The Daveman GROKS! - Episode 2: Oh the Pemmican Can

"Pemmican is buffalo meat dried or jerked, pounded, and mixed with grease, raw."

-The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Today we are talking pemmican, one of the most complete and nutritious foods know to man. A staple food of the Sioux and many other Native American tribes, pemmican was compact source of calories that could keep a man nourished for days. Because of this, the making and consuming of pemmican was quickly adopted by white traders and Jesuit priests who learned of it from their contact with Native Americans.

My own technique for creating pemmican, an original “superfood”, came after a long and deep search. I experimented in different techniques and preparations, but have found that this method consistently delivers the best results. I am never in a hurry to make something extra special, but you may find that it takes time to prepare pemmican correctly. Consider the time spent as an investment as it yields a better product.

For the uninitiated, pemmican is an acquired taste. At first, you may gag with a coating of good pure fat on the roof of your mouth, but if you give it a chance, you and your body will learn to like it. The closer your food is to pure animal protein and fat, the easier it is to digest and absorb. Pemmican is a truly ancient food and I myself LOVE IT!

To make pemmican, you must start with wild game or grass fed beef. The fat must be from wild or grass fed animals as well. The poor diets and living conditions of grain-fed animals leave their meat and fat lacking in nutrients and flavor. Don't bother to take the time to make pemmican with inferior ingredients.

When prepared correctly, pemmican supplies every nutrient your body needs. The meat and fat of wild and grass-fed animals provides higher levels of essential vitamins and when these vitamins are retained in pemmican, it can help prevent scurvy and other diseases of malnutrition.

Even when vegetables and fruit are scarce, you can survive for long periods of time on pemmican alone. I have eaten only pemmican for as long as seven days and suffered no ill effects; my digestion was regular and I was never hungry. A half pound of pemmican yields approximately 1,200-1,500 calories, so it doesn't take a lot to get you through an entire day. Even if you are working or working out HARD you will have all the energy you need once you get used to eating pemmican. I have eaten a 3 oz. portion of pemmican on an empty stomach and the feeling was like a heat flash; it is a powerful food!

My own experience has shown me that I can recover from bouts of heavy lifting and strenuous efforts eating only pemmican. Native Americans walked many miles, traveled for weeks on horseback and fought many battles with only pemmican in their packs. Eating pemmican is not a "fad", history tells us that it works!

When making pemmican, I use grass fed bottom round. Bottom round is a cheap, tough cut of beef. I imagine that it is the kind of meat that would have been leftover after a kill when all the good stuff had been devoured. Since it is low in fat, and destined for the grinder, it offers the most bang for the buck.


10lbs fresh (~4lbs after drying) Grass-fed beef (bottom round) or wild game like venison (sliced ¼ in thick)

8lbs fat (~4lbs after rendering) from grass-fed beef, bison, or wild game (cut into small chunks)

Optional: Sea salt, fresh black pepper, dried herbs and spices (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, etc.)

Step 1: Drying the meat

Set your oven to 120 degrees and put in your meat. Allow it to dry for 6 hours. When it is done drying, remove the meat to a cooling rack. Before grinding the meat, you will also have to cut it into small pieces.

I cant say enough about the fact that if you get the temp over 120 degrees while drying it you might as well quit right there. Over 120 is "cooked" and at that point, you can still eat it, but its nutrient load is now toast. Get a dehydrator or learn your oven to get the temperature right. If you are unsure, use a thermometer to "proof" the temp and make sure its below 120 degrees.

Grass-fed beef and wild venison cooling after drying in the oven.

Step 2: Rendering the fat

Set your oven to 200 degrees (225 max!) Place the chunks of fat onto a pan and put into the oven. It will take approximately 4 hours or more for the fat to render out, but who cares if you get the good stuff!

Although some recipes for pemmican suggest a stove-top method for rendering fat, I DO NOT agree with this technique. I am not interested in making cracklins and am not trying to “fry” my fat at 250 degrees. I am rendering fat, and I want my fat to be the best it can be. As with all things, quality trumps quantity, so I prefer using the oven method for rendering out the fat.

Rendering fat in the oven has never failed me and I like that you can go about your business while the fat is rendering knowing it won’t get ruined or overcooked. The fat will gradually ooze out of the connective tissue and you will occasionally need to pour off the fat into a container as it renders.

The liquid fat should be a rich yellow color, without any “cooked” smell or taste. It should be sweet and smooth. You might even want to try a little, so go ahead and grab a spoon. I promise it’s very good!

Nice yellow fat from a grass-fed cow.

Fat rendering in the oven.

Pure liquid fat rich in essential nutrients.

Step 3: Grinding

Add your dried meat and herbs/spices (if you are using them) to a manual or electric meat grinder (of course, you could try using a hammer and anvil, or two rocks for an even more rustic approach) tossing in a chunk of the leftover fat every so often. The rendered-out fat pieces will keep the gate slick and prevent the meat fibers from jamming up the mechanism.

Note: While you will use some of the leftovers of the rendering process when grinding the meat, the rest can be re-fried to make “cow cracklins”, added to added to meatballs or other ground-meat recipes, mixed with sauteed vegetable dishes, or fed to children and pets.

My 100 year old grinder. 

Step 4: Mixing

You should now have a roughly equivalent amount of ground meat and liquid fat. Put the liquid fat into a large bowl and gradually add in the ground meat. The meat will begin to soak up the fat and you have to move quickly to stir it all in because the fat will harden as it cools.

Meat and fat mixed together.

Step 5: Meat cookies

Pour the meat and fat mixture into a large pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Press the mixture down evenly with a fork or spatula and put it into the refrigerator to cool.

After the pemmican has set up, you can cut it into bars and store them in a tub in the fridge. If it is cool out, you can leave the bars of pemmican out on the counter, but only do this if the temperature is below 70 degrees. If it is too hot out, the fat in the pemmican will soften like butter and it will fall apart.

Pemmican is actually very similar to butter and can be kept the same way. Wrap it up and freeze it, and it will last forever.

A pan of finished pemmican.

Step 6: Nom your pemmican

When you are ready to eat your pemmican, you can let it sit out for a few minutes or warm it in the toaster oven. Feel free to dress it up a bit with a little sea salt, black pepper, hot sauce, or a little sliced avocado.

GROK ON! >>>


To learn more about Daveman, check out Daveman GROKS! - Episode 1 : Origins
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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. Good stuff! I'll try the oven method next time I render some fat.

  2. Ahhhh Yes. I remember the first batch. Thanks for writing this up my cave brother..... I wish it was not so hot here or I would get you send me some. When I get back I must have some!!! :)


  3. If you dry the meat at greater than 120, what part of the nutrient load is toast?


  4. CL,

    Keeping the temperature low preserves vitamins B, D, and E. Also, the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), nitrosamines, advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, is reduced dramatically and protein digestibility is improved.

  5. Oh yea this is bookmarked!!! Great post guys!!! Thanks Tony & Dave!!!

  6. Thanks Dave. Great description and tips.
    The last time I made pemmican, I rendered the fat in the Grok pot. That also seemed to work. However I like the oven idea. I will try that next time.
    As for grinding the jerky, I purchased a Ninja blender just for this purpose. It does a terrific job of turning the jerky into almost a powder. I did not add herbs, just salt. I like the idea of adding herbs.
    As for making the bars - I use foil cupcake liners (paper inside, foil out) This make them easier to handle and they can be "wrapped up" by using the extra paper/foil. It works really well.

  7. Hi - I am trying out your pemmican recipe, and wanted to know if it was safe to let the meat and suet bake overnight. Will the suet go rancid sitting at 200 degrees for 18 hours? Thanks!

    1. Not sure that will accomplish this in a quality way ...the meat has to have the door cracked to let air flow carry moisture away...It's not Baking...its drying...and the temp will vary as the heat goes on and off..
      The fat is being rendered in a closed oven to keep the heat constant...I like to have the fat tossed around a bit to get at all the surface areas and get the most out of what I have so I actually come along and stir it up a bit and drain off the major volume here and there as it oozes... you must attend to the food.. 18 hours is abandoning it to unknown areas of quality that I am not familiar with>>>>>>Dave

  8. I am curious if you ever add dried fruit to it as I have always heard of it as pounded jerky mixed with fat and dried berries...

  9. Is 200 degrees in fahrenheit or celsius??

  10. re: dried berries. There is some dispute over whether properly made pemmican contains/contained dried berries. I prefer the conventional preparations as described by Stefansson in "Fat of the Land," which is a 50/50 weight mix of rendered fat and dried meat. There's some wiggle room in there; some are a little richer in fat, but not by much. I believe some note that some preparations may have included ~5% by weight dried berries, but this is not strictly necessary. Note from the same text that "pine needle tea" was used by Native Americans to rectify scurvy, but it's a little unclear how they knew to do this since a diet rich in fresh game or "proper" pemmican shouldn't be prone to scurvy. Anyway- worst case scenario, eat your pemmican and gnaw on a pine tree. The amount of vitamin C needed to persist is reduced dramatically with reduced intake (see the Wikipedia page on the subject for biochemical details).

  11. How about making this with bacon grease?