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Reviews > Food > Meal Ingredients > Backpackers Pantry Beef and Chicken > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Backpacker's Pantry Freeze Dried Beef & Chicken
By Raymond Estrella

October 28, 2012


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Backpacker's Pantry
Web site:
Product: Freeze Dried Beef & Chicken
Year purchased: 2011/12
MSRP: US $5.90
Weight listed: 1 oz (28 g)
Actual gross weight each (incl. packaging): 1.48 oz (42 g)

Yo, meat!

Product Description

info beefBackpacker's Pantry Freeze Dried Cooked Beef & Chicken (hereafter called the meat;-) is an add-in product made to be used along with an entrée.

There is not a lot to tell about for this product. It is just natural cooked beef or chicken. The meat has been diced into small cubes; maybe quarter-inch (6 mm) squares max. The small size lets it rehydrate quicker.

The meats come packaged in a flat foil-type envelope. It does not have the pleated bottoms of the company's meal packages, nor does it have a zip-locking top. A "use-by" date is stamped into the top of the package. From what I see here and remember from past packages the shelf life is usually around three years, although it never sticks around that long before I use it. On the back of the package is the nutritional info and the directions for use. It is as follows:

Add to entree and follow entree directions. To pre-soak, cover with water and let sit for about 20 minutes. Drain off excess water. To prepare separately, either pre-soak as directed above or add (chicken or beef) to water and heat until tender.

Now the web site listed above has the same directions but says to soak for only 2 minutes. I think this may be a typo as in my experience the meat will still be crunchy in that short an amount of time. (I have been purchasing direct from them for four years and am going to send this to them to see what's up.)

The beef is dark brown in color. It looks like diced beef roast to me. Once rehydrated it makes just over 2 oz (56 g) of very lean beef from what I can figure out based on the nutritional information. The beef's information is the top chart to the right.
info chicken
The chicken is tan colored and looks just like diced baked chicken breast to me. From what I can deduce from the info, once rehydrated it makes about 3 oz (85 g) of cooked chicken that is even leaner (less fat) than the beef.

Field Locations

I have been using Backpacker's Pantry freeze dried cooked meats for many years. I am pretty sure the first big trip I took them on was a 72-mi (116 km) 5-day hike from Mineral King across the Kern Divide and down to the Johnsondale Bridge back in 1993. Since then they have been used all on many trips in California and quite a few in Minnesota. Temperatures on those trips would have run from well below freezing to over 100 F (38 C) with elevations from below sea-level to over 14,000 ft (4270 m).


As I mentioned above I have been using the Backpacker's Pantry Freeze Dried Cooked Beef & Chicken for a long time. (I used to get their Freeze Dried Cooked Turkey too, but it has been discontinued.) Back when I first started using it the point was to make two-serving entrees actually work for two people as my brother-in-law and regular hiking partner Dave discovered how good my meals were and said he would pay for the food if I planned and prepared it. I used to make elaborate meals based on freeze dried but adding all kinds of extra ingredients. On trips that he was with my wife and I we would add one meat pack to two freeze dried entrees to boost the calories and protein too. Back then I cooked in a pot (or two) and added the meat to the water as I brought it to a boil. Then once it was boiling I added the freeze dried meals and extra spices or other ingredients.

The days of heavy kitchen kits and sharing meals are long in the past. Now I add the meat to a 2-serving meal and eat the entire thing myself! Over the past decade I have really upped my hiking putting in daily big distances along with elevation gains that would have taken me two to three days to do in the past. As I am not hungry during the day I started really packing it in at night, trying to hit around 1000 calories, mostly protein and carbs, each evening in camp. The Backpacker's Pantry Freeze Dried meats add at least 120 calories to my meals, almost all of it in the form of protein.

Nowadays I just rehydrate everything in the freeze dried meal pouch but still add the meat to my water in the pot/mug so that it can rehydrate while coming to a boil. I usually add about 1 fl oz (30 ml) of extra water to allow for what the meat will absorb. Here is a picture taken last year at the aptly named Hungry Man Lake in Minnesota's Two Inlets State Park that I am adding beef to my water before making my entree.

boil me some beef

While that is the normal procedure I have used it at the same time as the other ingredients when doing actual "cooking". Last fall and this spring and early summer I gave myself a project to use wood as fuel and part of it was seeing if I could control the heat enough to simmer, allowing "real" dishes to be prepared. The picture below, taken this spring at Minnesota's Halverson Lake, sees me getting ready to make Chicken with Kluski Noodles, a dish that takes 20 minutes of simmering once the noodles were added. For this one I added the freeze dried chicken at the same time as the noodles.

Chicken coming up

Probably the biggest reason I use the meats these days is to turn vegetarian dishes into meat dishes. Backpacker's Pantry makes an awesome dish called Black Bean Tamale Pie and a very good Wild West Chili & Beans that do not have any meat. A pack of the freeze dried beef or chicken makes it ready for the carnivore in me.

Of course it works just as well in other brands of freeze dried meals too. I have added it to Natural High's tasty meatless Cheese Enchiladas Ranchero with great success along with others. As I look in my food shelf I see three other brands right now, but Backpacker's Pantry makes up at least 85% of my stock.

I recently reviewed the company's Cold Water Lunches, salads that are prepared with cold water. Since publishing the review I have been inspired to do some creative food work making full meals from the salads. (Watch for an addendum later this year.) As part of that I wondered if the Freeze Dried Cooked Beef & Chicken could be rehydrated with cold water. (Think Chicken Pasta Salad or Black Bean w/Beef salad, yum…) I contacted Backpacker's Pantry and had my question forwarded to the folks in Quality Control and got this answer. "Yes it can but it needs five times the wait". Well that makes it 100 minutes to rehydrate and this guy has little patience at dinner time. I think I will stick to just hot meal use.

Those are the ways I have been using the Backpacker's Pantry Freeze Dried Cooked Beef & Chicken. I am sure there are other ways to use it I just can't think of right now. But if I do I will be sure to come back and share it.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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