Deer meat (also known as venison) can be substituted for beef or chicken in a variety of recipes. Our family uses it to make everything from tacos and burgers to tenderloin and chili. The key to good venison is knowing how to process, store, and prepare it properly.
Freezing fresh deer meat is one of the best ways to maintain quality. Other methods for preserving it include curing and smoking, drying, corning, canning and making sausage. Today I’ll focus on the freezing method and standard food safety practices regarding venison.
To ensure good quality in frozen meat, keep these steps in mind:
- Freeze the meat while it is fresh and in top condition.
- Select proper packaging materials. Moisture/vapor resistant freezer wrap is best.
- Divide the meat into meal-size quantities.
- Wrap tightly; pressing out as much air as possible before sealing.
- Label packages with contents and date.
- Freeze and store at 0° F or lower.
- Avoid long storage periods. Most frozen wild game will keep up to one year without affecting the quality if it is properly wrapped.
The time before freezing and after thawing meat is a critical time to follow basic food safety recommendations. Here is a list of guidelines 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 doing anything that could contaminate your hands.
- Start with clean equipment. After using, wash all equipment and surfaces with hot soapy water.
- Keep raw meat separate from other foods on cutting boards and other work surfaces. Consider using color-coded cutting boards. At our house we use one for meat, one for veggies, etc.
- Thaw frozen meat in a refrigerator at 40° or below on the lowest shelf to avoid dripping the juices on other foods. Meat may also be thawed in a microwave as long as it is cooked immediately afterwards.
- Marinate meat in the refrigerator in a covered container or plastic storage bag and rotate/shake so the marinade evenly coats the meat. For the best flavor, marinate for at least four hours. Then be sure to discard the marinade that has been in contact with meat.
- Use a food thermometer. Wild game should be cooked to at least 165° F to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
- Promptly refrigerate leftover cooked meat in shallow pans and use within two to three days.
Here’s one of our favorite recipes for Deer Tenderloin. Marinating it overnight really enhances the flavor and tenderness of the meat. Give it a try, and you may find that this is one of your favorite venison recipes too!
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ground mustard
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 venison tenderloin (4 ounces each)
- In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first nine ingredients; add fillets. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain and discard marinade. Grill fillets, uncovered, over medium-hot heat for 4 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165°.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 180 Calories, Total Fat 7 g, Protein 27 g, Total Carbohydrate less than 1 g, Dietary Fiber 0 g, Sodium 290 mg.
Download your copy here: Deer Tenderloin
Do you have a favorite venison recipe? If so, please share it with me on Facebook! I look forward to trying something new!