Processing Deer Meat

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Your deer is now quartered. At this point you need to think about what cuts of meat you would like. How much meat you plan on putting in the freezer may determine your choices. I don’t like to keep meat frozen for more then six months.

The less area exposed to air, the better it keeps, so I freeze family-sized servings rather than individual cuts. If you only have one or two deer per year and you will eat them in three months, then cutting individual servings now is fine.


Final butchering goals: Prepare and package meat for recipes. Remove as much connective tissue (silver) and fat as possible. Gamey flavor comes from the fat and connective tissue, so the more you trim away the better. Debone as much as desired. Deboning allows for easier packaging and reduces freezer space needs.

My typical breakdown is as follows:

Backstraps, each cut in half and packaged.

I take the smaller ends and package those two together and do the same for the two larger pieces. This is a versatile cut, and by freezing it whole I can decide later what I want to use them for. They make great kabobs, steak skewers, petite medallion steaks, pot roasts or grilled whole. You can even fillet them open and stuff them and roast.


I remove the outer leg bone. Any meat from that area goes into the grinding pile. The remaining shoulder blade and upper arm bone can be packaged whole or deboned. If deboned, I then roll the remaining piece and tie it with butcher string and have a “rolled shoulder roast.” A bone in shoulder is great for smoking.

Neck Roast.

I usually just wrap it up and save it for a pot roast or the smoker. It has a lot of meat, but if you trim it for meat you will just get grindable scraps.

Hind Quarters.

I usually save one whole hind quarter per year for my annual venison roast BBQ. They weigh 8–12lbs with the bone in and feed 30 people or so.

Deboning the hind quarter. Each of the major muscles will separate from each other forming small roast or steaks. Cut away the lower, thinner muscles from the rump and put in a pile for grinding—they are tough cuts of meat. Find the “ball” part of the bone that went into the socket of the hip. You are going to slice from the ball down the leg bone. Have an idea where the leg bone goes before digging in Once you have exposed the whole bone, gently cut the meat away from the ball end, all the way around the bone. You can then start to lift the ball end and cut along the bone freeing it from the meat. Once removed, you now have a “boneless leg roast.”

This is still a big piece of meat. To make things neat, I usually will trim off the areas that are ragged from when we originally quartered it. Throw the trimmings into the grind pile, or if they are big enough, cut into cubes for stews. The remaining roast can then be divided into their separate muscle pieces by pulling along the seams. You may need to use your knife a little bit to help. In the middle of the seams you will find some fat and all the major blood vessels for the area. Just trim those away. At the very ends of the roast, the meat turns into a tendon. Chop off the ends and put the trimmings into the grind pile. Trim away the silver skin (connective tissue/tendons) as much as possible. Trimming off the silver makes the meat much more tender when cooked.

You should have 3–5 nice pieces from the hind quarter depending on how far you took it down. The bigger piece can then be cut across the grain in ¾–1-in. sections making steaks. You can also cut into cubes for stews, keep whole for roasts, or grind for burger meat. I freeze them as whole roasts and decide what to do with them at dinner time.

Stew verses Grinding pile.

Any meat that can be cut into pieces suitable for stews I wrap together in 1lb packages for that purpose. Anything too small or that has connective tissue with it goes into the grinder. I will typically get 3–5lbs of ground venison and 2–4 lbs of stew meat from an average suburban doe. (We grow them small, but tender, up here in Northern Va.)


Use lined butcher paper, freezer paper, or vacuum-sealed packaging. Remove as much air space as possible, wrapping tightly. Tape the paper using masking tape and with a pen or waterproof marker clearly label and date your meat.

If you have a small freezer, put some of the meat in the freezer and some in the fridge. Once the first batch is frozen (8–12 hours), put some more in the freezer. If you put 40 lbs of room temperature meat in your small freezer, it will take forever to freeze and you may end up with freezer burn down the road.

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