Thursday, September 5, 2019

Canned Meat

Last year was a bit rough on my pantry. Two major surgeries and a few extra unplanned expenses meant I had to dig into the food storage, but that's part of why I prep; having food stored is normal for those of us who have lived through a disaster or two, or who have survived on noodles and peanut butter for more than a month.

I buy canned goods by the case and stack them in the basement pantry to ensure that I have something to put on the table when it's time to eat. Things are starting to get back to normal for my finances, so I'm starting to restock my shelves with things we eat on a regular basis as well as a few new things to test. The canned bread and pilot bread articles from a few weeks ago are part of the new things, and there will probably be more in the near future.

One of my go-to foods (a comfort food, if you will) is corned beef hash. It's a breakfast staple, and it used to be a lot more prevalent than it is now; truck stops and diners always had eggs and hash on the menu, but that's starting to die off for some reason. Easy to prepare and filling, it gets used in my home as a late-night meal or snack almost as often as a breakfast meat.

Corned beef is a salt-cured (preserved) meat, using large pieces of salt called “corns”. The practice of salting meat as a method of preserving it goes back centuries, and it's an effective way to keep meat on the menu without having to butcher an animal for every meal -- salt pulls the water out of meat, drying it to a point where bacteria can't grow and allowing you to store it. This does add a lot of sodium to the meat, so if your doctor has you on a low-sodium diet you may want to look into the lower-sodium versions that replace about a third of the salt with potassium chloride.

Spices are usually added to help the curing and add to the flavor, while sodium nitrite is added to modern forms to give it a pink color (rather than the brown-gray it would have naturally) while also killing off the bacteria that cause botulism.

Hash is just another way of saying “finely chopped”, and typical corned beef hash consists of beef, potatoes, water, spices, sugar, salt, and nitrates. Simple is good and I've not seen any mention of wheat or gluten in the brands I've bought, so they should be safe for the gluten-intolerant. Watch the labels on what you buy if that is one of your criteria for store-able foods.

I recently bought a case of 12 cans from Amazon's Prime Pantry for $28.32. That works out to $2.36 per 14 ounce can, which is a little cheaper than I can find the same brand in my local grocery store. Amazon also offers half-sized cans for individual servings as well as #10 cans for if you're feeding a large group, but I find the 14 oz cans convenient. Each can has two servings in it, and each serving provides the following:
  • 380 calories, 220 from fat: The calorie count is high, and the fact that most of those calories come from fat mean that it is a very slow release of energy. 
  • 970mg sodium: The sodium is higher than most people need, but absent other forms of processed foods and plenty of exercise it shouldn't be a problem. 
  • 23g carbohydrates, 1 as sugar: 23 carbs is a healthy chunk of a diabetic's intake per meal, but again it's slow-release energy for the rest of us.
  • 17g protein: a healthy amount of protein for a meal. 

I bought my case is July of 2019 and the “best by” dates were all May 2022, so a comfortable 3 year shelf-life that could probably be extended out to 5 years if kept in a cool, dry location. The cans are sturdy tinned-steel cans with a traditional rolled-lip lid, so you will need a can opener. (I've noticed a correlation between reduced shelf-life and pull-top cans, but that needs more research to confirm.) The contents are packed into the can with some pressure, so you will have to dig it out. Hash normally contains enough fat/grease to be able to fry without a need to grease the pan, but that also means you're going to have grease to clean out of your pan when you're done.

As a food storage idea, this works for me by several criteria:
  • 3 year shelf-life
  • I can afford it
  • I already eat it
  • Simple to prepare
  • Sturdy containers

I'll keep looking around for other things to add to my storage foods, I know the ubiquitous Spam and Dinty Moore beef stew are already on the shelf, but I need to find things to break the taste monotony and give me more options to work with.


  1. i love corned beef hash. i buy the "Aldi brand" Brookdale, generally a buck and a half for a 14 ounce can. Their house brand spam and tinned bully is cheap, tasty, and has the shelf life of gravel.

  2. I also love corned beef hash, and buy it often. I just realized that I don't have a stock of it, other than a couple of cans in my cupboard. Here in my city in Michigan it runs about 2$ a can, but on sale, can be as low as 1.59. My wife and daughter like it as well, and that is always a big deal. We will have hash with eggs, and perhaps some toast for supper.
    I also will make hash when we have leftover roast beef or pork, along with onions and potatoes. I went shopping today, and picked up groceries for the next 2 weeks. By careful shopping, I saved almost 15% off what my bill would have been.
    I also need to stock back up on Spam and beef stew. I usually try to do my stocking up while doing my regular shopping, since it saves me a trip. But I have a bad migraine today, and we needed groceries, so I just went and got what I had on my list, and didn't take time to do a pantry list. Sometimes, you do what you can do, and let it go.

  3. Because of this article, I checked our what the local Walmart had. Hormel and "Sam's Choice" (house brand) - about 2.60$ a can each (house brand was a bit less).

    Most notable feature? both looked like dog food with potato bits in it.

    Not bad - Probably a good ingredient, both had a similar taste, but bland.


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