I have high quality beef muscle meat, beef liver and beef heart. All completely grass fed from healthy animals with clean practices thus I am not that worried about botulism ("Botulism outbreaks occur when animals eat improperly stored or spoiled silage, decaying vegetation, poultry manure, or feed and water contaminated with bird or rodent carcasses.").

Is it possible to air dry thin slices of this meat at home without dehydrator or an oven, in order to preserve it? It's in my apartment so I can't really smoke it.

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    All completely grass fed from healthy animals with clean practices thus I am not that worried about botulism ("Botulism outbreaks occur when animals eat improperly stored or spoiled silage, decaying vegetation, poultry manure, or feed and water contaminated with bird or rodent carcasses."). - That's quite a misinformed, and possibly dangerous statement.
    – SnakeDoc
    May 28, 2020 at 19:55
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    That quotation about botulism is saying that animals can die of botulism - the illness caused by Clostridium botulinum toxins - when they eat improperly stored silage, etc. That quotation says nothing about what causes botulism in humans. Clostridium botulinum bacteria is everywhere, including on meat from healthy animals. Safe handling of livestock, safe butchering, etc. will not prevent botulism. The botulism that you need to be worried about would be caused by your unsafe preparation of otherwise safe meat. That said, I'm not sure that botulism would be a concern here.
    – Juhasz
    May 28, 2020 at 22:15
  • Note that our site only takes content that follows official food safety guidelines, instead of addressing people's personal worries. So, if you are not worried about botulism, but the official guidelines are made with botulism with mind, you will still have to take the answers that follow the guidelines (and thus are more conservative than your personal preference) - either that, or close the question outright.
    – rumtscho
    May 29, 2020 at 10:58

4 Answers 4


Simply hanging meat likely won't result in a safe drying environment. The moist, room temperature surface is the environment that bacteria and mold thrive in, which is why holding food at room temperature is considered unsafe.

Alton Brown offers a method for homemade beef jerky without any specialized equipment, but does make use of a box fan and air conditioning filters:

Evenly distribute the [thinly sliced, marinaded] strips of meat on 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug it in, and set it to medium. Dry the meat for 8 to 12 hours. (If using a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions.)

Once dry, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.

Note that deviation from Alton's recipe & method may require additional changes to compensate to make it food safe. For example, changing the marinade may affect cure & dry times.


There are lots of recipes for "air dried beef" online, many of which can be accomplished in an apartment. You will need equipment, some of which you likely already have. Some you can hack very inexpensively. The process goes like this:

  1. Slice meat

  2. Season and cure (you will need a refrigerator). I would also strongly suggest curing salt, also known as "pink salt"

  3. Dry (you will need to create a drying chamber)

To do this safely, you need to cure. A salt based cure removes water and creates an inhospitable environment for pathogens. This is a critical step in making this safe. During this time, your meat needs to be kept at refrigeration temperature.

Once cured, you need to dry. Again, the safety hurdle is decreasing water activity. A dehydrator is ideal, but a very low temperature oven can work, or some other type of hacked dehydrator that you can build on the cheap. You want consistent airflow and temperature.

Of course, there are versions of whole muscle cuts that are cured and hung to dry. Italian bresaola comes to mind. Again, it needs to be cured, typically with the addition of curing salt. It can be hung to dry in a cool place, but again, temperature and humidity are critical. I have successfully made bresaola in my basement. I have also had it go wrong. For example, when the humidity got too low, the outside of the muscle became hard, while the inside did not dry (known as case hardening). So, these variables are important. Temperature and humidity are important factors to manage drying and mold growth. As long as you are sanitary, cure correctly, maintain proper temperature and humidity, and avoid bad mold, you won't harm yourself...however, you introduce risk each time you bypass of ignore each of these points. Botulism is not the only potential pathogen or problem.


You should try following a borts recipe. Borts is basically air dried cuts of meat(beef). Its recipe requires no equipment whatsoever and creates delicious strips of dried meat. The Mongols have been using this technique for centuries as a way of preserving meat for long periods of time without refrigeration. Here is a quick guide. Hope you enjoy!

  • It does require a special un-heated Yurt with a ventilated design, using stack-effect circulation to dry the meat and it must be done in the cold of winter, which helps to prevent the growth of bacteria. You can't just hang meat anywhere. OP doesn't even want to buy a dehydrator, nevermind an entire specialized building that serves as a dehydrator. I think that counts as "special equipment".
    – J...
    May 29, 2020 at 11:32

Just air drying seems risky to me, even with the highest quality beef. You could make beef jerky though, provided you have an oven and some time on your hands. Seriouseats has a recipe for it.

  • I think the risks are overblown and I'm willing to take it. Is it possible and what are the instructions for it? I don't have an oven, that's why I ask. May 28, 2020 at 11:21
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    If you don't have an oven, then you will at least need something to circulate the air around the beef. Biltong (the South African/Namibian version of jerky) is made this way, sometimes curing boxes for it have an incandescent lightbulb to add a little heat to the mix, but you definitely need some sort of setup for proper drying. Just salting and hanging it won't cut it.
    – John Doe
    May 28, 2020 at 11:39
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    The risks aren't overblown @AbsoluteRetard, you could make yourself very sick. However, with a bit of ingenuity you can do it safely.
    – GdD
    May 28, 2020 at 14:46
  • @JohnW. to be fair, people in ZA have been making biltong for generations before the advent of lightbulbs and fans, just air drying outside under shade. Usually in winter (traditional hunting season) when the air was dry and cold. Although modern conveniences certainly help to make the process all-season and more fool-proof. Seems getting the curing process before drying right is important (sterilizing outside surface?). I find it a bit sacrilegious to mention biltong in the same sentence as jerky - the former is far better :-D However never heard of biltong from organ meat as per OP...
    – frIT
    May 28, 2020 at 20:17
  • "I think the risks are overblown and I'm willing to take it." seems like an utterance best expressed with a different account name. :D May 29, 2020 at 8:02

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