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Enjoying the Harvest

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

do not have a place where the deer can be stored that maintains temperatures between 34 degrees and 40 degrees F. But if you have a good storage facility and enjoy many different cuts of venison, aging can be a benefit.

Aging is a chemical process in which natural enzymes break down cell walls, resulting in better cuts of meat. Most of this enzymatic process is complete within eight days; benefits of longer aging are negligible. In addition, there are increased risks of spoilage and reduced freezer life if meat is aged beyond eight days.

Processing-There are many ways to process and package your deer for long-term storage. One key concern is to remove as much fat as possible. Deer fat tends to be more saturated than fat in domestic animals, with a resulting higher melting point that gives it a "stick to the roof of the mouth" consistency when eaten. It also tends to have a stronger flavor.

Boning the meat by separating muscle bundles and filleting them from the bone may produce the best quality cut. Slicing by sawing through bone tends to spread bone marrow and bone dust across the surface of the meat, potentially producing a bad flavor and increasing the rate of spoilage. If you do use a saw to make cuts, you should scrape the bone and marrow residue off the surface of the cut.

Soaking venison in salt water or other liquid is not recommended. Vacuum packaging produces the most storable product, but wrapping tightly in a plastic wrap and then freezer paper will adequately protect from freezer burn.

Cooking-Cooking may do more to make or break flavor and tenderness of wild game than anything. Lack of fat makes wild game susceptible to drying while cooking. Many experienced chefs feel that fully cooked venison is unpalatable because it becomes tough and bland tasting.

Marinating or cooking for long periods with moist heat produces the most flavorful product. By undercooking one risks exposure to pathogens naturally present or introduced while processing. Ground meat especially should always be cooked thoroughly because in the process of grinding much surface area is exposed to potential pathogens.

Intact pieces of venison are less of a problem and the best choice for those who do not like their venison well done. To be safe, it is recommended that venison be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Practical Health Considerations

Avoid eating large quantities of any type

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