process your own game meat in these easy steps

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Game Processing Step-By-Step

Have you avoided processing your own game meat because you don’t know how?  I used to.  I originally only started processing my own game meat because I was 22, didn’t make a lot of money and, couldn’t justify paying a butcher $75 to process a 100 lb. deer.  Now I do it, because while I make more money, I keep less of it because I am married and have kids.  After a few reps, it’s almost less work than dropping it off at the butcher and, I can have it in my freezer in a matter of hours.  Just one of the great reasons to process your own game meat.    The below steps will walk you through a process to get steak, stew meat and hamburger from your game meat.  While this process may not be how ‘butchers do it’ in 5 minutes you will know everything you need to know to get all the cuts you need.

After you have these steps down make sure you know where good meat comes to keep you on the right path as you do this.

1 – Remove any Damaged Meat

This is anything that has experience trauma from your gun shot or arrow wound.  This step will take place throughout your game animal processing ideally, only when you are working on the front quarter.  This is easily identified purple and bright red mucus-y meat that looks like bruising. Just cut it out, discard and move along.  My second shot on an antelope once was high and blew off almost an entire back-strap… not a good day.

2 – Cut out the Easy Steak Meat

These are your back-straps and and tenderloins.  This is where you are going to get your best steaks and game meat.  Once you find them a good way to think about it is like you are skinning the meat from the bone.  Cut into the back-strap at the spine and try to get as close to the spine as possible.  Similar to taking out the breast on a bird, find the bone and trace along it all the way down.  You”ll similarly find the far edge of the back-strap.  Pull the back-straps out in two (right and left) large pieces.  You will do the same for the tenderloins.  With these long strips you’ll slice it into steaks of your desired thickness.  For the back-straps you will need to pick a point where you delineate back-strap from neck meat.  I usually do this at the shoulder.  I usually turn the neck meat into hamburger and stew meat.

3 – Start Sorting Hamburger and Stew Meat

I like to have two bowls while I processing.  One is for hamburger and one is for stew meat.  Whenever I cut a piece of meat that isn’t steak I cut it into a 2 inch cube and it either put it in the hamburger or stew meat bowl.  If it looks like solid meat with little to no gristle I’ll put it in the stew meat bowl.  Anything else goes in the hamburger bowl.  If I cut of pure tendon or something that isn’t recognizable as meat or fat I’ll discard it but you really don’t need to, that’s what hamburger is for.  While this applies to the entire process this will really come into play when de-boning the 4 quarters.

Often on smaller animals like deer and antelope, I end up turning a larger percentage of meat into hamburger.  This is because you don’t have the mass to work with to get good stew meat especially on the front quarters.  Its really a matter of your patience.  For me, I’ll often default to hamburger if it becomes difficult.  This is a good lesson when you first start out.  When in doubt, turn it into hamburger.  You’ll make better cuts the more you do it.   Hamburger is the most versatile cooking meat out there anyway.

4 – De-bone the 4 quarters

The principles for all 4 quarters are the same.  You can remove the quarters first by cutting at the shoulder and hip joints.  De-boning the meat you will follow the bone and cut the meat off, like you are skinning the meat off the bone.  See a good video courtesy of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  On the rear quarters you will see large round and sirloin roasts that will be recognizable as you as long as you focus on removing the meat from the bone.  These you can cut into steaks or roasts as mentioned before.  Again, segmenting stew and hamburger meat as you go.

5 – Making Hamburger out of game meat

Seems hard but, this is actually the easiest step of processing your game meat.  While getting a stand alone meat grinder is nice, I used a meat grinder accessory for our Kitchen-Aid mixer for a lot of years.  The real trick here is to make sure your hamburger ‘chunks’ stay cold.  As close to freezing as possible.  Where all these machines gum up is when the fatty, gristly meat you are trying to grind turns into 50 degree animal sludge.  The main advantage of having a purpose a built grinder is you can put the head (of the grinder) in the freezer over night.  SoSteak and Hamburger Vacuum Sealedme even come with ice pack collars for this very purpose.  I’ve gotten accustom to almost fat free game hamburger however most butchers will give you slabs of cow fat if you want to add some fat content.  Some foods need a little fat to stick together (hamburger patties, meatloaf etc…).

6 – Vacuum Sealing your game meat

The only two items you will need are a meat grinder and a vacuum sealer.  Vacuum sealers, while technically not a necessity, really are an amazing product for the price.  You can get a good-enough model for between $50-$100 and it’ll give your meat years of freezer life if you choose.  They are simple to use and are great in that you can see exactly how many steaks you put in a package before you defrost them.

 

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