Dried meat has century-old roots in cuisine around the world. Often air-dried or cured with salt, drying meat is considered the oldest form of meat preservation. Moisture leaves the meat as it dries, thereby reducing the meat's weight and size, but it still retains its protein. An advantage to dried meat is that it does not require refrigeration; however, a drawback is that most dried meat is very high in sodium.
Typically, lean meat from a medium-aged animal, such as a cow, sheep or goat, is the best-suited for drying. Other meat that is suitable for turning into dried meat includes antelope, deer and camel. Meat that is very fatty can go rancid as it dries, so it is typically avoided. The raw meat is cut into strips, which can be placed into a marinade or otherwise seasoned, if desired, before beginning the drying process. The meat can be air-dried on hooks, placed in a dehydrator or baked in an oven to dry.
Beef jerky may be one of the most recognizable forms of dried meat. The beef can be dried as-is, or flavored with a marinade or rub. There is a beef jerky option for nearly every palate, from mesquite blends and spicy Cajun flavors to black pepper. Flank steak is one cut used for making jerky, and placing the meat in the freezer for a few hours will help make it firm for slicing into thin strips.
In South American countries, including Brazil, charque is a form of beef jerky made by using salt to preserve the meat. The pieces of jerky are immersed in salt water, then removed and placed between mounds of salt for several days. Eventually, the charque pieces are washed, flattened to help remove moisture and placed in the sun to dry.
Pastirma is a common dried meat in Armenia, Turkey and Egypt, and is made using beef or camel meat. The meat pieces are salted, air-dried and pressed. When the meat is done drying, it is covered with a paste made of garlic, paprika and mustard. In Southern African countries, biltong is made from antelope and beef meat cut into long strips and dry-salted or soaked in brine. It can be further flavored with spices, including garlic, aniseed and coriander.
Odka is prepared from livestock that are drought-stricken and is made in East African countries, including Somalia. Qwanta is also made in East African countries, and features meat strips coated in a hot pepper sauce. Kilishi is made using thin slices of goat, lamb or beef in some areas of West Africa, including Nigeria. The slices are sun-dried, then infused with a mixture of water, spices and bullion cubes before being sun-dried once again. After drying, the meat can be roasted over a fire for a few minutes to help develop its flavor.