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Aging meat?

Discussion in 'Northwest Hunting' started by Atroxus, May 24, 2010.

  1. Atroxus

    Atroxus Marysville, WA Member

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    I was just watching another video on dressing/butchering game animals today and now I have more questions. I have watched about 5 different videos on field dressing large game so far and none were exactly the same. It seems there are a ton of different methods out there, so I am trying my best to pick and choose what seems like it would be most effective for me. In the video I watched today they suggested transporting the animal almost whole once it has been gutted, then skinning it, cleaning it up and letting the animal age for 3 days per 100 pounds of weight. A couple other videos I watched though said to get the skin off and quarter the animal ASAP to allow the meat to cool faster. I know that aging meat is supposed to be great for the tenderness/flavor if done properly; but really how many people have the facilities to properly age a whole animal? (keeping it between 32-42 degrees F)

    Is it really worth it for deer, elk, or moose to haul out an intact animal to let it age whole rather than quartering, or boning it out where it falls?

    How much worse would meat be if it was boned out at the site of the harvest rather than being aged?

    Does anyone here age your meat? If so how do you do it?

    Would a butcher shop let you pay to age a carcass in their refrigerator? If so how much would they charge?
     
  2. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Here's 45 years of experience and what works for me:

    Aging: Proper aging of big game does NOT add "gamey" taste to meat. It merely allows for bacterial tenderizing. Emphasis on proper. Proper aging of meat is done by hanging it in an environment that keeps the meat at refrigerator temperatures (ballpark of 30-40 degrees F). This can be done with the skin on or skin off, depending on your situation. The "3-days per 100 lbs." I have not heard of before, but I would hang a small deer or antelope (100lb range) longer than 3 days if conditions were ideal. Five to seven days would be good. If you are on an early fall hunt and the days are going above this temperature, but nights dropping lower, you can maintain the temperature of the meat by hanging it in the shade (skin still on retains temperature), and you can supplement this insulation with old sleeping bags or moving quilts. The important thing is to keep the meat in that good temp range.

    Skinning: This decision is dictated by your situation in the field at the time of the kill. If the temperature is cool, you have no requirements to reduce packing weight out of the field and you know you can get it hung almost immediately, leave the skin on until you are ready to butcher. The skin is your natural barrier to dirt, hair, and other contamination. If the temperature is warm and/or you need to reduce packing weight, skin immediately after field dressing. This allows the meat to cool faster, but you will need to expend effort/materials to protect the exterior of the meat (old bedsheets/game bags-- NOT the cheesecloth wimpy ones-- work well for this).

    Quartering: Again, this is dictated by your situational environment at the kill, and is related only to ease of packing the animal out. Keep the skin on the quarters if weight is not an issue and your temperatures are in that happy range, and you don't have your trusty bedsheets or good game bags at the kill site.

    Yes, most game locker outfits will allow you to hang your meat for a modest fee. Some do require the skin to be off (to not allow hair in the locker). Others will hang unskinned quarters or whole animals in an area that is dedicated to that.

    So: Warmest scenario: You are hunting antelope in Montana in early October, and the temperatures that year are unseasonably warm, or you are archery hunting in August and the temperatures are warm and you know the meat will not be allowed to cool. You would skin the animal at the earliest opportunity, protect it from hair and debris, and bone it out as soon as possible and get the boned meat into a cooler protecting it from melted icewater.

    Midrange scenario: You are hunting elk in the fall, nights are dropping to crisp temperatures (even to freezing), but daytime runs to the 50 degree range. The elk is on the ground, the sun is rising. You would skin the elk at the kill site, quarter it for packing, protecting it with covering (bedsheets or gamebags), hang it in the shade at camp and allow the first night to get it to ideal temp. Then you would wrap it in old sleeping bags or moving quilts and check the meat temperature in the afternoons to make sure it is remaining very cool. Your bedsheets/gamebags are completeley sealed off with duct tape to prevent insects from getting to it. With this care, you should be able to hang it for a week in camp if necessary.

    Best scenario: You are hunting late fall, and daytime temps never go above 45. Leave the skin on, (quarter it if you must for packing), and your game bags/sheets again serve to prevent insects. Hang it in camp. An old trick for exposed meat when you cannot seal it away from bugs is to sprinkle black pepper on all exposed meat surfaces. No blowfly in the world can deal with this, and you can rinse it off at the butchering preparation stage, or it comes off with the "glaze" that you will trim. If the bugs are already killed by frosty nights, the game bags/pepper are really not necessary except for debris protection.

    "Gamey" meat: "Gamey" meat is rotten meat, usually caused by lack of care, or careless butchering processes. Game fat is not of the same chemical composition as beef fat. It doesn't really completely freeze, and continues to decay even in the freezer. This is the primary cause of "gamey" tasting meat. When you butcher game, you remove all bone and all fat and all gristle, and membrane. The only thing that should go into your freezer is clean red meat. Leave it in chunks rather than cutting steaks. Double wrap it (Saran wrap, then butcher paper), insuring that no air is in the package.

    Leaving it in chunks prevents drying in the new self-defrosting freezers, and if some air gets in the package, you will get "freezer burn" only on the exterior of that chunk, not on each steak. This also allows you a cooking option of a roast, steaks, or chunks (stroganoff, stew, etc.) in the kitchen.

    Your prized nutritional naturally obtained food, cared for in this manner will keep in a freezer at 0 degrees for a year or more, and you will never experience "gamey" tasting meat. Yes, that old muley on the sparse Nevada desert may have a hint of sage in him, and that same deer raised near alfalfa fields may taste "better" to some.

    I have dealt with the "warm antelope" scenario described above, and the meat was absolutely delicious with only a bit less tenderness than had it been hung and aged. On the other end of the spectrum, an old cow elk was taken on the first day of archery season, we got it hung in a locker that day, and did not remove it for 12 days. Got her home and butchered immediately, and that meat would melt in your mouth. Ice Cream on the Hoof!

    Beware of "gifts" of game meat. More than once I have forgotten this, tried some provided by "friends", found it very definitely "gamey", and knew that this was caused by not cooling immediately, not taking care to prevent hair in the package, butchered in the conventional manner, (bandsaw thru bone, bone/fat left on the steaks), and probably the trip home on the hood of the vehicle in the hot sun. I will almost always turn down such "generosity".

    Hope this helps. Good hunting!
     
  3. Atroxus

    Atroxus Marysville, WA Member

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    Wow thanks for all the info, especially Spitpatch. That was a great write up. Maybe you should repost it and see about getting it stickied as a proper game handling thread.

    Does anyone know of any places near Marysville or Seattle Washington that would allow storing a game animal for aging? This year is going to be my first hunting season and I am doing my best to get as much as possible planned in advance. :)
     
  4. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I don't like to dry age wild game because it concentrates the (gamey) flavor. This concentration is done on purpose with beef. You'll lose up to 1/3 of the weight of the meat in dry aging, and that causes the concentration. The meat may well taste gamier, not less so.

    When an animal dies, rigor mortis sets in. This will make the meat tough. If you age the meat for a week the chemicals that caused rigor mortis will dissipate, the meat will relax, and it will be more tender.

    In addition to this, natural enzymes in the meat break down tissue and tenderize the meat, so there are two reasons to age it for a week.

    To keep the gamey flavor from concentrating, I wet age it, meaning I vacuum pack it asap to hold in the moisture, and refrigerate it for a week. Pros might age it for two or three weeks but I have neither the courage nor the conditions to do that.

    Wild game must be completely free of bones, hair, sinew, fat etc. before cooked and eaten or packaged for freezing to best avoid that gamey taste.
     
  5. best defense

    best defense Beaverton, OR Active Member

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    While some of the game I shoot may end up aging a day or two, I much prefer to get it into a cooler as soon as possible. If you have the time and a good place to work on it in the field, I don't see any reason why you should not bone out everything that you are going to bone out, and do it as soon as possible. That way, you can leave the bones up in the hunting area for the wild animals to eat. One thing that I work on is keeping the meat clean. If you let it get contaminated with just about anything, that will change the taste, and not for the better.
    JUst remember, always keep enough of the animal intact so if a game warden decides to check you, that he/she can determine that you have the proper tag for the game and sex that you are supposed to be hunting.
     
    44 Guy likes this.
  6. armedredneck

    armedredneck Oregon Active Member

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    We always gut it on the spot, drag it out to an accessible area, (top or bottom of the ridge), pack it out on horseback from there, and skin as soon as it gets to camp. (1-3 hours from kill). Wrap in bags made from old bedsheets and tape up the top, and let them hang for 2-8 days (depending on when they were taken during the season and how many days left up at camp). Drive home and put them in the butcher's freezer. Are there any issues with that scenario? (I'm talking about deer).
     
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  7. ZeroRing

    ZeroRing 26th District, WA Active Member

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    Lots of good info here, especially for those of us who have always intended to start hunting (but still haven't). Seems like a worthy sticky. :thumbup:
     
    Garg likes this.
  8. usmc

    usmc oregon Active Member

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    i hang deer for a few days, but thats it.i will butcher my elk the next day ,really no need to let it hang. from what ive read the by the time you get any bacterial breakdown, you are on the verge of losing your meat.as with elk anyway.
     
  9. novamind

    novamind Hillsboro Active Member

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    I had to throw away a deer that I hung in the garage to long and at a temperature to warm, what a waste!:(
     
  10. Drkside45

    Drkside45 chehalis wa Member

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    I usually hang my deer for 3 days,with cheese cloth around it,with a couple large house fans blowing on it. But a couple years ago,the temp was just too high,and I couldnt let it hang,I butchered it same day,truthfully...it was a little tough,but not a noticeable difference,and I actually thought it was less gamey than usuall.I always feild dress my elk and debone in the feild,and pack it out in meat bags.I think elk more than deer needs cooled very quikly.Mine tastes great,and not too tough.
     
  11. NoOne

    NoOne Puget Sound Active Member

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    Many years ago when I used to hunt lots of deer, I kept an old refrigerator in the garage just to age the meat. I turned it down till it was a couple of degrees over freezing, kept a thermometer in it just to make sure of the temp. All it had were the metalic racks, and a drip catch pan at the bottom. I would bone out the entire animal, get all the hair, bones, fat, and whatever else I didn't want off of the meat, then put it into the fridge for 3-4 days before I would package it for the freezer.

    It worked great. Sure, it isn't a walk in unit, but it worked really well. Once boned out, most of the deer would just fit nicely onto all the racks. It worked great for aging the meat. I think the secret to the meat not tasting gamey is get the fat off the meat, and the meat off the bones as quickly as possible. For some reason, any time I didn't do that, the meat tasted stronger. I don't know if it was the fat, or the bones, or the marrow in the bones, but I always believed: Fat off the meat, meat off the bones, then age.
     
  12. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    I'm wondering if there is any negative safety aspect to saving the liver and heart for snacks for your canines? I know only small amounts of liver should be eaten at a time..
     
  13. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I'm not a liver fan, but my favorite surprise when I was in grade school was opening my lunchbox to find that Mom had sent a venison heart and mustard sandwich. Still my favorite sandwich (not to mention it preserved my status in school as the "kid who has wierd stuff in his lunchbox").
     
  14. ZigZagZeke

    ZigZagZeke Eugene Silver Supporter Silver Supporter 2015 Volunteer

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    I have kind of a unique situation. I hunt the family ranch. When I down a deer I immediately gut it, then I make a quick run to the ranch house for an ATV. Within an hour I have it hanging in the barn and skinned. From there it's a 10 minute drive to the butcher in town, so within a couple hours my deer is hanging in a cooler. About 2 weeks later I come by and pick up the frozen packages. My deer are never gamey, always tender, always very mild and sweet tasting.

    Last year it worked out a little differently and I was afraid I was going to have some really crummy meat. I shot a huge muley buck (175 pounds field dressed) and it ran/fell over the edge of the canyon. I climbed down to it and gutted it, but every time I moved it we both slide further down into the canyon on the 45 degree slope.

    WapinitaCanyon-edgesouth2.jpg

    By the time I got back out of the canyon and got some help, and winched that buck out of there it had been from 8 am to 5 pm with the temperature of about 45 to 75 degrees. The local butcher was closed, so I drove it home in the back of the pickup (90 minutes) and skinned it at home. I packed it with plastic bags of ice overnight, then drove it to a local butcher the next morning. Winching that deer 150 feet up a canyon wall in the afternoon sun and having it laying around for 24 hours didn't sound promising for good quality meat. But you'd be amazed. You can cut the round steaks with a fork and it's some of the best meat of any kind that I've ever had.
     
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  15. cwosparks

    cwosparks Creswell, Oregon New Member

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    The meat of game animals is seperate from the meat, so aging does nothing to tenderize, or flavor the meat. Like most response have implied the most import thing is take care of the animal as soon as possible and keep the meat clean. You can cut and rap the meat in the field while it is still warm, or let it hang for 10 days in a cooler. It really makes no difference on the tenderness or taste.
     
  16. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Words of wisdom: especially the first ten.
     
  17. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    IMHO the fat under the skin contributes to gamey taste. we always skinned ours immediately and put them in a cloth bag.

    Anyone else pull the hide off with people or a pickup or ATV? It only works if the deer or elk is still warm. We cut a complete circle around the neck through the skin and fat, and from there cut down the breast bone to where we had opened to clean. Then we cut circles around the legs just above the "knees." Then we tied a rope around the animal's neck like a noose, and tied that to a tree. Then we cut just enough skin and fat loose at the neck to get a fist sized rock under the skin, and tied another rope around that and the skin. That rope was either pulled by about 3 guys or a pickup or ATV. The hide and fat comes right off, with maybe a little fat left to trim off. We always put the animal on a tarp to keep it clean, and adjusted that if the animal tried to slip off the tarp.
     
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  18. raisersedge

    raisersedge backwoods Member

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    Never ever cut and wrap your game before it cools down this causes muscle shortening. It makes it so tough you will wear out a good set of teeth. You have all seen it happen when you cut through a muscle and the meat recoils from the knife. I have experimented with aging the same deer one half cut up the next day and one hung for six weeks. The one cut up after one day was tough and unflavorful when served together people thought one was an old nasty buck and the other a toehead. same deer different aging. Since my meat has no fat on ti I use the bacterial breakdown of the collagen (which is what binds muscle) to tenderize the meat the shortest amount of time I would do would be 3 weeks and as long as 10 weeks.
     
  19. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Gunner: Yes! This method works extremely well. It will surprise the skeptics especially where bullet wounds are concerned. Almost without fail, even a nasty exit wound will be perfectly dressed with almost no tearing of the flesh.

    However: the preparation time in my experience precludes the "car skinning" method, except when you have multiple animals hanging at one time: i.e.: in the garage at home after the hunt. It takes nearly the same amount of time to prep for car skinning as it does for an experienced skinner to complete one animal conventionally.

    But, often on our return from Antelope camp in Montana, we have the bounty of the work from 5-12 hunters. This is where the car skinning method really comes into its own. One or two guys do the "prep skin" (as you described: circle the neck, peel to the top of the shoulders, insert the rock with the lasso, sleeve the legs). Guys number 3 and 4 run the car operation, taking only about 2 minutes per animal there. Slick as a whistle, minimal hair on the carcass, and of course a clean sheet for the carcass to land on when the skin comes off.
     
  20. Silver Hand

    Silver Hand Southern Oregon Coast Well-Known Member

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    You can lay them on there belly spread the arms and legs way apart, Cut accost the shoulders and hams and down the back. Pull the hide away cut off the hams and front shoulders remove the back strap work on the stew meet any way you want. Pack Out.