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Which Ground Meat is the Best Deal for Dehydrated Dinners?

I am thrilled to see that views on this blog just surpassed the 7,000 mark!!  I can't believe there are so many people on the blogosphere that enjoy reading about foraging, dehydrating foods, and eating healthier on the trail! Sharing my enthusiasm for the trail and eating well is my hobby and passion, and this is my creative outlet; pathetic, yes, but I can't sew or knit to save my life....

To celebrate,  I decide to have a little dehydrating fun, so off to the grocery store I go.

Which Meat do I buy to Dehydrate? 
Or For that Matter, the Best Bargain for Any Meal?

One hour later I stand in front of the meat case, mouth open, pondering my meat purchase. Ground turkey or beef?  I usually grab the leanest ground meat available.   I have waxed about the merits of using very lean ground meat in home-dehydrated meals in my post about dehydrating meat, but draining and rinsing the fat from the meat after cooking makes it lean, right?  Hmmm, do I pay more for leaner meat, assuming I get more protein per pound?  Or buy the cheaper stuff, which is fattier but I can remove the fat before dehydrating?

Another of life's big mysteries.  Fortunately, this is just the type of mystery a dehydrating passionista can solve! I ended up purchasing three types of ground meat of varying fat content: 93% beef, 85% turkey, and 73% beef.   I use turkey and beef interchangeably in my recipes because for most recipes the added sauces and spices really make the flavor of the trail meal, not so much the meat. Plus, these meats were on sale. That's how I roll....

Now for my not-so-scientific experiment!  


The leanest meat, while the most expensive per pound, will retain the most meat and have the least fat and water loss, thus be the best cost per pound.  Please keep in mind, that this isn't the most scientific experiment.  I'm just having a little fun here while trying to determine the best bargain.  So please, no hate mail from you die hard laboratory types!

The Experiment:

Step 1:  Weigh meat in the packaging, place in the pan for browning, then the empty packaging is weighed to determine net raw weight. Keeping the butcher honest :-)

Weighing the Meat

Subtract Package Weight for Net Raw Wt.

Step 2:  The meat is cooked until no pink remains. 

Browning Our Meat

Step 3: The meat is placed in a colander over the sink, and rinsed with hot water to remove any remaining fat. 

Meat in Colander, Rinsed with Hot Water, Drain for ~30 Minutes

Step 4:  After draining for 30 minutes, the meat is reweighed. 

Just the Meat!  Net Weight After Removing Water and Fat

Step 5:  The meat is then spread out in an even layer on drying trays in the dehydrator at 125°F until crumbly dry. Larger clumps are broken up during drying to ensure uniform dehydration.  

Step 6:  The scale is zeroed with the container on top, then the meat is weighed to determine dry weight. 

Weigh Dry Meat to Determine Net Dry Weight

Step 7: The meat is measured to determine number of servings per cost.

Measuring Dry Meat

Step 8:  Store your dry meat in an airtight mason jar to prevent oxidation. 

7.5 pounds Dried Meat in Half-Gallon Mason Jar (Nalgene for scale)



One variable is loss. I really tried to keep the loss to a minimum, but hey, stuff happens! I spilled a little on the floor, some meat stuck to the side of the pot, a little slipped through the colander into the floor and through the mesh drying trays. I figure that the loss was probably equal among the different batches of meat.

Another variable is differences in starting water and fat content of the meat. I mean, even though the package says 93% lean, how do we really know? However, cooking and draining each type of meat is the great equalizer here.


My hypothesis was incorrect (see, women can admit when they are wrong, lol!).  Although the lean ground beef had the least fat content, it must have contained a fair amount of water.  The ground turkey is hands-down the winner in this contest, with the lowest cost and the least cost per finished cup.  The second best deal is the cheapo fatty ground beef for dehydrating.  

OTOH, the cheap stuff was a little sketchy, containing more gristle than the other meat. Although it tastes the same, so YMMV.

I guess dehydrating gurus around the world will have to change their opinion about using only the leanest meat when cooking up pre-made trail meals where the meat is cooked and drained. Fattier meat can be used for DIY trail meals provided the meat be cooked and rinsed well to remove the excess fat, and stored separately from the ingredients. 

Using only the leanest meat still stands when making jerky, since jerky is made from raw meat and the fat is not cooked out ahead of time.


This is the section where we discuss the findings of our study, but frankly, I think I covered all my bases thus far. The only thing to consider is differences in organic vs. factory farming and grain-fed vs. pasture fed beef, but that is too much to experiment with in my little kitchen.

Therefore, it's time for some feedback. Any success stories or flat-out failures?  Recipes or ideas? I would love to hear them!!




  1. Interesting post. Never really thought about price per dry weight. I usually just get he cheapest based on wet weight. Now I know what to really look for.

  2. Me, too, Jarrett. But this made me realize that price per wet weight isn't that easy to figure out as well, since the leaner meats have a higher water weight, skewing the cost comparison! Thanks for the comment :)