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Got my first elk last year, an older bull. The backstraps and loins were amazingly tender, the rest is pretty dang tough. Every so often I get lucky and find some steaks in the freezer that turn out decent and anything I slow cook (roasts, crockpot shredded taco meat) have been great.
I cook elk steaks to 130-135 internally so rare/med rare and make sure the grill or skillet is hot to sear the outside.
I am not interested in sous vide as a cooking method.
As we go into the final countdown before archery season, what are some things people should be doing; field to freezer, to make sure their meat is the best it can be when prepared for a meal?
Cooled quickly? Aged in a fridge? Double wrapped in freezer paper? Marinade for 24 hours? Soak in milk? What's your secret?
Anytime you break an animal down before rigor mortis sets in, it is going to be tougher then not. Cooling is paramount for good taste. But, when killing animals in warmer climates it is a compromise. I do know that an acid based marinade will tenderize the meat some. Also, if you thaw and refreeze the meat it will make it more tender. Good luck and God Bless
Run it through a cuber and cook rare. It will help.
I pack out elk meat on the bone. I don't know if it helps meat quality but it might. It's also easier to handle for me but it is heavier.
I thaw frozen game meat (not burger) well ahead of when I plan to cook it. At least 5 days, maybe longer. It's a type of aging that seems to help.
Cooking sirloin and top round steaks and loins. I use a reverse sear method for medium rare. Low heat in smoker or oven to 118-120. Then sear in hot skillet or on hot grill for only a minute per side. Rest. I usually don't marinade loins or thick steaks. I like to cook loin (backstraps) in large pieces rather than cut into steaks. Easier for me to keep it medium rare.
Sometimes a few of the cuts will just be tougher than others even within the same animal. I don't mind using a Jaccard tenderizer on round steak even if it's going in stew or for chicken fry.
Fact-Some cuts are just going to be tougher than others. But the key with any wild game is cooling as fast as possible. However, some cuts of meat and some animals are just tough and not much you can do about it. Sounds to me, like you are doing everything right. My "tricks" are simple: Adolph meat tenderizer, tenderizing hammer, ample larding or wrapping and cook slow and low to medium rare. That said, the Scandanavians have a tenderizing method that does seem to work. Thaw and re-freeze several times.
First bull I killed was likely a 4 or 5.5 year old decent 6 point. We deboned; but it was after rigor had already set in, backstraps were great and burger was fantastic, but the rest was just a little bit tough. Small raghorn I shot last year I made more burger out of other non-prime cuts as both my wife and I enjoyed the burger more than some of the steaks from the first bull. Was a big mistake in hindsight as overall that animal was substantially more tender, and we did pack it out on the bone so who knows.
I am starting believe what I read about rigor mortis and it needing to take place. A few years ago I was able to shoot a cow at first light right near the road. She was smallish I would guess 1 1/2 YO but I am less than perfect at that. Anyway I double lunged her she never saw it coming. She bounded off not like a crazed animal and went about 70 yards and tipped over. I had the meat sacks in the freezer cooling by 10 am that day as it was maybe a 1/4 mile pack job for 2 guys. We had her processed that day and she was froze by dawn the next day. I thought it was going to be the best thing I had ever put in this yap. I was wrong it was tough as heck. Maybe the toughest I have ever eaten. Tasted great though. Now I am careful to not let it get solid in the freezer for a couple days. Cool asap but keep from freezing solid for a couple days. Seems to be working but no 2 elk are done the same due to temps logistics ect. One thing I have learned is that when an elk is killed in the evening we have great success with gutting. Pulling one hind quarter as it allows the hind end to cool. Split the neck to the chin and remove the esophagus. Roll it up on some logs so the air can get under it and cool the loins you don't want it laying on the ground. Nice and cool in the morning upon return. We leave undershirts on top of the carcass and string a clothes line above the carcass and hang a really thin noisy large trash bag over it. The slightest breeze will move the bag, with that and the scent from the shirts critters have not been a problem. Those elk seem to be the best in terms of cooled meat and tenderness.
The last 2 bulls I’ve killed at sun down and had them hanging in game bags within in an hour. I started cutting them up within 30 minutes of shooting. No rigor. Both were super tender. Last year I shot a mule deer with a rifle and got it in a sack and packed out immediately. It was like shoe leather. Same process as the elk. Not sure the difference other than I processed the MD in my kitchen the same day and it was in the freezer that night. The elk went to the butcher so I assume they hung for a few days?
I’m considering asking the butcher to hang my elk 5 days going forward. Thoughts????
My brother who is a chef told me to use something acidic to marinade. He recommends tomatoe juice or a can of stewed tomatoes... Do that overnight and grill.
My dad grew up on a farm and they always butchered all their own meat - Deer, Cattle & Hogs. I remember him joking (kind of) that they would let the deer "hang by the neck until the rope rotted off". Obviously not that long, but always at LEAST 5 days and 7 to 10 is even better, given the proper temperature conditions.
Fellas, there is ZERO doubt the rigor mortis concern is real. Take it from a guy that handles wild game every year by butchering on the spot and, dragging them out whole. Which allows rigor mortis to set in before getting the meat off the animal. This is no theory. The meat will be much more tender when allowed to achieve rigor mortis before removing it from the animal. Debone the next one you kill before rigor mortis sets n and see for yourself. It isn't a theory. And, cooling doesn't have one thing to do with it other then speeding up the onset of rigor mortis
Sou s Vide for the steak. Instapot for everything else.
If the pack isn't too far, deboning only removes about 12-13 lbs from each leg.
I prefer to leave the quarters whole and hang them for two weeks before cutting.
If the pack out is a little longer, I will bone them to save some weight and then hang the bones meat in bags for a couple of weeks. The aging process is the same on or off the bone - it just cannot freeze!
The best elk meat I ever had was a bull we hung in a mine with ice on the floor. Hung it just past the ice where the temp was probably 34 to 36 for a month. Trimmed the white mold off and everything on that bull was like butter with great flavor!
Wish I still had access to that mine!
so you need to either freeze before rigor, or wait until rigor goes away?
Will rigor still proceed as normal if it's boned or quartered?
Last deer we did hung for less than 1 day and was stiff when we butchered it, wasn't all that tender, but not bad. Was warm, so we moved it along quick.
Once again....my meat handling theories are right in line with "Treeline". I age bone in for as long as possible. I`ll hang deer hair on for as long as 2-3 weeks in proper conditions. I see people kill a deer in the am and it`s in the freezer by the pm. Then they say they cook all the meat in a crotch pot....wonder why.
When packing it out, leave it on the bone while it rigormorts, and leave it on bone for a day or more after. That way it will not contract and get tough. That is for limb muscle only. All else, like backstrap, etc. can be deboned without getting tough. Like Lost Arra said.
I am so glad I asked this question. I always get nervous that people will tire of my dumb questions. Not growing up hunting I am figuring out a lot on my own but I know there is so much experience on this site that it's worth asking so I can speed up the learning process...and hopefully have a better turn-out next time. :)
I recently was on given some elk meat from two different bulls and just happened to get the exact same cut roast off each. One was very dark red and one more pinkish, the red one was much stiffer to the touch than the pink one was. Both tasted excellent, but the pink one was definitely more tender, I'm pretty sure both bulls were cared for the same and were shot and butchered by a man of some notoriety that's killed more stuff than smallpox and guides and takes care of animals for clients and knows what he is doing at a level most of us never will. The moral of my story is, wild meat is what it is and sometimes it's tough!
Lark, there are NO dumb questions. Well, asking for a general spot to hunt, not honey holes, with no show of homework.....that is pretty dumb. I prolly did it. Keep asking and sharing.
I hunt solo so the elk goes out deboned and stored on ice till I get home. Then it goes into the extra fridge for 5 to 7 days before I cut it up, that 5 to 7 days seems to make a huge difference. Shorter times seem to make for tougher meat, both deer and elk. The wife uses different marinades depending on what we are making and different cuts of meat are made into different dishes. The magic temp for a roast is 138 degrees.