Handling Deer and Venison

Depending on the temperature, deer should be dressed, skinned, and cooled within an hour at 60 degrees or higher and within three hours at 30 degrees. Ideally, when a deer is shot, it should be hung, skinned, gutted, and placed in a cooler or refrigerator between 32 and 40 degrees for 4 or 5 days before freezing or cooking. Skinning before gutting will prevent a lot of hair from getting stuck to the inside of the body. Avoid spraying cold water on the carcass before it cools down. Cold water will clot blood and prevent proper drainage from tissue.

Avoid using a saw when cutting up your deer. Bone dust is not only hard to wash off, but it will give the meat an odd flavor. Use a fillet knife to disjoint hams and shoulders. Experts also advise de-boning venison before freezing since the bone, although uncut, can also flavor the adjacent meat. This also saves freezer space.

Use several layers of freezer paper (not plastic) for wrapping. Venison’s low fat, high water content make it extremely susceptible to freezer burn. Date packages and use within 8 months of freezing.

Additional tips:
Always wear heavy rubber or latex gloves when field dressing deer.

If intestinal contents contact meat, consider the meat contaminated; cut off and discard affected area.
Handle carcasses properly. Cool carcass rapidly in the field (bags of ice can hasten cooling). Age carcass at or below 40°F for no longer than 5-7 days. Hang birds by feet at less than 40°F for 2-3 days maximum.

Hold meat at or below 40°F at all times. If you don’t plan to consume or process meat within 3-5 days, freeze it. Thaw frozen meat only in the refrigerator, never at room temperature

Sanitize equipment and work surfaces often during handling and processing meat and poultry with a bleach solution (1 Tbs. bleach to 1 gallon water).

Use a meat thermometer to cook meat to proper internal temperatures (see chart). There are several types of meat thermometers available, which are easy to use and can be read instantly or remain in meat while it cooks. This helps ensure harmful bacteria are killed and meat is not overcooked. The color of meat is an unreliable indicator of doneness.


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