Smoked, Cured, Aged, and Dehydrated Meat: What's The Difference?

Smoked, Cured, Aged, and Dehydrated Meat: What's The Difference?

Posted on: January 17, 2023

Meat is a highly diverse food when it comes to preparation. Incredibly, each method is unique and results in a different taste and flavor from the wide profile of the meat. You can prepare and cook meat according to your liking, and whichever the case, it will result in a savory, delicious, hearty meal, provided you follow a quality recipe.

However, a common question most people ask, especially newbies in the kitchen, is the difference between smoked, cured, aged, and dehydrated meat.

Well, the first thing to note is that all of them are meat preparation and cooking processes. You could have the same type of meat, but these significantly different preparation methods make a big impact. The difference largely lies in the kind of ingredients and procedure involved in each.

You definitely want to know and understand each of the processes before you get into the kitchen, and perhaps that might be the reason you have clicked on this page. The good news is that we will share with you what these different processes mean and how to execute them at home effectively. After going through this article, we can guarantee that you will want to explore these different ways to prepare your meat.

Smoked Meat

Smoking meat is one of the best ways to enhance flavor, even before tossing it on the food smoker. It’s often referred to as cold smoking and is best achieved under a temperature range of 55 and 85°F (13 and 29°C). Brine and salt are the common ingredients used for cold-smoking meat, but you can also add additional spices to your liking. You shouldn’t worry about the low temperature and bacteria as the chemical ingredients are well-taken care of.

Ideally, the cold smoking process can last for days or weeks, depending on your liking.

Cured Meat

Cured meat refers to meat that has been treated for preservation either through brining, smoking, canning, smoking, or drying. Meat is purposely cooked to prevent it from being attacked by microorganisms that would make it harmful for consumption. Curing is also done to increase the meat’s shelf-life and keep it safe for consumption for longer.

Curing meat is an ancient practice that has been performed for centuries. It can either be done dry, wet, or a combination of the two. Dry curing is done to extract the excess salt by draining the meat. Wet curing is done with the use of a mixture of water and salt performed in the refrigerator. Combined curing is a rare process that combines both the dry and wet processes. It’s mostly used to treat hams and is performed in the refrigerator.

There are different ways you can apply salt or brine to the meat. You can either choose to massage it, sprinkle, inject, or soak the meat in a container of salt. The ideal way to cure your meat is best informed by the cut of meat you are preparing.

A helpful tip to curing your meat is to ensure you wrap it up to keep it clean and in shape.

A key thing to note is that cured meat must be cooked before consumption.

Check out our entire catalog of articles on brining and curing your meat here:
What’s the Difference Between Pickling, Brining, Marinating, and Curing?
Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking

Aged Meat

Aged meat is meat that has been hung in a particular room in an environment with a controlled temperature to help it develop a crusted mold coating. You can hang the meat up for months and even years. You will have to ensure access to all the appropriate equipment to facilitate the aging process.

The key to note is that the meat will need to be carefully scraped to eliminate the fungus crust that has developed before cooking.

Dehydrated Meat

Dehydrated meat has persevered through drying. Dehydrating meat is one of the best ways to preserve it for a long time. A unique attribute of dehydrated meat is that it can be consumed the way it is, without cooking.

You can also store dehydrated meat for later consumption after you purchase it. Placing it into an air-tight sealed container can keep the dehydrated meat for up to two weeks. Zip-style bags or air-tight fitted jars can also be an option to use.

Storing dehydrated meat in a vacuum-sealed bag and leaving it at room temperature can preserve the meat for up to a month.

Of course, there is so much more to learn about cured, smoked, dehydrated, and aged meat. It’s an ancient process and so has a rich history. But these are some of the essential tips you need to have at your fingertips before jumping into the kitchen.

Remember, most of the different forms of meat, such as aged meat, may not be readily available at the grocery store, as they require a more unique and specific process.

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.