Have you ever heard someone say, “I hate deer meat,” “Deer meat is gross,” or “I’ll never eat that again“? Honestly, when I hear that I automatically think they are just being big babies–sorry, no offense, but the truth of the matter is if their deer wasn’t handled correctly, it most likely was gross, so try to not be judgmental and call them big babies like I just did.
However, we must be honest too and admit that some people think it’s gross because they can’t stand the thought of eating anything that’s not from the grocery store and some people won’t even try it.
I can’t always change their minds about eating venison, but I can tell you how to make sure your venison doesn’t taste gross and hopefully, the wonderful smells and yummy looking food will change their minds.
We want your venison to taste great and in my opinion how you process it–from the beginning to the end has everything to do with. So let’s go over some tips to make your venison delicious.
Let’s go in order…
The age of the deer:
The younger the deer the more tender the meat will be. I’m not saying to take a fawn, but a nice year and a half old deer of either sex would be best if you want tender meat.
If you are adamant on taking trophy’s, which will mean you will be taking older bucks, then you can do things to avoid being stuck with tough meat.
You can tenderize old deer meat by pounding it with a tenderizing hammer and soaking it in buttermilk overnight. Some people like to soak it in a marinade, but to me, it just changes the flavor and you still have a tough meat. Some people like to soak it in a salt water brine or a vinegar and water mixture. I personally do not do this, but some swear by it. To each their own.
If you don’t have time to do the above, you can always grind the meat and make ground deer burger, sausages, etc… or make jerky out of it, but with proper venison aging (see Aging venison below) you won’t need to worry about tough meat.
Have good shot placement:
It’s best if a deer goes down soon after being shot. The quicker the deer dies, the better the meat will taste and for two different reasons. First, this makes for a quick recovery and field dressing and secondly, the deer doesn’t have time to build up lots of acid from stress, which causes the meat to have more of the infamous gamey taste.
Sometimes it doesn’t work this way, so to avoid this from happening target practice, target practice, target practice!!! I cannot stress this enough. Become extremely familiar with your bow and/or gun and study deer anatomy. Learn, challenge yourself and become a better hunter.
The better you are at hitting the bulls-eye, the better your shot when shooting a deer and the quicker you can recover your deer. Besides, who doesn’t love to target practice?
Field dress, quarter and cool ASAP:
Field dress the deer ASAP to avoid gaminess and bacteria. The longer it has the organs still intact, especially on a warm day, the chances of your deer ruining are much higher–think bacteria!
Carefully remove all of the vital organs, making sure not to poke or gouge anything. Trust me, the last things you’d want to do is rip into the guts.
Rinse the inside out with water and then let it hang as you quarter and remove all of the eatable parts of the deer. Just a little tip–it’s helpful to have a drip pan below the deer’s head so things can fall into that instead of the ground or floor.
It’s nice to leave a deer hanging for 24 hours in a protected place, such as a walk-in cooler if you are able. Most of us don’t have that option, so for us, it’s important to go ahead and skin, quarter, and cool a deer in coolers with ice or a refrigerator.
The faster you get the deer cooled, the better. If the temp is in the lower 30’s or cooler it will be okay and you can take your time, but during bow season here in NC and most other places, it’s still very hot–up in the 90’s.
We have an extra refrigerator in our building just for keeping venison. As each piece of meat is rendered we place it in an airtight container or unscented bags and then straight into the refrigerator.
Deer season is during the same time as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and we have a lot of food in our refrigerator during that time. It’s a huge inconvenience to have all that food, plus venison, so an extra fridge is very handy.
To learn how to field dress, skin, and quarter a deer please click the photo below…
Keep the meat clean:
If you don’t do everything possible to keep the deer clean, from the woods to the table, it’s not going to taste well. Different hunters use different processes, but while you are removing it from the woods, make sure no debris can get on the meat.
Be as clean as possible during the whole process. Then you can rinse it very well with water to remove anything that shouldn’t be there. Keep doing it until it’s perfect.
One time a neighbor gave us the shoulders and hams from a deer because he had more than enough. I was very thankful, but when I started the cleaning process I noticed a lot of dirt and leaves and I found some bone fragments as well because he quartered the deer with a hacksaw–not saying anything is wrong with that, but he was very sloppy with it.
I rinsed the meat for so long trying to get it clean. Not to mention that I accidentally cut my hand on the jagged ham bone because I didn’t realize it was cut jaggedly.
Where he quartered the meat carelessly, it was discolored, jagged, and very dirty. I even found a store receipt on one of the hams–yes, a receipt! Lord only knows how it got on the deer meat.
It was downright shameful! That deer lost its life so people could eat and it deserved more respect than that.
He ruined the deer and even though I hated to, for the health of my family, since I couldn’t get it clean properly and was unsure of what actually might be on the meat we threw it away and never accepted deer from him again.
Process it yourself:
When my family first started hunting I didn’t like deer meat. It had a nasty taste to it. I found pieces of bone, rocks, dirt, and leaves and the thing is, our meat was always 100% clean. I’m not sure the meat I was getting was actually our deer. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thrown away.
Then we started processing the meat ourselves so we’d know it was clean and I started loving it. The meat looked and smelled differently. I couldn’t resist–I had to try some and I’ve been hooked ever since!
I’m not saying all processors are bad or unclean. They’re some really good ones out there. All I’m saying is if you don’t want to process the meat yourself, please do some research before having your deer ruined. Ask your fellow hunters who they would recommend.
Remove all deer fat, tendons, and sinew:
If you process your own venison, remove all of the fat, tendons, and sinew (silver skin) from the deer meat. If this is left on it will, not only change the taste of the meat drastically, but it changes the texture as well. It will be gamey and it will turn you against venison. This is another reason I like to process my own venison because a lot of processors will not remove the tendons and sinew.
Some people will leave on some of the thinner sinew and tendons and say you will never notice it’s in the meat and this is ok, but I like to remove as much as possible, and yes, it’s tedious, but to me, it’s worth it.
Aging venison makes it very tender, plus the flavor is much better. There are many different ways to age venison and everyone seems to do it a little differently.
In short, aging consists of letting the natural enzymes in the venison break down, creating a tender, less gamey meat. To learn more about aging venison, please click the post below…
Have on hand beef or pork fat:
You need a fat to mix in with the venison to help the meat hold together, like when you make burgers, meatloaf, etc…. We like to use beef fat, but some people like to use pork fat. They both are good, so use whatever you have available.
It’s good to have the fat on hold in the freezer before deer season ever opens. This way you’re not calling around trying to find fat at the last minute and taking a chance on not finding any at all.
Then all you’ll have to do is get the fat out of the freezer, put it in the fridge, and let it thaw naturally and use it when ready. Some people like to use it while it’s still frozen. It makes it easier to cut/grind. The choice is yours.
Keep meat in a vacuum sealer if frozen:
If you plan to freeze your venison I would recommend using a vacuum sealer. I’ve never been fond of wrapping it in paper or any other type of wrap. With a vacuum sealer, you know for a fact it’s going to stay tightly sealed, never get freezer burned, and it will look fresher when thawed.
With that being said, I do use good brand name freezer bags sometimes on the first deer of the season, especially for deer burger and sausage because I know I’ll be fixing it before it has time to get freezer burned. It seems like the first deer is gone in weeks.
If you decide to use freezer bags use a quart sized bag, weigh out 1 lb of venison and put it in the bag and press the meat flat. Wipe your hand across the bag, pushing any excess air from the bag. Seal it and place it in the freezer. Try not to stack the packs of meat on one another–it takes longer to freeze and will not freeze evenly.
Thaw the meat slowly:
It helps to thaw the meat slowly in the fridge. Just get it out of the freezer a day or two beforehand and let it thaw naturally. You can rush it along if you add cold water, but I wouldn’t do anything else. If you try to rush it, the meat will get tough.
I remember a long time ago I was in a hurry and put some backstrap pieces in the microwave and tried to defrost it. Bad mistake! It actually cooked the edges of the meat. Of course, I trimmed the edges and fried the backstrap anyway, but it didn’t taste as good and I felt guilty for wasting. Live and learn!
Don’t overcook the meat:
Deer meat gets done quicker than beef, so please don’t treat it as beef. We like our food well done–I know a lot of you are shaking your head right now, but that’s the way we like. It is possible to have tender well-done meat.
I recommend simply paying attention as you cook. Don’t walk off from the kitchen, pay attention to the clock, and if it looks done–it is. Don’t feel as if you need to cook it a little more just to make sure. I know some people like this!
Also, if you’re fixing burgers or some type of whole meat, like steaks, make sure the pan is already heated to the correct temperature, which is typically medium-high heat and turn the meat only once. This will help it be more tender as well and it will taste awesome.
For ground sausage and ground burger, fry less than 10 minutes. Don’t cook a steak or burger for longer than 3-4 minutes on each side–rare = 125, medium = 145, and well done = 160.
Be sure to let the meat rest for about three minutes before eating. This way you won’t lose any delicious juices.
In time, you’ll learn exactly how long it takes to cook venison just the way you and your family like it, so don’t stress over it.
For now, that’s my tips to help you have better-tasting venison meals. I hope the non-venison eaters will smell your wonderful food and not be able to resist trying a bite. If they do, they’ll be hooked.
Now that you know how I make my venison tasty and delicious, please check out our delicious and easy deer recipes.