Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Aging Your Deer, Part II

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

Whitetail 365
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

January 12, 2011

Aging Your Deer, Part II

By Dave Hurteau

Monday’s post regarding how long to hang your deer raised as many questions as answers. Head up, head down? Skin on, skin off? Age it, don’t age it? Here are my two cents on the first two points:

Head up or down?
I hang deer head-down so that the blood drains away from the best cuts. I also prefer to skin the deer this way and can’t think of any good reason to bother flipping the thing around.

Skin on or off?
Generally, I keep the skin on. The skin can help insulate the meat from varying temps, and as many of you pointed out, it keeps the outside of the meat from drying out and needing to be trimmed. Two exceptions: [1] If it’s warm and I need to cool a carcass fast. In this case I typically bone it out pretty quick and, like Walt and Bubba, let it age in the fridge. And [2] if I’m hunting away from home with friends (as was the case with the doe I referred to in the last post) and plan to transport the deer home for aging. It just makes it easier for me to handle the deer by myself when I get home.

Age it or not?
On this point, if you read my last post you know I think that aging the meat makes it more tender and improves the flavor. As I understand it (and as I wrote in a comment) enzymes naturally present in both venison and beef, including lactic acid, over time break down collagen—the tough connective tissue that binds muscle cells. I also did some poking around on the subject and found this handy chart in a paper on game-meat care by North Dakota State University Professor of Animal and Range Sciences Martin Marchello and Assistant Professor/Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson:

According to Marchello and Robinson: “The question of whether or not to age game meats has always been a point of discussion among hunters. Aging of meat is defined as the practice of holding carcasses or cuts at temperatures of 34 F to 37 F for 10 to 14 days (Figure 3). This allows the enzymes present in the meat to break down some of the complex proteins contained in the carcass. Aging of meat usually improves tenderness and flavor.”

They favor skin-on aging and point out that some cuts needn’t be aged at all: “Processing game meats into sausage or ground meats should be done as soon after harvest as possible to minimize weight loss from drying and deterioration due to microbial growth. Grinding or chopping tenderizes game so aging is not necessary.”

Hope that’s helpful.

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down for sure. Anymore I really don't age meat more than 3 days, just don't see that huge of a difference between taste and tenderness but there is a difference in the moistness. The longer venison is aged the dryer it gets and to me venison is a dry meat to begin with so I question why we treat it like beef that has the marbleing fat that venison doesn't.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down and skin on for me. I will let it hang up to 7 days if temperatures permit. If I am hunting away from home I always bone out the meat and transport it in ice chests.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down and hide on. With the exception of leaving the hide on, there's something to be said about doing it the way butchers have for many, many years. I have also utilized a cradle while skinning, with the carcass spine down.

If the weather isn't cooperating and temps become too hot to safely let the meat age, I will skin and quarter the carcass as soon as possible, then put it directly on ice in an ice chest. Drain the water off every day and add more ice, and you will find the blood with drain from the meat nicely and the meat will taste just fine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Walt,
Good point and I agree in the case of younger deer, which have less collagen and need less time aging. But with an older deer, and more collagen, aging it longer does make a noticeable difference in my opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Thanks that was helpful.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Good topic. I usually butcher a deer within 3 days of the kill. I think I will try aging one a week, though, and check it out.
That is if I harvest one next year!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Just a note, lactic acid may help break down connective tissue in meat, but it isn't an enzyme. Also tenderness and taste are not the same, so I would be hesitant to leave it too long, rotten meat I'm sure is very tender, but you don't want to eat it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Levi,
Right you are. My careless mistake. I can't say with real authority, but I think the enzymes themselves are collagenase, as well as elastase and gelatinase. Do you know if that is correct?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I typically age my deer head down with hide on for a week. If I have to break down a carcass in the field it goes into a 150 quart cooler and is packed in ice. The animal is quartered and the loin section is left whole, this prevents the back straps from contracting under rigor and becoming tough. The drain hole is left open in the cooler and ice added as necessary for the same weeks worth of aging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Dave,
That graph make a great case for aging even at least a few days. Thanks!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mountaindew732 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Just a question to anyone willing to answer. This past year we had below freezing temperatures here in pa during deer season for a straight week which actually was unusual compared to a past few years. My dad elected to leave the hide on the deer while letting it hang for nearly a week. When it came time to skin the deer however it became quite difficult to remove the skin as it was frozen and stuck to the carcass. This also created a problem with tuffs of fur on the meat as we were slicing and dicing. Would you recommomend removing the hide prior to hanging if your temperatures are too low. Also, do you bring your deer in to chop up or do you slice and dice outside in the cold?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

mountaindew I'm no expert, but I've always heard that when the temp is below freezing, leaving the skin on is a bad idea because it will be hell getting it off. I've experienced the same thing. When it's super cold outside, skinning and boning out your deer asap is the best policy. When you bring a cut of meat out of the freezer, you can always "age" it in the fridge for a few days before cooking.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from trapper529 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I have allways skinned and butchered my deer as soon as possible, but now i will try to age one for about a week. Thanks alot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Mountaindew--you never want to allow a carcass to freeze, particularly with the hide on. In an earlier post I described leaving an electric space heater going in my garage to keep elk quarters from freezing. But if you have no other option, I'd skin the animal, quarter it and put in in a cooler or refrigerator for a while. Beekeeper makes a good point about backstraps--you want to keep them attached to the quarters so they don't get tough!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

head down, skin on, 3-5 days. always worked pretty well for me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 4CORN wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

the one point i'd like to add is that if you are going to age your meat , its important to do it before boning it out. this helps prevent contraction of the muscles. if i cant leave the deer hanging, i'll quarter it and put it in the fridge in a bin covered with wax paper. i usually bone and wrap it after 1 week.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Dave, I'm a chemist, not a biochemist, so I don't know too much about specific enzymes, but those sound good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Thanks, Levi.
Between your and me, sounding good is all I was really shooting for.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from jbird wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

mountaindew I'm no expert, but I've always heard that when the temp is below freezing, leaving the skin on is a bad idea because it will be hell getting it off. I've experienced the same thing. When it's super cold outside, skinning and boning out your deer asap is the best policy. When you bring a cut of meat out of the freezer, you can always "age" it in the fridge for a few days before cooking.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down for sure. Anymore I really don't age meat more than 3 days, just don't see that huge of a difference between taste and tenderness but there is a difference in the moistness. The longer venison is aged the dryer it gets and to me venison is a dry meat to begin with so I question why we treat it like beef that has the marbleing fat that venison doesn't.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down and skin on for me. I will let it hang up to 7 days if temperatures permit. If I am hunting away from home I always bone out the meat and transport it in ice chests.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Mountaindew--you never want to allow a carcass to freeze, particularly with the hide on. In an earlier post I described leaving an electric space heater going in my garage to keep elk quarters from freezing. But if you have no other option, I'd skin the animal, quarter it and put in in a cooler or refrigerator for a while. Beekeeper makes a good point about backstraps--you want to keep them attached to the quarters so they don't get tough!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Head down and hide on. With the exception of leaving the hide on, there's something to be said about doing it the way butchers have for many, many years. I have also utilized a cradle while skinning, with the carcass spine down.

If the weather isn't cooperating and temps become too hot to safely let the meat age, I will skin and quarter the carcass as soon as possible, then put it directly on ice in an ice chest. Drain the water off every day and add more ice, and you will find the blood with drain from the meat nicely and the meat will taste just fine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Walt,
Good point and I agree in the case of younger deer, which have less collagen and need less time aging. But with an older deer, and more collagen, aging it longer does make a noticeable difference in my opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Thanks that was helpful.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Good topic. I usually butcher a deer within 3 days of the kill. I think I will try aging one a week, though, and check it out.
That is if I harvest one next year!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Just a note, lactic acid may help break down connective tissue in meat, but it isn't an enzyme. Also tenderness and taste are not the same, so I would be hesitant to leave it too long, rotten meat I'm sure is very tender, but you don't want to eat it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Levi,
Right you are. My careless mistake. I can't say with real authority, but I think the enzymes themselves are collagenase, as well as elastase and gelatinase. Do you know if that is correct?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I typically age my deer head down with hide on for a week. If I have to break down a carcass in the field it goes into a 150 quart cooler and is packed in ice. The animal is quartered and the loin section is left whole, this prevents the back straps from contracting under rigor and becoming tough. The drain hole is left open in the cooler and ice added as necessary for the same weeks worth of aging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Dave,
That graph make a great case for aging even at least a few days. Thanks!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mountaindew732 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Just a question to anyone willing to answer. This past year we had below freezing temperatures here in pa during deer season for a straight week which actually was unusual compared to a past few years. My dad elected to leave the hide on the deer while letting it hang for nearly a week. When it came time to skin the deer however it became quite difficult to remove the skin as it was frozen and stuck to the carcass. This also created a problem with tuffs of fur on the meat as we were slicing and dicing. Would you recommomend removing the hide prior to hanging if your temperatures are too low. Also, do you bring your deer in to chop up or do you slice and dice outside in the cold?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from trapper529 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I have allways skinned and butchered my deer as soon as possible, but now i will try to age one for about a week. Thanks alot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

head down, skin on, 3-5 days. always worked pretty well for me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 4CORN wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

the one point i'd like to add is that if you are going to age your meat , its important to do it before boning it out. this helps prevent contraction of the muscles. if i cant leave the deer hanging, i'll quarter it and put it in the fridge in a bin covered with wax paper. i usually bone and wrap it after 1 week.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Dave, I'm a chemist, not a biochemist, so I don't know too much about specific enzymes, but those sound good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Thanks, Levi.
Between your and me, sounding good is all I was really shooting for.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment