There is no better feeling than eating something that you’ve hunted, processed, and cooked yourself. Today, we’ll cover the steps of deer meat processing, what cuts are best for grilling, and a tasty recipe for grilling venison at home.
Shoot It, Gut It, and Cut It
The first steps of deer meat processing are pretty straightforward, “shoot it, gut it, and cut it.” After a quick, clean shot, hoist the deer up by its hind legs to prepare it for cleaning.
Most people refer to this step as “field dressing” because this is normally performed in the field, right after the kill. You want the meat to cool as quickly as possible, so have a sharp knife ready.
For step by step instructions on field dressing, visit the Hunter Education Course page on skinning and field dressing.
If you’re hunting on a particularly hot day, bring a cooler with you so you have a way to keep the meat cool on your way home.
At this point, you should be at home in your garage, in the yard, or anywhere you can make a mess. String up your deer by the hind legs, and have a sharp knife and a sharpener handy.
The following is a basic butchering list for deer meat. For full step by step instructions on how to remove each cut, check out the full list from Northern Woodlands:
- Shoulders: Usually a tough cut. This meat is best used for roasts and stews
- Back Straps: Try to get all of the prime back meat that you can because this is the cut that will give you the loin and tenderloin for venison steaks.
- Neck Meat: The neck cut will give you quite a bit of meat that is very good for grinding or making a roast.
- Rib Meat: Depending on how you butcher your deer, this part of the deer can give you brisket, good grinding meat, or even bone-in venison chops.
- Sirloin: Definitely don’t forget to cut your sirloin out of the hindquarters. Sirloin tips are great for roasts & stew, and the top round is perfect for steaks.
- Hind Quarter: The rest of the hind quarter will consist of the rump roast, bottom round, and the eye of the round, which are all best used for roasts and stews.
- Leftover Meat: Any meat that can be easily removed can be saved and used for stews or grinding to make jerky.
Muscle groups are very defined and easy to pull apart. Make sure to remove all of the connective tissue and “silverskin” layer from the meat, otherwise, your deer meat taste very gamey.
Meat Processing and Storage
Once you’re finished separating your cuts, you will most likely want to get it prepped for wrapping and freezing. For the final steps of deer meat processing, you will need to know what you want the end product to be. Here are just a few examples of what you can do with your venison:
Venison jerky is one of the most popular ways to use the tougher cuts. There are two different methods for making venison jerky:
- First, grind any meat you want to use with an electric meat grinder. Then, mix your ground venison with your cure and seasoning (original or hot), letting it marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight. After that, load your meat into a jerky gun, fire the meat onto a tray, and place it in a dehydrator for 4-15 hours (this will depend on how much meat is in the dehydrator, how thick the jerky is, and the dehydrator itself. Check your dehydrators instruction manual for a more accurate time.)
- The second way to make jerky is to use an electric slicer to cut your meat into 1/4″ thick slices. Marinate the venison slices for 6-8 hours or overnight, and again, simply put your slices in the dehydrator for 4-15 hours (depending on the dehydrator).
Once you have removed any hair, connective tissue, and silverskin from the tenderloin, you can prepare it into venison steaks. Cut the tenderloins against the grain into 1/2″ steaks. You can also cut this portion into cubes for stew or even smaller for stir-fry.
Making venison sausage is a great way to use up the tougher cuts of meat. You will want to grab a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer for sure. If you want to make brats, you will need some sausage casings as well.
Your sausage should be at least a 50/50 mixture of ground venison and ground pork or beef because venison will become quite dry on its own. Once your meat is mixed well, add in your cure and seasonings, mix well, and send the mixture through the sausage stuffer. For step by step instructions, visit OutdoorNews.com.
Meat Not Tender Enough?
Depending on the cut and cooking method, venison can get very tough. A great way to prepare more tender venison is to brine it before you cook. Check out our brining post for step by step instructions.
Seal & Freeze
Using a marker, date and name each package so you can quickly find the meat later. Then, put that deer meat in the freezer to keep it fresh until you are ready to cook.
Meat processing may seem like a lot of work, but when you start putting your venison steaks on the grill, it will all be worth it. The best cuts to grill are the backstrap, tenderloin, and sirloin cuts. Below is a tasty recipe for your backstrap or tenderloins (your choice).
Grilled Venison Backstrap
Prep Time: 30 min
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 Deer backstrap or 2 deer tenderloins (time on the grill will need to be adjusted for tenderloins or smaller backstraps)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dry oregano
- 2-3 minced garlic cloves
- Mix olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano in a large bowl.
- Add your backstrap (or tenderloins) and coat the entire piece of meat evenly with the mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you’re ready to grill (You can let this sit anywhere from 1 hour to overnight.)
- Set your grill to high heat and let it warm up. Once you’re ready, place your marinated venison on the grill and close the cover.
- Check the meat after about 7-8 minutes (depending on the size it might take less or more time). Once you have some nice grill marks, flip it to the other side.
- Continue grilling until your meat reaches an internal temperature of 130-135F in the thickest section. Venison dries out very easily, so make sure you don’t overcook it.
- Remove the loin from the grill and immediately wrap with foil for at least 10 minutes.
- Finally, unwrap, slice it up, and enjoy!
We are always looking for new tips, tricks, and recipes for meat processing and grilling. If you have any special venison recipes, leave them in the comments section or post a picture on our Facebook and Twitter pages!