Almost every menu found in Southern America will include a dish called Carne seca – but what is this? When translating it to English, the literal term is ‘dry meat’.
In a world where moist and succulent meat is often preferred, this doesn’t sound too appealing right off the bat!
Perhaps a better translation of Carne seca is ‘jerked beef’ – something that most of us would have heard of. However, there is much more to Carne seca than just beef jerky, as these are two very different dishes.
Today we’re going to be looking into how you would make your own Carne seca, and whether or not you need to cook it before eating it.
What Is Carne Seca?
Carne seca is a type of dried meat that can be made in a number of different ways. It is often boiled or marinated in liquid before being dried, so the meat is technically cooked beforehand.
However, some recipes will call for the meat to be dried before being cooked in liquid, then dried again.
Once the Carne seca has finished being dried, it is then shredded or ground to either be eaten on its own or added to other dishes, such as machaca.
Most Carne seca recipes call for beef to be used, although some use other types of meat such as pork, llama, or goat.
A common way of making Carne seca is to marinate the meat in a number of seasonings and oil in the refrigerator.
The meat is then dried and boiled in water until it’s extremely tender. Then the meat will be cooled, shredded, then dried.
The meat can either be dried in an oven, smoker, or even outside!
Should You Cook Carne Seca?
Carne seca is often made of beef. While raw beef is not commonly as dangerous as raw chicken or raw pork, raw beef still does harbor a decent amount of potentially dangerous bacteria within it.
For this reason, the meat is typically cooked before or after the drying process. It is boiled in a large pot of water after being marinated, killing off any harmful bacteria that could make the consumer ill, before it is dried and shredded.
While there may be some recipes out there that require no cooking for Carne seca, we would always recommend cooking your meat to keep you from getting sick.
Making Carne Seca At Home
Making your own Carne seca at home is surprisingly easy – you’re just going to need your favorite cut of meat, some seasoning, and a lot of time.
Let’s take a look at how you can make your own Carne seca in a few easy steps.
Step One: Choosing Your Meat
Beef is the most common type of meat used when making Carne seca, so we would suggest choosing a cut of beef for your first try at making this dish. We used patinho, which is otherwise known as a beef knuckle or sirloin tip.
We chose a lean cut – because you don’t want too much fat content when drying meat – with a mid-range price for our first attempt. However, if you’re happy to spend more on a premium quality cut, you can go for it.
Similarly, if you want to choose a cheaper cut to prevent wasting any money should something go wrong, then feel free to do just that.
Step Two: Preparing Your Cut
Now that you have your cut of beef, it’s time to cut it into smaller pieces to make the cooking and drying process easier. We cut our patinho into steaks, around an inch thick. Lay all of these out on a tray and cover in coarse salt.
Make sure that the layer of salt is enough, as the more salt you use, the more you will taste it. Once you dry and cook the meat, the saltiness will diminish greatly.
So, the more you add, the better the Carne seca will taste in the end. The salt will also help to dry the meat quicker.
Cover the tray and meat with cling film and move onto the next step.
Step Three: First Round Of Drying
Now that your meat is covered with cling film, leave to dry in a warm room for 24 hours. You can leave it at room temperature, so depending on how warm the current climate is wherever you are, the meat will take more or less time to fully dry.
After 24 hours, check your meat. You should see a lot of liquid surrounding the meat within the tray – this will have been drawn out thanks to the salt.
Pour this liquid away and brush off any excess salt still on the meat. Now cover it with another layer of fresh salt and cover the tray with a new layer of cling film.
Continue this process until there is no more liquid drawn out from the salt. For us, this took four days to see almost no liquid coming from the meat, but it might take more or less time for you depending on the meat and temperature.
Step Four: Second Round Of Drying
You can now hang the meat up to dry thoroughly, which we did by adding hooks through the meat and hanging the steaks from a washing line outside.
You can dry the meat inside, although this might make your house smell unpleasant.
It is also advisable to hang a net around your meat to prevent any insects from being drawn to the high salt content.
We hung our meat outside throughout the day, keeping it inside through the night. After two days it was completely dry.
Step Five: Cooking Your Carne Seca
Now you can cook your Carne Seca in a large pot of boiling water for a few hours, changing the water every hour or so. This will help to remove most of the salt from the meat to ensure that it is enjoyable.
Making Carne Seca In An Oven
Making your Carne seca in the oven is a much quicker process and will take a number or hours rather than days. To do this, you can marinate your meat in the refrigerator for around 4 hours in a marinade of your choice.
Pat the remaining liquid off of the meat once it has marinated enough, and put the meat on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
Place the tray in an oven on 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is completely dry and dark brown. Bear in mind that it is easy to burn the meat using this method, though, so watch carefully.
Let the meat cool completely before shredding it or storing it in the refrigerator.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand more about Carne seca and how easy it is to make!
Whether you air dry your meat or use an oven, the meat should be cooked to protect anyone who eats it from dangerous bacteria.
You can cook the meat by boiling it or roasting it before or after it has been dried. Cook it at a low to medium temperature to ensure that it cooks completely before being dried. Good luck, and enjoy!