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A recent question about travelling with dried food where the recipe did not include salt caused the OP some concern. As far as I know salt just dries out food. So if you get the food completely dry with out salt, salt is not needed.

Salting is used because most bacteria, fungi and other potentially pathogenic organisms cannot survive in a highly salty environment, due to the hypertonic nature of salt. Any living cell in such an environment will become dehydrated through osmosis and die or become temporarily inactivated. source

If you are in an outdoor survival situation trying to dry food for traveling, getting it completely dry would be difficult.

Smoke is normally easier to generate then salt in the great outdoors. For the sake of this question, lets assume that I happen to have both a ready supply of salt and smoke.

As a preservative what are the pros and cons of Salt Vs Smoke?

  • I wonder if this is better suited to Seasoned Advice SE – Martin F Feb 3 at 22:42
  • where do you find salt in a survival situation? – njzk2 Feb 4 at 1:41
  • @njzk2 depends where you are, but if you're on the coast you can get some from evaporated seawater? Or be like Sam and take some with you wherever you go. – Aravona Feb 4 at 8:28
  • @njzk2 How to find natural salt licks? – James Jenkins Feb 4 at 11:09
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Smoke contains phenols which are antioxidants, and anti-microbial. This reduces fat going rancid, and bacterial growth on the surface. Smoke also contains formaldehyde, poisonous to bacteria and people alike. Don't make a steady diet of the top millimeter of smoked food. Organic acids (like acetic) lower the pH further making life as a bacteria difficult.

Since the smoke doesn't penetrate the whole way through, this doesn't protect the interior of anything much over 1/2" thick. Smoke is a byproduct of creating a low heat environment to dehydrate the food. It also creates a tough environment for flies.

In a survival situation you want to get the meat/fish as dry as possible. This reduces the chances of part of the interior of a thicker section going bad, and gives it a better chance of still being edible if it is exposed to water.

One advantage of smoke: You can see where it is, thus, you can see what is being exposed to the warm air. You can see the temperature of the smoke -- hotter air rises faster.

In traditional pre-refrigeration culture, meats were often brined before smoking. This reduced the smoking time, as you only had to dry it to the point where the brine was concentrated enough to kill existing bacteria and fungi and embedded parasite cysts. Since you didn't pull all the water out, the meat didn't become hard as a rock. If you stinted on the time brining (brine didn't reach through the whole chunk) you could get something that was good on the outside, and would rot inside.

This form of preservation required that you keep the product dry. Get a flitch of bacon wet, it could dissolve enough salt out of the surface that the surface would then mold or rot.

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