdrated campin/hikin foods from a local Military Surplus / Outdoor place; alla it was jus fine, an delish, includin th Ice Cream. Wanna say Mountain House, not sure if that's right...been like 40+ years, sometimes Fog obscures my memories lol
        Last edited by Mr. Bones; June 1, 2020, 07:51 AM.

      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        Yup, did a search; It was danged sure MH, though they have craftily changed their packagin since th 70's, no doubt to deliberately trip up feeble minded ol Hillbillys such as meself...

      • JCGrill
        JCGrill commented
        Editing a comment
        Sublimation. Cool.
    • DavidNorcross
      Club Member
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      #6
      Very interested in this thread. Thank you for sharing!

      Comment

      • texastweeter
        Club Member
        • Jul 2017
        • 2895
        • Republic of Texas

        #7
        Is botulism a risk?

        Comment


        • Polarbear777
          Polarbear777 commented
          Editing a comment
          Wonder if since there is no moisture, the risk is preserved as well as the food is. I suppose it wouldn’t grow worse over time without any moisture, as it can in many other things?

        • binarypaladin
          binarypaladin commented
          Editing a comment
          Pretty much that. When you add moisture again, the food picks up where it left off—good and bad so far as I can tell. Some people clearly don't get this which is why no shortage of guides warn people "don't mix and match your cooked and raw meats!"
      • Dan Deter
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        • Jun 2018
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        #8
        Do you have a link you could share for the freeze drying unit you have? Or links to details on the process? I've been looking at upping my emergency and backpacking supplies, but if I could do it myself instead of spending the money, and foods we know we like...

        Comment

        • binarypaladin
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          #9
          I got mine from Harvest Right. The internet seems to believe they're good to work with in case of issues. I haven't had any myself so I can't say, but everything indicates customer service is top notch. I got the medium (in red!) unit because they had a pretty substantial sale a few months back—I joked and called it a pandemic sale. The medium unit was only slightly more expensive than the small. The large unit, in addition to being quite a but pricier requires a 20A circuit and I have already done enough wiring on my house!

          The website has videos that show the process... in an infomercial sort of way. Most of the YouTubers showing the process are using one of these units.

          The process takes a long time. The short freezes have been on BBQ and they happen in under 24 hours. The batch of eggs and soup I did the other day took around 35. There's a vacuum pump that runs almost constantly throughout the process so you need a space to put this unit. Ours is in the pantry now because Las Vegas garages are just too hot in the summer but I gotta keep the door open it the pump will heat the pantry up over 95. (Working on a venting system for that now.)

          In the medium unit, for reference, I've done 6 lbs of pork (that's after cooking) and could probably get away with 8. The thin trays will hold about 4 cups of liquid. So, a gallon of soup or 80-90 eggs if you're going full. Eggs are awesome too. After they're crushed into powder you have one of the most nutritious foods on the planet in an extremely compact form. If I was on a long hike in particular, I could easily carry 12 dozen eggs on me. Add a bit of water and fry.

          A couple friends of mine are looking to split one, which is a good option for families. My parents and my sister have started bringing me things when there are sales. I'm not suggesting a side business per se, but I think there is enough interest in emergency preparedness right now that this is something you can probably get group buy-in on if the the sticker price induces shock. (I was actually a little hesitant about posting about the units because the price is high, then I remember the kinds of things MCS does to a lot of people around here and was like, "I guess that price isn't necessarily crazy.)

          Originally posted by texastweeter View Post
          Is botulism a risk?
          Yes. The freeze drying process, so far as I can tell, doesn't kill much of anything. That's one of the best parts in a sense. You can freeze dry yoghurt and pretty much put the active cultures in stasis—in fact, I believe starter cultures are freeze dried. So, you have to be careful about cross contamination and such. You can freeze dry cooked and raw meats. I've only done cooked thus far though and am not sure I'll be doing anything raw (I don't really see the benefit at all—even if I want something like a steak in the future, I can sous-vide and then freeze and then sear in my fallout bunker, lol).

          To those interested, I am very much willing to answer questions and maybe even try some stuff by request. I am a huge proponent of preparedness and freeze drying still seems very niche.

          Comment


          • Dan Deter
            Dan Deter commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the info!
        • dubob
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          #10
          Yep, pricey:

          Sm = $2,195
          Med = On Sale @ $2,895 ($3,195)
          Lg = On Sale @ $3,395 ($3,595)

          While there is nor reduction in size or weight, pressure & hot bath canning will preserve food almost indefinitely. and the jars are reusable. Wouldn't work for a back-pack trip.

          Our grandparents did it a lot; meats, vegetables, fruits. Stored it mostly in underground root cellars. I just do meats and fish, but my daughter does vegetables and we exchange goods all the time. A top rated pressure cooker only runs a couple hundred bucks and canning jars go on sale at harvest time.

          And you are correct about the commercially available kits available being pricey as well. But they will last many years into the future (they come with a 30-year taste guaranty). A 4-week, one person kit is $624.99 at Mountain House. And of course, right now they are out-of-stock on just about everything. If you wanted to stock up on the MH stuff when it gets back filly stocked, you could buy a full years supply (four 12-wk kits + one 4-wk kit) for a measly $6,130. For ONE person.

          So binarypaladin is saving a bundle by buying his own machine and DIY for him and his family. I whole heartedly support him in his endeavor and thank him for bring it up to the rest of us. For you younger folks, it might be a worthwhile investment. Me, not so much at 78.

          Comment


          • dubob
            dubob commented
            Editing a comment
            I'm not bad mouthing freeze drying in any way shape or form. I apologize if I came across as if I were.
            If you like the results that freeze drying will bring you, then go for it - with gusto. I like canning foods.
            Its very easy to do in a couple of hours, and the food will out live me when canned properly. I have plenty of storage space. I was just trying to show that there are cheaper alternatives to food storage than freeze drying. Carry on. 😁

          • Dan Deter
            Dan Deter commented
            Editing a comment
            dubob no worries, I didn't think you were. Just pointing out the (in my very humble opinion) reasons to look at the freeze drying over canning (which I grew up with also).

          • lostclusters
            lostclusters commented
            Editing a comment
            dubob what makes you think canning or even pressure canning preserved foods will last forever? 5 years is longest self life I have seen advised.
        • JCGrill
          Club Member
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          #11
          Well, I can appreciate your thinking. Your reasons totally make sense. The value proposition for me isn't there. Someday I may regret it, but I will stick with the freezing and skip the drying.

          Comment

          • binarypaladin
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            #12
            A couple things:
            1. There are lots of other food preservation methods, all with pros and cons. I'm definitely not opposed to canning or plain old dehydrating. Freeze drying is the most space age but nothing it complete. You can can butter but you can't freeze dry it. Certain sugary foods really don't freeze dry well either. Jam, for instance, is best left to canning. (Also, I'm a pretty dedicated fermentation dork doing various veggies, kvass, kombucha, and hopefully hard cider soon.)
            2. I wrote this mainly because BBQ specifically works really well when freeze drying for a lot of reasons. Making it one big process has been a really good workflow over here.
            And like I said, one of the main reasons I wanted to do it myself was to control the food specifically. About 7 years ago, before my daughter turned 1, I decided I needed to clean up my life in terms of nutrition. I put a lot of effort into that and ~65lbs lighter, and much healthier I've begun to treat food like medicine. I can buy a lot of preserved goods, but my freeze dried smoked pork comes from extra delicious Berkshire pigs from a nearby farm with much healthier fat ratios than anything from a supermarket. Ditto for the beef and lamb.

            Also, I'm kind of nutty about this. Gardens aren't new, but I'm working on some aquaponics craziness. Maybe I'll get some chickens too. It's a fun, practical hobby that's great to do along with kids.

            Someday... someday... this will happen on a farm far from the city. Someday.

            Comment

            • ComfortablyNumb
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              #13
              binarypaladin I'm on the verge of ordering a Harvest Right. How's yours working for you? I was going to start a thread, but a search turned up yours. Any updates or pearls of wisdom?

              Comment

              • troymeister
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                #14
                This whole thread is very interesting. When I had my country house with acreage and a very large garden, I remember looking into this. As most of our meat and veggies were locally grown. Just a few years ago the home freeze dryer was completely cost prohibitive; in the range of $5000 to $7000. I quickly let go of that idea. When the price comes down to less than a G Note it will be time for me to reconsider.

                Comment

                • binarypaladin
                  Club Member
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                  #15
                  ComfortablyNumb

                  I love it. As for pearls of wisdom... here's what I have learned:

                  1. Order a second set of trays. The process takes 20-40 hours per batch in general. Freezing the goods before they go in shaves off 6-9 hours depending on the product. After processing ~450 apples from our tree in slices and sauce, having batches ready to go as soon as the machine finishes is a huge deal. (Also, they're nice serving trays and such too.) If you're already plunking down a bunch of cash, this isn't the kind of extra expense to fret about.

                  2. I also ended up getting the silicon inserts for the trays. These should just come with the trays as far as I am concerned.

                  3. I've frozen a lot of liquids (milk and mixed eggs mainly). The trays on the medium unit hold 6 cups of liquid. The maximize this I lay a board in my chest freezer, level it, and pour carefully from something with a spout. The newer models sit level and you can pour into them by pulling the trays out slightly but this is just more work that it's worth. If you have a chest freezer, it'll really speed up production and make working with liquid goods more convenient.

                  4. Don't be afraid to experiment. This is a pretty niche item and there is a pretty big echo chamber online. Basically, no one wants to blow 40 hours to find out something didn't work so if they read an article that says you can't freeze dry coleslaw with mayo in it, they'll parrot that. (More on slaw in a moment.)

                  5. Freeze-dried foods can be split into two main categories: foods that reconstitute well and foods that are meant to be consumed freeze-dried. Barbecue meat (and meats in general) fall into the former. They soak up water and do fine. Other foods though don't do so well. If it doesn't freeze well, it won't reconstitute but...

                  I have discovered that the freeze dried forms of some foods are awesome in their own right. I did a huge batch of creamy coleslaw the other day—a variation on the recipe on this site! Adding water back to it results in some mediocre slaw. I mean, if I was breaking into my food storage, I'm not going to be sad to eat it but...

                  I use a mix of sour cream and mayo in my slaw and freeze dried it tasted like the absolute best sour cream and onion potato chips. What's more, the kids loved it. I've found freeze drying veggies turns them into legit snack foods. (I mean, I guess they were before, but the kids really like a lot of what I turn out even when they don't like the original product.)

                  6. Harvest Right's bags are a good price given their thickness. There are cheaper options, but I've been happy to keep doing business with them. The oxygen absorbers, on the other hand, are double the price from Harvest Right, so I get them elsewhere.

                  7. Freeze drying is a loud process. The vacuum pump ends up sounding like a small air compressor that's always on. If you're in a climate where you can keep it in your garage year round, great. Do that. If not... you need a room or something. Either that or put it on a wheeled cart. That's actually a huge point. 40 hours of that motor going is annoying. You aren't supposed to run it in conditions where the ambient temperature is below 90ºF which means my garage in Las Vegas is pretty much not an option for 5 months out of the year.

                  Right now, it's in the back of my walk in pantry and while the noise is tolerable there, it's barely tolerable. I'm actually going to build a conditioned shed in my back yard for housing all my food preservation and fermentation gear. I'm making a ton of kombucha these days plus make kimchi, sauerkraut, giardiniera, and pickles. I want a separate space for that and maybe a mini fridge for curing. The best ham I ever had was one I cured myself and then cooked sous-vide, but curing eats up a big chunk of fridge space for a long period.

                  8. Freeze dried strawberries are awesome.

                  I'm actually just putting together the bits for a blog on a lot of this. It'll be a couple months with my schedule but I'm getting there.

                  Comment


                  • binarypaladin
                    binarypaladin commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Most of my reading about Harvest Right has been positive in terms of customer support and the product. But there’s a vocal minority that’s had bad experiences. I was also concerned because man... it’s scary if that thing stops working or doesn’t turn on.

                    I look forward to another pit member doing some freeze drying!

                  • ComfortablyNumb
                    ComfortablyNumb commented
                    Editing a comment
                    T-bone I believe she is on board, just nervous about pulling the trigger. And even then, it won't do much for me this harvest season. I understand it is a few months before they can even deliver one. Thanks for the link, that guy also does YouTube videos that I have watched.

                  • binarypaladin
                    binarypaladin commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Mine took about six weeks and they had warnings about increased volume. I imagine I wasn't the only one reacting to the pandemic.

                    I know it's crazy because I decided to add a pressure canner to my arsenal and I ordered it in July and they're backed up till October. It was a smaller company which affected things obviously, but a lot of people are taking this seriously now.

                    Heck, getting some military-style water Jerry cans took weeks!

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                Spotlight

                These are not ads or paid placements. These Are Some Of Our Favorite Tools And Toys.

                These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

                Use our links when you buy things

                Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazon

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                If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the Slow 'N' Sear

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                Delta by Nuke,
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                Click here to order directly and get an exclusive AmazingRibs.com deal


                Our Favorite Backyard Smoker

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                Click here for our review of this superb smoker


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                Click here to read our detailed review and to order