A hunter’s wife: Tips to processing game meat
Hunting season is upon us once again. Although it may be tempting to send your elk meat to the local butcher for processing. You’d be surprised by how easy it can be to process your own game meat and save hundreds of dollars at the same time.
Let’s get something straight right now, I’m not a professional but I have learned a thing or two since I’m married to an avid hunter. So, when my husband brought home an elk from the archery hunt, I thought I would pass some meat-processing knowledge onto you.
Age your elk meat
Aging your elk meat is when the enzymes in the meat break down the collagen that tends to make the meat tough. The longer the meat ages, the more tender it is. Hanging the animal for seven days at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. However, my husband de-bones his elk on the mountain, packs it out and stores it in an ice-filled cooler right away until it’s ready.
If you can let your elk age for at least three days, it will taste a lot better. Keep ice on the meat in a cooler in the shade. Flush the water out of the cooler one to two times per day. It will get rid of a lot of the blood and help with the taste.
Invest in a meat grinder
It might cost a little bit of money up front, but it will pay off in the end. A lot of the fatty parts of the meat can be turned into hamburger. You’ll want a meat grinder so you don’t have to waste any meat. There’s a lot of meat grinders to choose from. I was lucky and found a Cabela’s meat grinder at a yard sale for $20. It has done the trick.
Process your meat outside
I made this mistake a long time ago when I thought it would be a good idea to cut up some deer in our kitchen. By the end of the process, there was deer blood dripping all over my cabinets. It was awful. Even if it’s really cold, do it in the backyard or garage where everything can be hosed down.
Recruit some help
We had about 110 pounds of elk meat this year. Between my husband and I, we were able to process everything in about two hours. Doing it alone takes a lot longer, trust me. Even my kids like to join in on the fun.
Select your cuts of meat
Generally, we use our elk for roasts and hamburger, but you can also cut your meat into steaks, stew meat and stir-fry meat. Here’s some general cutting rules to follow:
- Roasts are usually one single muscle
- Steaks are cut across the grain of the meat
- Stew meat is cut into one-inch squares
- Stir-fry meat is cut into strips
- Meat scraps can be ground into hamburger
- Hamburger can be used to make jerky later
Add some flavor to elk hamburger
Ground up game meat, particularly elk and deer, is very lean and as a result doesn’t taste quite the same as beef. To enhance the flavor and to bind the meat better while cooking, you can add in some extras.
If you have a hard time with the idea of adding fat to your already healthy, lean game meat, you can also try adding eggs and flour when you cook it. That helps with keeping the meat together and doesn’t make it unhealthy.
Package game meat correctly
The best way to package game meat is by vacuum sealing. It removes all of the air which allows your meat to fresher stay in the freezer for up to two years. You can buy a vacuum sealer here.
Another great option for storing and freezing your meat is wrapping it using plastic wrap and freezer paper.
As a last option, you can store and freeze your meat in Ziploc freezer bags. Although this isn’t the best option, it is the most convenient and that’s what we end up doing. Sometimes the blood leaks out of the bags and it doesn’t stay as fresh. I would recommend using your game meat within one year using this option.
Awesome elk recipes
What good is processing your elk if you don’t have yummy recipes to prepare it? List below are some awesome elk recipes that I know you’ll love.
- Elk pot roast (This is actually a recipe for beef pot roast, but I just use elk roast instead. It’s my favorite.)
- Dr. Pepper Crockpot Elk Stew
- Italian Venison Meatballs
- Venison Jerky
- Elk Mushroom Burger
What other tips do you have for processing game meat? Leave your comments below.
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