Hanging improves taste and tenderness
For better venison, hang the deer before processing. Leave the skin on to prevent dehydration and to keep the meat clean. A handy way to hang the carcass (and also remove scent glands) is illustrated to the right. Hang the deer to drain blood and cool to 50 degrees F within six hours of harvest. Freezing the venison more quickly will result in tougher meat.
You don't need to hang or age the meat longer, but if you store it at 34–40 degrees F for up to eight days, taste and tenderness can be improved.
You'll need the following tools for home processing:
- Hand saw
- Cutting board or solid table
- Flexible knife for boning
- Stout knife for trimming fat and making larger cuts
- Knife sharpener
- Freezer paper
- Plastic wrap
- Masking or freezer tape and a marker
- Large plastic or metal tubs or bowls to help sort meats for stewing and grinding
There are many ways to process a deer, and experienced processors often have their own special way of doing it. What we present are some general guidelines for the beginner.
- Remove the skin and take care to keep the hair side away from the carcass.
- Be sure to remove as much fat as possible (deer fat has a strong flavor).
- Trim any bruises or gunshot damage and wash the outside.
- After dripping dry, the carcass is ready to be cut.
The boneless method
The boneless method of cutting a carcass produces a milder flavor. One point to remember is that young-of-the-year deer are so tender that the whole animal can be cut into steaks. Remove all bone, and use the more tender muscles for steaks, roasts and stew. Grind the less tender muscles for hamburger. You can also use wholesale-cuts method to make rib, T-bone, sirloin and round steaks. Combinations of the two methods may be used.
The wholesale-cuts method
Use these charts to produce wholesale cuts similar to those at a grocer. Start by removing the neck for boning and split the carcass by cutting down the center of the backbone. Then either bone or cut with the bone-in cutting method as used in beef cutting. Sawing through bone spreads the bone marrow across cuts of meat, sometimes creating a bad flavor. If you saw through cuts, be sure to scrape away any marrow or bone fragments. Also, carefully remove all animal hair.
Place the half carcass on a cutting table and remove the flank, breast and shank. Remove the shoulder by cutting between ribs 5 and 6 perpendicular to the backbone. Separate the rib from the loin behind the last rib and cut the loin from the sirloin in the middle of the last lumbar vertebra. The wholesale cuts of deer are neck, shoulder, rib or rack, loin, hind leg, foreshank, breast and flank.
Label each package clearly with a permanent marker. Make the letters large enough for easy reading. Labels should include the following:
- Owner’s name
- Telecheck confirmation number
- Name of the cut, quantity, and packaging date
Freezer storage time
Venison can be stored in the home freezer at 6 degrees F or lower for about one year.