5 Common Methods of Preserving and Processing Foods

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

For centuries, we’ve been processing raw foodstuff to prolong its shelf life. These days, food preservation has come a long way since simple salting and pickling. Some types of food take longer to go bad while others have very short shelf life. Microbes being exposed to oxygen causes food to spoil. In order to preserve food, microbes have to be eliminated to prevent oxidation or proliferation.

Modern methods of preserving foods help maintain its nutrient value while also helping food stay fresh longer. Below are some of the most common methods of food processing and preserving:


Freezing is perhaps the most common of all modern food preservation methods — both commercially and domestically. Food—raw or cooked—is placed in very cold storage to prevent bacteria from spreading which causes spoilage. The extreme cold slows down microbial spreading;helping protect food from exposure to moisture, oxygen, and pathogens.


Preserved fruits—even store-bought ones—are often processed this way to help prevent rotting. Fresh fruits are cooked with sugar and then stored to dry. Certain types of liquors are also processed and preserved using this method.


Salting is one of the oldest forms of preserving raw foods. Salt has an uncanny ability to suck the moisture out of food. This unique ability is done through the process of osmosis. When the food is totally dry from salting, microbes are inhibited from growing. Meat is commonly preserved through salting. Nitrates are often used to process raw meat.


Just like salting, drying is a very old form of food preservation. Simply put, food is let out in the sun so water is sucked out. When the food is completely dry, bacterial growth is delayed, allowing food to keep for weeks. Most types of grains are dried to increase shelf life. Wheat, corn, oats, rice, rye, and barley are left to dry to prevent spoilage. Hams are a great example of meats preserved through drying.


Smoking not only helps preserve meat, poultry, and fish, it also imparts distinct flavor that can be adjusted to suit different tastes. The concept behind smoking is simple: to expose raw food to smoke without actually cooking it. The aroma generated by hydrocarbons enhances the taste and adds smokiness to the meat.

Vacuum Sealing

The general concept of preserving food is to prevent food from being exposed to oxygen. This method creates an airtight environment so oxygen and germs do not mix. Vacuum sealing requires a special type of plastic and vacuum sealer. The food is stored in the special plastic and then the vacuum sealer will suck all the air out of the plastic while sealing the opening at the same time.


A special solution made from vinegar, brine, ethanol, and other types of oil is used to preserve certain kinds of fruits, vegetables, and meats. The food is can be cooked with the solution and then placed in a jar then left to pickle.Alternatively, the fresh ingredients could also be placed in a jar and then filled with the solution to pickle.

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