Meat butchering/processing tips


October 26, 2012, 04:39 PM
Hey guys

The last few years I have paid for my deer to be processed. Id just dress them and then take them in to be ground/sliced/ made into sausage.

Well I am done paying that kind of money when I can just do it for free.

I have access to my Grandad's vacuum sealer and am well versed in getting the meat. I do not have a grinder at this point but would consider it if the price was low enough. I just do not have a lot of cash to spare with a baby on the way.

My biggest dilemma is I do not have anywhere to "hang and cure" the meat. How do you guys go about this?
I have read of people using their fridge to do it, but that would not fly with around my house...

What is your process/method of doing this? And any helpful tips from you experienced hunters??


If you enjoyed reading about "Meat butchering/processing tips" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
October 26, 2012, 04:47 PM
The meat doesn't really need to cure but it cuts a lot easier if its cold. I have put a whole 200 pound Illinois whitetail in a 128qt marine cooler with ice. Leave the drain open so it isn't sitting in water as the ice melts. Obviously, it will only fit if it is front and hind quarters and neck, back straps.

October 26, 2012, 04:47 PM
Venison does not have marbled fat like beef does. The marbled fat in beef is supposedly what causes the benefits in aging.

This is why many will tell you that 'aging' venison does nothing whatsoever.

If you have a garage or a spare portion of your abode, keep your eye on for a free working refrigerator. They are out there. You can designate it as the 'deer fridge'.

October 26, 2012, 04:50 PM
I do my grinding with a hand crank grinder that clamps to the counter.

October 26, 2012, 05:27 PM
We have a four footed grinder that my dad set up with a 3/4hp electric motor for grinding - total cost was $60; new grinder and brushes for the salvaged motor. It will process an entire elk in less than 15 minutes.

We do not cure our deer, elk, antelope, moose, or anything else for that matter. We are very meticulous about gutting and skinning - no hair, dirt, feces or entrails in our meat. We have had many guests that have tried venison before and did not like it but loved ours. We took an old doe to a processor once to get sausage made and the packages we got had hair and dung in them, never again.

October 26, 2012, 06:02 PM
Started with a hand crank grinder....after doing 10+ deer a season your arm will need therapy, later moved up to a 1hp electric....a dream machine.

Grinder, vac sealer, and a freezer is all you need.

October 26, 2012, 06:17 PM
If you already have a KitchenAid mixer you can get a meat grinder attachment for it.
You can't kill those things.

41 Mag
October 26, 2012, 06:22 PM
As mentioned look for yourself a game fridge, or freezer. I have one at our farm which is solely set up for chilling out feral hogs, or bags of ice till they are needed. I have several wire type baskets in it which are used upside down to set in hams, shoulders, and what ever else I need to chill out quickly. I don't have it turned down much past 40 degrees, but it will keep ice for at least a couple of weeks before it starts to show any sign of melting. You can look on Craigs list or shop around at some of the discount appliance centers locally to see what a good size might run you.

As for the processing, we usually do what we can and prefer to keep things in bigger portions. We do have a small electric grinder we picked up for cheap and figured if we liked it we would get a better made one. Well that has been some 8 or more years and the cheapie is still running strong. We separate the individual muscles and either cut them into cutlets and tenderize them before packaging, or we trim out the sinue and tendons and simply grind them up. The one thing you DO want to look for and remove are the little glands you will find in and around some of the muscles. They will look like a wet raisin or a fat no legged tick. They are pretty easily seen and are in between the muscles, once you find the first one you will know what to look for. They can make that next bit of meat pretty distasteful.

When we are making sausage or grinding up pure deer meat we usually try and stock up on some bacon ends when we can catch them on sale at the local market. THe meat is so dry that you need a little bit of something in there to help hold it together if your making burgers or meat loaf. Same with pan sausage it has to have some added fat in it due to being so lean or it will simply crumble up in small pieces. We grind the meat, then the bacon ends, and hand mix them together in a big SS bowl, adding in seasoning as we mix, then we will run it back through the grinder once more for good measure. This usually blends everything up very well and since we use a coarse cutter it also cuts the meat just a little bit finer.

For the ribs, hams, or shoulders on a hog, we usually just trim them up and wrap them whole. When we cook them up we do the whole thing first putting them on the pit for a hour or two, then wrap them in foil toss in a pan and throw them into the oven at about 230 for 4-6 hours. They come out tender as can be and very moist. After the initial cook we take what ever is left over, and either refreeze it for a quick heat up meal later, or put it in a crock pot full of beans for another supper during the week.

Hope this helps.

October 26, 2012, 09:05 PM

Not the same model, but similar to mine I got from Academy 8 or 10 years back. It's a nice hunter sized grinder that stuffs well, too. Came with stuffer tubes, but I had to buy the stuffer plate for it.

NUMBER ONE, soak that deer on ice water for 2 or 3 days to get the blood out, change the water out each morning and fresh ice. I haven't had a gamey deer since I started that back 30 years ago.

I quit taking meat for sausage at about a buck ten a pound UNsmoked. I have done my own for since I got the grinder. Well, I had a cheaper grinder before this one, too much plastic, didn't hold up. Mine's all stainless with a plastic cover on the body of it.

I just put mine in plastic bags. My next step is the vacuum sealer. My SIL has one and it's kinda neat. :D Heck, I also use good old fashioned masking tape and freezer paper.

Anymore, I'll take a couple of rump roasts off the hind quarters for the slow cooker, the back strap and tenderloin get saved. The rest is either ground for sausage or chili meat. I will occasionally jerk some. I eat a lot of hog. Hogs are great for the pit/smoker. Venison...not so much, too dry.

Texan Scott
October 26, 2012, 10:09 PM
I don't cure venison. It's too lean, there's no point. Especially if grinding- NP point at all
Take it off the bone, do what you will with it, and put it in the freezer asap

October 26, 2012, 10:28 PM
Thank you everyone for your responses. As always timely and very informative.
Gotta love the high road!

Hey MC, I see on the academy site that it comes with a 7/8" stuffing tube. Is this for stuffing sausages?

I will probably end up doing the cooler method and water change, and luckily I already have a "garage fridge".. I just wish I had a nice deep freeze as well, but in the meantime I can use my freezer I have in the garage and a little bit of what is in the house.

Also, assuming this vacuum sealer doesnt work as well as I am hoping... how well does the freezer paper work?

Thank you sirs

October 26, 2012, 10:33 PM
This is what I do:

I dress and wash the deer, a saw the spine in half longways with a sawsall while the deer is hanging. I leave the shoulder and ribcage intact but cut the hindquarters off. Put one half of the deer in an ice chest, the other in another, or all in one if you have one big enough. Fill the chests with ice and leave it for a week or so, adding ice as needed. This helps make a clean tasting non-gamy meat if the cleaning was done properly.

Take a filet knife and some other assorted knives and sharpen them really well and sit down at your cleaning table and start cutting hunks of meat off. The natural lines of the sinews and membranes will help guide your knife. Try to filet the meat off of the silverskin when you can within reason. The whiter the silverskin is, the tougher it will be. I grind the shoulders, neck, and ribmeat and other scraps into hamburger, so make hamburger last to make use of those scraps. Pick up a cheap oster or westbend or whatever electric grinder on ebay. If you leave a lot of silverskin on (I don't even try to get rid of the silverskin in the front legs... too much work and wastes meat) then doublegrind your meat. I go to the local store that cuts their own meat for their meat dept and ask for beef fat. I like to add 20% beef fat to my deer since deer is so lean, but my wife likes me to add less. It makes the meat much better and not so dry and packy. You can make hamburgers this way and not know it's deer. They may give it to you or sell it very cheap. Mix it in well, then i like to freeze it in roughly 1 lb packs. I use either foodsavers or ziplocks. Form your 1 lb of ground meat into a football shaped ball so you can drop it into the bag without making smears on the edges where the bag needs to be clean and seal. Seal it, then mash it out flat so it can be stacked in the freezer.

For the backstrap, cut it like you like it (butterflied, cubed, steaked) And same with the hams. I like to put up some cubed for stews and bacon wrapped venison on the grill. I also like to make butterfly steaks out of the backstrap, and the tenderloin gets kept whole. If I get enough deer, I throw some of the backstraps and hams on the slicer and make jerky.

It's not hard to do. Once you get into it, you'll see what needs to be done. I paid for a deer once and I didn't get the amount of meat I expected, it wasn't as good, and it wasn't packaged as I would have preferred. It also cost too much, so I do it myself. I get a sense of satisfaction that way anyway... I took it from hoof to table.

October 26, 2012, 10:53 PM
Freezer paper works fine. Ziploc bags work even better....either is much cheaper than vacuum sealing.

October 26, 2012, 10:55 PM
It's not hard to do. Once you get into it, you'll see what needs to be done. I paid for a deer once and I didn't get the amount of meat I expected, it wasn't as good, and it wasn't packaged as I would have preferred. It also cost to much, so I do it myself. I get a sense of satisfaction that way anyway... I took it from hoof to table.

Exactly what I've been thinking.

October 26, 2012, 10:57 PM
I hunted for about 7 years with a friend--his wife--his brother-in -law & their nephew. I would call them meat hunters--they were not up there for the sport.They had lots of coolers--dry ice--grinders--gas generator & the rangers watching us like a hawk.
I always had lots of free meat.
I quit going with them when his wife pumped a 30/30 into him---I guess you could say that she had a very bad temper. Even tho he was full of fiberglas to hold him together--he outlived her by 6 years.-----------:uhoh::uhoh:

October 27, 2012, 12:56 AM
I made my grinder with a old hand grinder and a grain elevator motor works great.

October 27, 2012, 10:56 AM
Hey MC, I see on the academy site that it comes with a 7/8" stuffing tube. Is this for stuffing sausages?

Yep. Mine came with several size tubes. Depends on the casing you buy as to which one you'll need. Works well, but you'll need a stuffing plate, too, and you take the blade out when using the stuffing plate.

I will probably end up doing the cooler method and water change, and luckily I already have a "garage fridge".. I just wish I had a nice deep freeze as well, but in the meantime I can use my freezer I have in the garage and a little bit of what is in the house.

I have a small chest freezer that will hold 4 or 5 deer. I had a larger one, but it quit on me and I got this little one for about 150 bucks on sale. They've got 8 CF ones at Walmart for 200 now. They aren't expensive, the little ones, and they hold more'n you'd think. I usually have mine mostly full of pork. I don't need a bigger freezer. I've still got sausage I made last year. Of course, I've got it stored at a friend's and haven't eaten any in a couple of months with all this move going on. We're moving up to Rock Island, which is between Hallettsville and Eagle Lake on 90A, soon as we close. It's a HUD foreclosure and HUD is a typical federal bureaucracy, all I got to say on THAT. :rolleyes: Anyway, the house has an older fridge in it, guess these folks were living on a shoe string, used fridge and stove 20 years older than the house. We're bringing our fridge with us and I'm going to set the older one on the back porch for beer and cokes like my redneck BIL.. I plan to keep tubs and milk cartons of water in the freezer for ice so I don't have to run to town to buy it when I'm soaking meat. That's the plan, anyway. :D A commercial ice maker would be nice, but probably overkill, not to mention expensive.

Also, assuming this vacuum sealer doesnt work as well as I am hoping... how well does the freezer paper work?

It'll keep for at least a year W/O freezer burn. It's the old school way. :D A vacuum sealer is NOT a high priority for ME, put it that way, I just like how tidy the packages are when you vacuum seal 'em.

October 27, 2012, 11:04 AM
I hunted for about 7 years with a friend--his wife--his brother-in -law & their nephew. I would call them meat hunters--they were not up there for the sport.They had lots of coolers--dry ice--grinders--gas generator & the rangers watching us like a hawk.

Can't do that in Texas anymore. Has to be quartered in tact on ice until you get it home. You can't bone it out, grind anything in the field, only after you get it home. But, I soak the meat several days, anyway. I don't like gamey venison.

October 27, 2012, 02:06 PM
Maybe Illinois corn fed deer are different than Texas deer but I've never soaked a deer and if any of the last 50 plus deer were gamey it was only a buck or two taken during the rut.
Vac sealers. After I wore out my first one and broke my second one, I bought a commercial grade sealer, best money I ever spent.
Hand crank grinders are OK but a 3/4 up or bigger grinder makes the job much easier. If you get 2 or3 buddies to share the cost and the work it is well worth it.
I like to chill my deer down overnight and cut and wrap the next day. I've probably been involved in processing 70 deer and a few pronghorn and elk. None required aging and the gamey taste has more to do with how it is handled than anything else. If you want the best tasting wild game meat just remember:
Kill it well
Keep it clean
Cool it quick

October 27, 2012, 02:08 PM
Most deer around this part of the state are acorn fed. I'm not sure if that's the difference, but doe, buck, no matter, I've had gamey venison until I started soaking the blood out of the meat. I field dress on the spot and get 'em on ice post haste. It also works to get the funk out of Javelina.

Helps to have nearly frozen meat for grinding. I will often freeze the boned meat in baggies and grind at my leisure. I'll thaw until it's still partially frozen, flexible, and grind. The blade/plate seems to stay cleaner that way, don't have to pull it apart so much to get the gristle out that I missed when boning.

October 28, 2012, 02:41 AM
Yeah my uncle actually does the same method with the coolers, but I think it's mostly because it's easy.. We get them quartered/backstraps and whatnot then he just tosses em in the cooler with ice.

So anyway do you have a dedicated cooler for this? I'd rather my ice chest not smell like bloody deer everytime I open it if it is one of my "regular" coolers.

Anyways thanks again.
Your advice is always appreciated in my book MC

41 Mag
October 28, 2012, 06:30 AM
With all of my coolers, no matter what was in them, before they are put away they are scrubbed with a little bit of Comet or similar powdered cleaner, then after rinsing, I spritz them down real good with a 2-1 water/bleach solution using one of the cheap hand held spray bottles. I let them sit for 5 or so minutes then rinse with the hose and set them upside down to dry.

I use mine for everything from game to fishing bait and believe me when I say, some of the shark bait I use from time to time, will foul an ice chest up royally. Even so, the same follow up will usually take every bit of smell right out of them. Worst case I use a bit of fresh coffee grounds spread out in the bottoms after they are dry and close them up for a day or two. After the day or two I Open them up and dump the coffee out and rinse again with clean water, and allow to dry. This usually removes all odors.

Sav .250
October 28, 2012, 07:58 AM
"Hang and cure" .........nope. Started in the late 40`s and haven`t "cured" one yet.

"Grind all into hamburger"........ What a total waste of venison. Maybe some but all?

October 28, 2012, 08:15 AM
As said craigs list for cheap or free fridges and freezers. Also good will or church resale places. You tube is a pretty good sorcery to show you how to process. Been doing it so long I would really have to sit downland think about myprocess from start to finish. Also depending on where you live but if you don't have room in your garage freezers or fridge will last outside also.

Lloyd Smale
October 28, 2012, 09:01 AM
Ive done 62 deer so far this year so yes ive cut up a few deer in my day. If i had to pay a butcher id have to take out a lone! Best advice i can give is buy good stuff. I started with a cheap grinder and stuggled with it for years. Bought a good #32 weston and I think God had a hand in designing it, its that much better. I make alot of summer sausage, snack sticks, jerky, bratts and ham. If your going to do sausage do yourself a BIG favor and get a verticle stuffer and a meat mixing box. I can remember years ago making summer sausage. Ive got a fairly large smoker and it can easily handle 20 sticks at a time. it used to take me 6 hours for starting with bulk meat to having the sausage ready for the smoker. Now with the right equiptment i can do it in under 2 hours and im not wore out from trying to stuff meat in a grinder for a second grind. the #32 will do it about as fast as you can dump it in. I also do alot of cube steaks and when i bought this grinder i replaced my crank cuber with a unit that goes on the grinder for power. Another big time saver. Another good investment is a comercial grade vaccum packer. I burned out 3 of the foodsavers before i bought a better unit. Ill add to this that i NEVER age venison. Ageing venison is rotting venison. Nothing wrong with putting it on ice for a day or two till you get around to processing it but id never hand a deer to age. Most of my deer are cut up and in the freezer the morning after i shoot them. Ive never once had someone complain that it was gammy tasting. Most of that will come from guts and fecese not cleaned off the meat and hair left on meat or in some rare incidences the diet of the deer and you cant do anything about that.

Lloyd Smale
October 28, 2012, 09:06 AM
one more little hint. If you bone out your deer (which you should be doing) buy yourself one of those retractable razor knives with the long break off blades. theres not a better knife made for boning meat! Cool thing too is you never sharpen. I do a deer and just throw the blade away and put a fresh one in for the next deer.

October 28, 2012, 09:08 AM
I always just bone out the meat instead of quartering it. Then I cut out what steaks I want. Then I cut what scraps I can into fajita meat. Then I grind the rest, chill it, and shoot it through my jerky gun onto the dehydrator and season it. Of course I don't make all the ground meat into jerky. You have to save some for chili.

October 28, 2012, 09:17 AM
+1 on the KitchenAid mixer. There's a meat grinder attachment that works great. I get the leanest beef I can find and then I ground up a half pound of deer and then I run the half pound of deer with a half pound of lean beef and it mixes great. I've been doing this for years now.

As far as aging, like said in a previous comment, I'll keep the deer in an ice chest with ice for several days, and drain the water out and put fresh ice in it every morning. This gets out a majority of blood. You still know you're eating deer, but not a lot of gamey taste to it. I personally like a gamey taste to it, but the wife...not so much.

October 28, 2012, 09:56 AM
One last item not mentioned. You got to get the meat small enough to fit in the grinder opening. Start by finding a restraunt supply store that carries Dexter/Russell knives. These will sell for $10-20 dollars. You want the simple production knives with the SANISAFE handels. These are sharp, easy to touch up, last a long long time and easy ro sanitise. You will need two mayby three different knives.
1 a boning knife flexible enougth to get in between joints, sort of like a fish fillet knife
2 a butcher knife, there is a reason for the name
3 a nice knife to have is a heavy scimitar for reducing large chunks to smaller thinner strips
I was raised in a restraunt and reducing primal cuts to usable was a skill mom taught me early. Using the knife set that some one gave you in a wooden block from Chicago Cutlery is neither very much fun or sanitary. Buy a magnetic knife rack. Wooden blocks can hold blood, germs and filth as can wooden handles. This is why most butcher shops, restraunts and production shops use SaniSafe. They also cost a lot less than high end knives made for show.


41 Mag
October 28, 2012, 09:59 AM
With what has already been posted I thought I would toss up this link as well. If you need seasoning or knives or pretty much whatever else for working with your own game this place has usually it. We usually run through several different packages of the seasonings for our pan sausage just after hunting season. Like a few others mentioned it grinds great when it is just thawed out enough to work with. We stock it up and then blend it as needed to come out with what we want.

Anyway here is the link, hope someone finds it useful,
Allied Kenco (

Also if you want a great set of knives that WILL hold their edge with minimal sharpening the Victorinox line of Forschner knives are hard to beat for the price. I have for the most part gone to them exclusively for my meat processing battery. From field to freezer they are simply one of the best I have used and I have used plenty. Throw in any decent steel and with a couple of quick slaps you back to razor sharp. Just be aware, and keep the ends of your fingers out of the way. I use one of the 5" Lamb Skinners for just about everything. When it comes to hogs my hunting pardner and I have tried everything and these have been THE thing for getting the hides off and the meat cut and in the cooler as quick as possible. We can usually get through 4 or 5 of them before having to hit the steel a few times to touch up the edge. For the price and efficiency we haven't found anything better. The slightly curved tips and rounded noses keep accidental gut punctures down to almost nil and make rolling the hides down a breeze.

Anyway like I mentioned hope it helps someone.

October 28, 2012, 10:55 AM
the trick to getting the blood out the way they do on the kill floor in a slaughterhouse is to cut the arteries in the neck while the heart is still beating. Takes about 5 seconds for the heart to pump the blood out this way.

October 28, 2012, 10:57 AM
I've been where the original poster is. Several years ago my wife developed a significant allergy to MSG, and I was unable to find a local processor that didn't use it, so I was forced to start doing it myself.

I started VERY small. 2 meat hooks from Ebay that I mounted in the garage, and a grinder attachment for the KitchenAid mixer we received as a wedding present, plus a Nesco "jerky machine" - a $35 dollar dehydrator that came with a "free" jerky gun. I made sausage and jerky for 3 years with that setup. Over the years I've added equipment when I could. A sasusage stuffer from LEM that Sportsman's Warehouse discounted when they closed the location near my house. A better grinder from Ebay. Another dehydrator to double my capacity. A home-built Ugly Drum Smoker made from a 55 gallon barrel.

Start small. Its more work for sure, but immensely satisfying to share the Good Lord's bounty with others - especially when you know you took it from start to finish by yourself.

And congrats on the baby. My one and only is a beautiful daughter. I admit I had hoped for a boy that could follow and assist me in my hunting and fishing adventures.

I was SO wrong. I have a daughter that can fish like a pro, is about to carry a rifle in her first deer season, has helped me process our own venison since she was 3, and comes home from a day in the field and starts playing with her Barbies. I have the best of both worlds. Also - she's a better shot than her mom, who grew up hunting!

October 28, 2012, 04:34 PM
Yessir fat-46

I had the same attitude but am apparently meant to be in a house full of women. I already have a 3 year old daughter and another should be here sometime in February.

Luckily their Mom loves hunting, fishing, and shooting guns in general... Though she still doesn't get why I keep having the desire to invest in more guns... But this will be the first year I take my daughter with me to do some hunting.
She has fished with us a lot and is more interested in the actual fish than the fishing.

I cant wait for the days that they are actually hunting for themselves!

October 28, 2012, 06:47 PM
lots of good info here in these posts. the first deer or two yu process will be a learning process.check out youtube for lots of videos on the subject.

the best grinder ive ever seen is the hand crank grinder my gpa fixed up with a pulley and a motor years want a large pulley, 10 inches or better pulley on the grinder and a small as you can get pulley on your motor.that will slow it down.ive had guys with commercial grinders be very impressed with it.

one thing ive not seen mentioned is cutting up a hot deer. often ive cut up a deer within a hr of killing is better if you can let it cool out, makes it much easier to cut. but if you kill one on a warm day as ive done. i jus cut them up and drop in the freezer.ive not noticed any gamy taste and in fact cant tell them from deer that have been cooled over night on a cold nite.

October 28, 2012, 08:51 PM
I must be the exception. I have a friend with a large walk in fridge in his yard just for hanging deer. When I kill a deer I'll hang it in the fridge for a week and then process it. I hang it in the garage and use my fillet knife to take the meat right off the bone. I have an ancient electric grinder that used to belong to my grandmother. It takes forever, but it does the job. I also have a food saver that works pretty well.

October 28, 2012, 09:56 PM
So anyway do you have a dedicated cooler for this? I'd rather my ice chest not smell like bloody deer everytime I open it if it is one of my "regular" coolers.

I have a 120 quart and mostly just use it for game, too big for fishing. I don't do much off shore anymore since the snapper limit is like, TWO. :rolleyes: Another subject.

Anyway, i do clean the ol' gal up before using and after using by scrubbing with a cleanser and washing out. I bought this one new last year. My old 108 quart I had was lookin' pretty rough, LOL.

Yeah, I have one daughter and one far. :D

October 30, 2012, 03:04 PM
I will add a tip....Get one of those claws for much nicer to use. You can grab the skin on the slippery side right up next to the edge and give it a good pull. You will still have to use a sharp knife from time to time, but they sure save time.

October 30, 2012, 11:21 PM
Or just use the air compressor method, it works great. Even used the air bags on a truck one time.

October 31, 2012, 04:05 PM
RE: Draining blood to remove gamy taste.

I have never considered this, I will give the artery trick a try if I get a DRT deer.

Our process:

Hang for a day or so outside, then, in the garage, skin deer and butcher into 3 cuts: loins, roast & hamburger. Do not grind, vacuum seal as butchering occurs. Grind hamburger at time of use.

November 5, 2012, 08:38 PM
Afar as "bleeding" a game animal, its not necessary. By the time you recover the animal the heart has stopped beating and the bullet or arrow as done the bleeding for you, sure if you cut the animal's throat it will bleed some but the majority was done before you got there.

November 5, 2012, 09:20 PM
send me a PM and I'll send you a video I made on how I, emphasis on the "I", process a carcass and the equipment I have.

If you enjoyed reading about "Meat butchering/processing tips" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!