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UW Extension: How to safely preserve, cook with venison
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Venison adds variety and flavor to the fall and winter table. When handled properly, it can make an excellent meat. It can be frozen as meat cuts or sausage. It can also be preserved by canning, curing or drying.

Use care when field-dressing the deer. Cool the carcass to 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit as soon as possible. See the University of Wisconsin Extension post "So You Got a Deer" for tips on safely handling the deer carcass.

Aging venison

Aging the carcass will help dissipate the game taste and permit naturally occurring enzymes to tenderize the tissues. Proper aging also firms the meat, giving it better cutting quality. Aging the carcass should be conducted at 40 F or less for up to five days. Never age at room temperature or in uncontrolled conditions. If using the venison for sausage, aging is not reuired.

Freezing venison

Trim fat and clean cuts so they are ready for end use. Fat will go rancid quicker and often has a very "gamy" undesirable flavor. Use packaging made for the freezer. For best quality, wrap the meat tightly in waxed paper, plastic freezer wrap, or heavy-duty aluminum foil. For added protection, seal wrapped meat in a plastic freezer bag or container. Push out as much air as possible. Seal, label and date each package. Home vacuum sealers will also work for packing venison for freezing. Follow manufacturer directions for vacuum sealing. Freeze quickly at 0 F or below.

Freeze no more than 4 pounds per cubic foot of freezer space within a 24-hour period. If space in the home freezer does not permit spreading the packages out, take the wrapped meat to a processing plant or meat locker for quick freezing. For best quality, store ground venison in a freezer at 0 F or colder for up to three months. Venison roasts and steaks can be stored six to nine months. Meat quality and flavor will deteriorate in the freezer over time.

Canning venison

Canned meat can help you get a delicious family meal on the table. Remember that pressure canning properly according to a tested recipe is the only safe way to can meats and vegetables. See the University of Wisconsin's "Canning Meat, Wild Game, Poultry and Fish Safely."

Curing and smoking venison or making sausage from


There are several resources that can help you do these safely and well. Check out our website for more information:

Venison cooking tips

The key to cooking venison and making it tender, moist and delicious is understanding that it has very little fat or fat cover. Add butter or cheese, or baste with other fats for improved flavor. Without much fat cover, the meat tends to dry out. Cook venison slowly using moist heat and baste often with a marinade sauce or oil. Don't overcook. A roast may also be wrapped in aluminum foil after browning or covered in a roasting pan. Strips of bacon may be placed on a roast for self-basting. For these foods to be safe, internal temperatures must be high enough to kill any harmful microorganisms. Cook ground meats, chops, steaks and roasts to 160 F. Venison can be substituted for meat in many recipes and makes an excellent variation to your menu.

Donating venison

You can donate an entire deer carcass to local food pantries for the cost of hunting registration and license fees. Prior to donating the deer, field dress and register it and write your confirmation number on the carcass tag. Handle the carcass as if it was destined for your own table. Call a participating processor first to see if they have space to accept your deer. Nearby processors include County E Locker in Albany, 608-862-1320, and Riechers Meat Processing in South Wayne, 608-439-5339.