Freeze Dryer Meals Ready to Eat: Taco Meat (MREs)
“I wish I was full of tacos instead of emotions.” –Unknown.
Having a meal ready to go in just 5-minutes with just the addition of a bit of water is an obvious game-changer. You don’t even need water for this one. You could crunch on it right out of the bag if you had to. Whether you are amidst a disaster or on the road fleeing to a safer location, freeze-dried foods provide a super lightweight meal ready to eat. Even if you just rehydrate a meal in 5-minutes instead of spending an hour or more cooking it after work, you save time, money, and you get better nutrients by eating food you made yourself instead of snacks pressed and fried off an assembly line.
Continuing our adventure into freeze-drying, here we will cook up some taco meat. You can rehydrate pounds of this with just a little hot water. You can eat it straight out of the bag, add it on top of chips or salad, or throw it in a flour tortilla or lettuce leaf. I like this recipe because, with a few ingredients, it is incredibly flavorful and reminds me of the food I ate growing up. That home-cooked feel in a mylar bag, that’s what it is all about. It’s delicious and high enough in protein and iron to keep you moving under the worst of conditions. This is also one of the best, cheap, and easy things I’ve made in the freeze-dryer. I highly recommend this.
To start, you need to prepare taco meat. I am using 5.84 pounds of 88% lean ground beef I picked up for $3.79 per pound. I picked this up in September and did this process I am showing you here. By October, the price of the same ground beef was at a national average of $4.71 per pound. This is the cost-savings against inflation you realize when you start freeze-drying. Right there, I saved $5.37 in just one month. That is where a freeze dryer will pay for itself, in inflation alone. If you buy 10 pounds or more of ground beef and process it now, it’s as good as gold in appreciation in your pantry, as far as I am concerned. I am probably like you, though. When I spend this much on beef, I cook some now, freeze some in zip locks for quick meals, and freeze-dry the rest, over half. Forget couponing. This is the way to save money.
I will make one 8″X12″ mylar bag for my prepping supplies. Once freeze-dried, that will be several pounds of beef, and one pound of beef has 117 grams of protein. It’s a significant nutritional gain, light-weight, and I only need a little hot water to get it ready to eat. I have this recipe here because this is one of the best I have done next to vegetables. It freeze-dries phenomenally well and rehydrates with ease. You have to do this one.
To the cooking beef, I add one onion that I dice. I add one heaping tablespoon or so of minced garlic. Then, I add one heaping tablespoon of taco seasoning. Taco seasoning comes in many forms. You can’t mess this up. Sometimes I use commercial mixes. Sometimes I mix my own. I add a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes for just a little extra flavor. Because I waste nothing from my garden if I can help it, I had dried tomato skins from when I processed tomatoes earlier in the season. You can use a tablespoon of tomato paste or a can of tomatoes or whatever. Again, you can’t mess up taco meat unless you over salt or spice it. I add these powdered skins to the meat.
Cooking meat renders the majority of the fat to a liquid and can allow you to separate it. Freeze-dryers do not handle fat well. I like to have meat that tastes like meat and not tea, so follow my method here for rinsing the meat. You have to make it flavorful. The commercial freeze-dried product won’t give you the flavor. They’re diluting it for everyone’s palette. Here I add a little fresh salsa as well.
So, you have to drain the oil. If you put it in your freeze dryer, it will explode all over the place in a huge mess. I put my meat in a wire strainer and let it drain while hot. Much of the fats will fall off. I give it a quick rinse with my water near boiling from the microwave. You have to make sure the water is super hot to start, or you’ll dilute the flavor. You also don’t want to overuse the water rinse, or you will end up with flavorless meat. You can add a little more dried spice to it after the rinse if you want. Coldwater will harden the fats that you are trying to get off the meat. Think of it just like rinsing the outside and tossing it a little in your strainer.
I then refrigerate it for a few hours or a day. It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s at least an hour. Then I spread it out on my freeze dryer tray. I mash it down to get it a uniform layer across the tray. The ground beef cooked like this is going to freeze dry as well as the onions or any vegetable. It’s amazing. Mash it down to a thin layer. I freeze-dried it with some rotisserie chicken and some tuna fish and some canned chicken.
When I freeze-dry, I like to do all the same types of cell structures. Doing all sugary fruits, or all vegetables, or all meats, or all candies, is less likely to confuse the freeze-dryers sensors and, in my opinion, will give you better results. The rotisserie chicken, canned chicken, and taco meat came out great. The tuna fish came out alright but left a smell in my freeze-dryer; it took me a while to get out. I finally did, and I might do a future post just on that.
What I have learned about freeze-drying is always pre-freeze. Second, always set your freeze dryer to the lowest temperature. Third, set your warming temperature to the middle. You want your food to be super cold, then sublimate and gas off the water. I like the sensors, but I don’t mix foods because I don’t think the sensors can manage all that. Here I am doing all meat because meat has similar cell wall structures. Third, if you plan to long-term storage your food, always set your trays to warm. If you pull them out ice-cold, you will have immediate condensation on the trays and your food. Moisture will kill your shelf-life.
This freeze-dried taco meat is incredible. You can throw it in some hot oil for flavor, throw hot water on it to rehydrate it for taco salads or tacos, or just throw it in whatever you are cooking for a protein and flavor blast. One tray of this will keep a family of four on the move for two days when you consider the nutrients. I packaged some in a regular jar with an oxygen absorber to be used wherever I wanted it. The rest I packaged in one large mylar bag with a few oxygen absorbers.
Because of the cell structure and process, this will have one or more decades of shelf life. To me, that is amazing. I don’t know what the price of good ground beef will be in the year 2032, but I do know that this was under $4.00 a pound. I feel like I’m winning in the long term here.
For proof of concept, I rehydrate some here with hot water. I can shake it and speed up the hydration process in a jar. After five minutes, it is good to go. I put it on some corn tortillas with a few other taco mixings, and I swear to you that I could not tell the difference between freshly cooked and freeze-dried. This is something to have in your inventory, for sure. I like Taco Tuesday, and I like a good taco salad, so I am pretty excited about this.
That’s it. I’m not about being fancy. I want to give you delicious and easy freeze-dried recipes. If you’re trying to make it through a disaster or just wondering what to rehydrate tonight, I hope to be your source to let you know what you need and how to do it. If you are looking at prepping for long-term survival, know that I estimate the minimal shelf-life of this taco meat to be 15 years. That’s awesome for your prepping supplies and prepping inventory.
If you like this recipe or have any modifications you make to yours, let us know in the comments below. I like the whole meal prepared, so I will have a few more of these coming out on everything from meatballs to Chicken Kelaguen to Cong You Bing. If you know what those are, you are going to love them. If you don’t know what those are, you will still love them. Take a look at the freeze-dryer I am using at the link below, and if you purchase one, please use the link first, as it will support my efforts to give you great content.
If you would like to see more about the freeze-dryer I am using, you can check it out here: https://bit.ly/2YYjjCw
Follow this site for more freeze-drying hits and misses.