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Tips for preserving deer meat

By submitted, 11/13/17 1:27 PM


Savoring the Hunt – The Safe Way

HOPE – It’s DEER SEASON! For many, deer season means an opportunity to stock the freezer with hearty game to prepare in the coming months.

Game meats are excellent sources of protein and similar in composition to domestic animal meats. Calorie and fat contents vary with the age and species of the animal. A 3 1/2-ounce portion (before cooking) of game meat provides about half the daily adult protein requirement and about 150 calories. Game meats are usually slightly lower in total fat but higher in polyunsaturated fats than grain-fed beef. Proper handling of the meat at each step from field to table helps ensure optimum eating quality

While wild game meats are wholesome and nourishing, these meats also perishable, meaning properly handling of the meat at each step from field to table is of optimum importance. Careful handling and thoughtful preservation is vital to retain quality, prevent spoilage, and avoid any food-related illnesses resulting from wild game consumption.

Freezing meats such as deer and elk is the most accepted way to maintain top quality. Other methods for preserving game meats include curing and smoking, drying, corning, canning and sausage making. For our simple purposes, this article will focus on the freezing method and also on standard food safety practices regarding wild game.

To ensure good quality in frozen meat, keep these steps in mind:

1. Freeze meat while it is fresh and in top condition.

2. Select proper freezer wrapping materials. To ensure quality, the wrapping material needs to be moisture/ vapor resistant. Be sure to use packaging material designed for freezing.

3. Wrap tightly; pressing out as much air as possible.

4. Freeze and store at 0 F or lower.

5. Avoid long storage periods. Most wild game will keep up to one year frozen without loss of quality. Vacuum packaging of meat before freezing will help maintain excellent quality of the meat.

The time before freezing and after thawing meat is a critical time to adhere to basic food safety recommendations. Here is a list of guidelines to follow to help keep you and your family safe from food-related illnesses:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before beginning to work and after changing tasks or after doing anything that could contaminate your hands, such as sneezing or using the bathroom.


  • Start with clean equipment. After using, clean equipment thoroughly with hot soapy water.


  • After washing cutting boards, other equipment and surfaces with hot soapy water and rinsing, sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or approximately 1 teaspoon per four cups water). After spraying the surface or dipping cutting boards in the solution, allow to air-dry. Remake sanitizing solution daily.


  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods on cutting boards and other work surfaces. Consider using color-coded cutting boards.


  • If using frozen meat in sausage formulations, thaw it in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below on the lowest shelf to avoid dripping of juices on ready-to-eat foods. (or consider using a bowl to hold it as it thaws)


  • Keep meat as cold as possible (40 F or lower) during sausage processing.


  • Use a food thermometer to measure internal temperature of smoked meat and other preserved meat. Use a food thermometer to measure doneness in cooked meat, too.


  • Game meats should be cooked to at least 165° F to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.


  • Use a pressure canner (not a water bath canner) when canning game meat. Dial gauge pressure canners should be calibrated yearly. Dial Gauges may be tested for free at the county Extension office.

Venison Steak, Italian Style

4 venison steaks

½ medium onion

Sliced 1 green pepper, cut into strips

1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes

Dash of garlic powder (optional)

Dash of oregano (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Dredge steaks in flour. Fry in skillet with sliced onion until brown. Add strips of green pepper and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic powder and/or oregano if desired. Simmer ½ to 1 hour. Serve on rice.

Makes four servings. Each serving contains about 267 calories, 8.6 g fat, 19 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber and 116 mg cholesterol.

Information for this article was taken from “Care and Handling of Deer from Field to Table” (Kansas State University Extension, MF2176) and from “Wild Side of the Menu, No.1, Care and Cookery” (North Dakota State University Extension Service, FN-124).

For more information contact the Hempstead County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-777-5771 or email tjames@uaex.edu .



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