Correctly processing big game at home can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have little experience processing a large animal such as a deer or an elk. Recently, I spent a couple of hours with my local butcher watching him process deer. Here are the vital tips and tricks I picked up that you need to remember when you take your deer from field to fork.
- Macro Moves
- When you field dress your animal, be sure to leave the kidneys and fat attached to the carcass. This will prevent your tenderloins from drying out, which will leave them inedible.
- If you're going to quarter the animal, remove the hind quarters at the ball joint, which will eliminate the need for a bone saw.
- Proper slicing behind the front shoulder blade will make a quick easy removal of the entire front quarter.
Leaving the kidneys and fat in the cavity while field-dressing might sound obscure, but it will save your tenderloins from drying out.
Careful knife work around the ball joint will remove the entire hind quarter with just a knife.
The front shoulder is held to the carcass by only tissue.
- Prior to removing the meat from the bone, re-skin the quarters, removing any dried meat and all fat.
- Front shoulder meat, or “flat iron” steaks, will have a gristle vein throughout the meat. Remove this gristle for steaks or include the piece in your sausage/burger with the front leg shank.
- When processing backstraps, be sure to remove all of the fat and sinew that’s located on the outside of the meat before cutting it into your choice steaks.
- Hind quarters or bottom rounds make for choice steaks, but when you’re processing the sirloin tip, be sure to separate and remove the gristle from the cut prior to cutting it into steaks.
To maximize flavor, remove all "gristle lines" from the meat, especially the front shoulder steaks.
Remove all unwanted material from the backstraps. The meat should be completely red when done.
This is what a hind-quarter roast should look like when complete. No fat and no sinew.
- Cutting Tips
- Thickness of steaks is a personal preference and can vary from 0.25 inches to 1 inch, so if you’re not processing your own big game animal, be sure to let your butcher know how you like your steaks cut and how many you would like to a package.
- Before you slice your steaks, make sure that you’re cutting across the grain for more tender bites.
- Cubing your steaks is a quick, easy way to ensure that every steak is tender. The added bonus with cubed meat is that the meat will fry faster and the flour sticks to it better.
Steak thickness is a personal choice, but 1-inch is the standard among butchers.
To maximize the tenderness of your meat, slice all steaks and chops across the grain.
Shoot straight, happy hunting ... and happy eating!