How to Preserve Food Without Refrigeration

If you want your food to stay preserved even without refrigeration, then you’ll know exactly what to do after reading this guide, as I’ve included six of the best ways to preserve food.

Preserve Food without refrigeration

A popular way to keep food safe to eat for homesteading and prepping is by preserving them. Frequently, food preservation is assumed to be difficult and challenging, but this is not the case. 

Many methods are easy to do, such as canning or dehydrating. It’s not always about preserving the food, though. I and many others preserve food to marinate it long-term.

This results in some of the best-tasting food you’ve ever eaten. Whatever your reasoning is to preserve food, I will share the best methods that have been proven to preserve food well.

I’ve included methods that are proven to extend the lifespan of food by years, and in some cases, decades; this depends on the technique and food type.

I’d recommend trying more than one of my recommendations, as you may find one that favors your style over others. Let’s jump into it now.

Top 3 Reasons To Preserve Food

It Extends The Lifespan

Most foods, whether it’s beef, pork, or vegetables, have a very short lifespan before they begin to degrade and become inconsumable. 

Food preservation allows us to use several methods to prevent the food from aging, or at least slow it down, which extends the lifespan of the food by a substantial amount. 

Several methods are great for preserving food. You’ll see that some practices are best for meat, while others are best for fruits and vegetables

I think it’s essential to use more than one method, just if something goes wrong, so you’re not left with spoiled food in an emergency.

It’s Easy To Store

If you plan on building a large cache of food, then preserving it will make it much easier to store it. For starters, it won’t need to be refrigerated, which means it can be stored anywhere.

Plus, some of the methods, including dehydration, makes the food very lightweight, making it easy to transport. 

The canning method, among others, makes for simple storage anywhere, as it’s merely in a mason jar, this will help save space and make organization a breeze. 

Most people build or buy shelves and place the jars onto the shelf, labeling each section while also adding in an expiration date.

It’s Great For If SHTF

If a disaster does ever strike us, the second most crucial thing besides water is food. 

Although in most disasters, food is accessible after the initial day, if a serious disaster like a war breaks out, having a cache of food is critical. 

There is really no guessing as to how long it’d take to find a food source. It’s a good idea to store foods that are high in carbs and protein, avoiding low-calorie foods like corn or peas. 

Canning and dehydration are two of the best methods, although the others will work just as fine. It’s a solid idea to stock up on food as issues may arise, such as job loss, injury, or more.


How To Preserve Food Without A Refrigerator

Dehydration

This is one of the best ways you can preserve food, as it’s super simple and provides some of the best results possible. Dehydration works by removing up to 85% of the food’s moisture.

By removing the moisture, you eliminate the bacteria’s ability to multiply, protecting the meat from bacteria overgrowth.

Dehydrating food also means that it’ll weigh significantly less, making it better for storage and backpacking, resulting from the moisture being removed.

You’ll need an oven or dehydrator; then, place the meat inside at 145 F. 

Allow the meat to remain in the oven or dehydrator for up to 8 hours, less or more depending on the amount of meat, type, etc. 

You can dehydrate multiple types of meat, both cooked and uncooked, although I suggest you cook it beforehand, this way, it’s ready to eat when you pop the top.

Fruits can also be dehydrated; you’ll just want them at a lower temperature of 125 F for the same amount of time, depending.

Fermenting

Essentially, it works by first adding salt or whey, followed by placing the food inside the jar and left to ferment; some foods take longer than others, though, but it’ll still preserve it.

You’ll need something to ferment the food in, so I’d recommend that you use mason jars, as they’re cheap, strong, and provide excellent sealing.

Fermenting is known to provide excellent results for the gut and is often used for improving the gut instead of food preservation now. 

However, fermenting still provides incredibly longer lifespans, so it’s worth it. This method is best used for fruit but is also often used for vegetables as well. 

Although this option provides excellent results, I’d personally choose to can my food, unless you’d like to take advantage of the positive gut benefits, which canning isn’t going to benefit by itself.

Some foods are better fermented, though, so this is the better option, of course, if you’re wanting to ferment for the taste and texture, as this cannot be done by canning the food the traditional way.

Canning

This is also one of the best possible methods used to preserve food, and it’s nearly even with dehydration, if not the best choice on this list. 

If you’re not familiar with the term prepper, it’s a group of people worldwide who prepare for major disasters. Canning is often a preferred choice because it provides excellent results, and it’s straightforward to do. 

To can food, you simply grab a few mason jars, place the food inside to the top, close the lid, but not too tight, and put the jar in boiling water for a couple of minutes until it seals. 

Typically, canning can net you up to a few years of preservation or much more as long as the seals stay intact. If I were to choose one method, it’s this one, although dehydration comes very close. 

The only negative to canning food, particularly if you want to preserve it long-term, is the sealing commonly found in mason jars.

The sealing can sometimes break down before the food has spoiled, so do not opt for cheaper jars if possible. Tightening them too tight may also disturb the sealing, so be careful.

Dry Curing

This option will net a pretty tasty result while also substantially extending the lifespan of the food. It’s an age-old tactic of preserving food and works wonderfully well. 

Salting can be used to cure foods such as beef and pork. You can also do this with fish, but it may not last as long as beef or pork.

It works by inhibiting bacterial growth, which is done by infusing the salt, and of course, salt has antibacterial properties. 

I’d recommend that you pre-season the meat to combat the salty taste before you cure it; this way, you’re not left with an overwhelming salty tasting piece of meat.

Many people opt to smoke the meat after it has been cured, which will significantly benefit the longevity you can expect, and it’ll make it taste wonderful.

For the best results, you should add saltpeter in addition to regular salt, which is going to net you quite a bit of a higher lifespan.

Smoking  

After you cure the meat, you can opt to smoke it, which will further preserve it. 

It’s a good idea to vacuum seal the meat after you’ve cured it and smoked it, but it’s not entirely necessary in all cases. 

I’ve smoked meat a handful of times for food preservation, and a great tip is to use wood such as hickory, which will provide a better taste after the fact. 

The meat should be cut into smaller cubes to ensure the center can get a deep smoke, as a very thick slab of meat isn’t going to get smoked as well. 

Once the smoker is ready, you’ll need to dehydrate it until it’s left with hardly any moisture and you believe it’s been smoked well enough. 

This will net a similar lifespan to standard dehydrating methods but may even provide better results, depending on how much moisture you can remove by smoking the meat.

You could perhaps also consider making jerky and smoking it, which is one of the tastiest options you could opt for, and it’s easily carried for hunting, hiking, or bugging out.

Pickling 

An option that was a standard method used during the time I grew up off-grid was pickling. It’s not something that suits my taste buds personally, but it has a massive backing by plenty of people.

Typically, pickling is done by placing vegetables inside of a mason jar, then adding in half vinegar and half water, which is going to create a brine. 

The brine will, at this point, turn the vegetable acidic, which will lengthen the lifespan. The only aspect with pickling is you need to be careful with is what temperatures the jars are kept in. 

The jars do not have to be refrigerated, but it’s best to keep them in a cool, dry area that doesn’t get much heat. 

If the jars become warm consistently, it will shorten the lifespan. As with all other methods, you can season before you pickle, so it’s “marinated” after opening.

You’ll be capable of prolonging the lifespan of cucumbers, onions, peppers, and much more. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Which Method Is The Cheapest?

If you’re looking into food preservation methods, you may not have a budget for buying expensive, preserved food, as they can be rather pricey.

I’d opt to go for dehydrating or canning if possible because you’re going to get great results and long shelf life, plus it’s very cheap to get started with; nothing fancy is needed.

Pickling is also a very cheap way to preserve food, as you just need a jar, water, vinegar, and whichever food you’d like to preserve.

Which Method Results In Longest Lifespan?

It’s not necessarily about which method; instead, it’s about which food you preserve, although canning, dehydrating, and smoking will net the longest shelf life.

Meats are typically going to last around three years, fruits, 1-2 years, vegetables, 3-5 years, and fish, 4-6 years, which isn’t bad at all.

A huge factor that can determine the shelf life is the quality of the storage container. If you opt for a jar, the mason jar seal is the primary determiner in shelf-life; can it withstand a decade?

Which Methods Require The Least Effort?

This is a good question because living on a homestead already has its chores, and preserving food doesn’t have to be another thing that takes all your time.

I’d say canning will be the simplest, fastest way to preserve food, as preparation is straightforward, and only a few steps are required.

Pickling is also simple, but it’s not meant for all food, but it is time-efficient. Lastly, dehydration is very simple but can take time if you have a small oven or dehydrator.


Verdict

If you have been looking for ways to extend the lifespan of the foods you love most, then I hope I’ve enlightened you on a few great routes.

Food preservation has been a practice for thousands of years, and in this time, humankind has perfected the craft.

Preserving food is excellent for merely saving whole cows, goats, and other livestock since they’re too big to eat in a single day.

You’ll not only have a cache of food for emergencies but an easy way to store leftover food giving you the ability to consume it at a later time, such as after butchering a cow.

Preserving food is excellent for those of you off-grid with no electricity, as you could do this once per month, and have a meal already cooked and ready to eat whenever you need it.



Written by Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things homestead. He grew up on a homestead and helped his parents do the day-to-day. Read more of Bryan's articles.