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After last years butcher bill I’m thinking about doing it myself next year. Who does their own butchering? Any tips or tricks? I have the basics down from watching YouTube videos but I’m unsure about some cuts, ie, sirloin steak vs round.
Suggest buying one of those cut proof gloves for your non-knife hand.
I have a nice scar on my left hand from an accident a few months ago.
I just label steaks, loins, and grind. I don’t sweat discriminating between round and sirloin. But I’m just a redneck who likes meat just the way it is. Big pieces are steaks. Little pieces are stew,fajita, or grind.
We do 10-15 animals a year in my garage . I like to roll out each muscle . The large ones I cut steaks and some roasts . Stew Meat the small muscles and burger the rest. I also will leave my back straps in 10-12 inch pieces and cook whole or cut into steaks . Saves us a ton of money each year and you know your getting a clean product. Hunt
I do all my own. I have a book called Gut It, Cut It, Cook It which is pretty good at showing cuts. Also YouTube videos help me since I usually forget everything after a year. Get a good butchering kit. I just have a basic field dressing kit and they aren't the best blades, but having a filet knife, caper, skinner, etc makes it easier than using kitchen knives. Also get a good grinder. I have a LEM (I believe a #12) and it grinds faster than I can feed it. I've invested in the grinder, a sausage stuffer, smoker, and vacuum sealer and I think it only took two elk to come out ahead versus paying a butcher. Plus it's very satisfying to know all my meat is from my own animal.
It`s the only way to go.....it brings a whole another level of involvement in the taking of the animal. I actually enjoy it.... it leads to sausage making....curing...smoking etc.
Pretty much like otcWill. Have cut my own animals all my life.
Western Hunter magazine has a book out Meat Processing for Western Hunting which looks like it might help if you haven't done it before. $15 or so.
Same as HuntMan, separate every muscle and go from there.
I debone the quarters separate the big muscle groups ( which is very easy just follow the line between muscle groups by cutting and gently pulling) cut large pieces cross grain label steak small pieces stew meat the rest is smokie meat or burger. Been doing it since I was a kid helping parents butcher.
Yep, agree with Huntman's method.
It all starts in the field- keep it clean and cold
Its not that hard. However i only have Backstraps, tenderloin, ground and roasts. The roasts are big chunks that could be steaks, fajitas, stew meat whatever. My grind is very clean and no fat added. I have no idea what the cuts are, but its not that hard, i started after my first cow i shot. $300 for 4 quarters, the next year i bought paper, a holder, grinder for less than $300. I does take some time, but worth it.
We had a hand grinder for the first 5 years. That ended after a double grind on a MN moose. 200 lbs of hamburger using only one arm. Never again. Got a smallc grinder and it has worked for 15 years.
Now I have been eyeballing a LEM #12 and a sausage stuffed.
It gets tedious when doing it alone. Takes me most of a week for a deer because I do it after work.
I do both, have a processor do it and I do it my self .... there are times, esp. in warmer weather and with work obligations I just cant get to the deer to do it myself, so it has to go to a processor... later in the season, once the temps drop, I can hang it and get to it sometimes 5-10 days later ... I dont mind saving some money and do it myself.. .. as said, it all starts in the field, and I will if needed wash out the deer with a hose and wipe the inside down so it is clean, esp if I puncture the stomach or intestines, some times it is the BH doing that, sometimes, I screw up the field dressing, it happens ... the tender loins are the first to come out and get ate ..... I'm a burger guy, so I'll utilize as much as I can for burger, I dont mix anything in it...... both deer this season were taken to a processor because of time (lack there of)... my big Doe was done all burger, the buck was regular cuts and burger .... the most I kill now is only two deer a season (sometimes only one), that does us fine ... two bow killed deer is good for me, one nice buck/one big Doe ... btw, I always use the shoulder length gloves and blue Nitrile gloves over the hands when field dressing and rubber palmed cotton gloves when butchering and pulling the hide off, switching to clean gloves if needed ..
For me it starts when taking it off the animal.
I re-glove multiple times to keep the funk on the hide off the meat.
I trim like crazy...silver skin, dried meat, bubbly fat all comes off [heck, I'm eating it!] ....even if I just grind. I prefer a rough grind....not a double grind like most burger.
Vaccuum sealer is the only way to go.
After the processing cost hit over 200 for a deer with sticks, I decided to buy my own equipment and see what I could do. I have around 1000 tied up into a grinder, smoker,stuffer and dehydrators and all the other little things that go with it but it was money well spent and you know its your deer and what is in it. Making new products or different recipes is fun and I never run out of people willing to help eat it.
Once you do a few it gets pretty easy. Steaks, roast, stew meat, burger and jerky. +1 on keeping it clean and cold .
I've butchered at least a hundred deer. If you can skin and cut up a rabbit, you can do a deer...it's just bigger! I'm meticulous with the fat, silver skin, cartilage etc. so it takes a while, and I'm pretty well set up. Although I know the various cuts e.g. top and bottom round, eye of the round, rump etc. I don't get fancy. We use far more burger than anything else so, for me, it tends to be loin, tenderloin, several steaks, a few roasts and everything else burger. So my burger ends up being more ground round than anything else. As far as wrapping, vacuum sealers are hard to beat. My vacuum sealer is a Weston which pulls 28" Hg. However, I have a roll of 18" wide fairly thick plastic wrap (not like saran wrap, and intended for meat) which I'm using up. My wife is the wrapper and does well. Absolutely no freezer burn regardless of how long it's in the freezer...certainly as good as any which we vacuum.
Garbage in is garbage out. Trim and trim, especially all silver skin.
Get some tubs, large cutting boards, and good knives. Cry once and buy a good grinder and mixer if you cut your ground or make sausages. Decide if you want to stuff your ground or wrap it. If you have a smoker, def get a stuffer for summer sausage. While you’re at it get a slicer for jerky.
Before you know it everyone will be processing at your place, makes quick work and good times when everyone jumps in.
Helping Dad and practicing writing letter E L K!
Helping Dad and practicing writing letter E L K!
Oh yea! Wouldn’t let anyone else handle my prized meat!
It’s easy to do and rewarding
My daughter has been helping since she was tiny.
have the inner loins for dinner that night unless you use the gutless method then forget about that & the ribs. front shoulders debone for stew meat or burger backstraps cut in meal size portions seperate the muscle formations in the hams keep the two flat peices & the round & stew meat or grind the rest. buy a good quality grinder 1 time or wear out cheap ones every 2 or 3 years & perhaps not nessary but I prefer a vacuum sealer
agree with lots of the above but prefer paper over vac seal. Use the drug store wrap method and is much cheaper. I probably have cut up 800 plus deer over the last 50 years. The reason I prefer paper as it stacks much better in a upright freezer. Note take the tenderloins out the same day as you shoot it or they will turn black!
A labor of love...
Tons of YouTube videos out there on how to butcher.
Why wouldn’t you eat the inner loins when you use the gutless method? I do it all the time. It takes about a minute per side to pop them out and they are way cleaner than if you gut the animal.
A couple tips -
Use a small propane torch to singe the outside of the meat prior to handling. It will 'pop' any hairs and make wiping down much easier
Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Use that to wipe down the meat prior to cutting it up
Agree, no problem getting the tenderloins out using gutless.
We do about 6-8 deer a year depending on the success of our family hunts. My kids have been in on it since about age 3 and now at 4,7,7, and 12 (one more but hes only 1) they're all old pros and it takes us a couple hours to go from hanging to packaged in in the deep freeze. I figure by the time theyre in their teens we could get it down to 30 minutes per deer or so. IT IS 100% worth it!
Paper is the way to go for me. I buy the large rolls at the butcher supply. I double wrap everything and have zero issues. I think the current roll has done 3 elk and who knows how many deer. Like others have said trim trim trim.
Been butchering my game for many years. It is a very enjoyable, and to me, necessary part of the hunt. I end up making burger, steaks, roasts, sausage, jerky, pastrami, etc. Most folks are amazed at how good game meat can taste when done right.
Some of the tools that I consider to be necessary:
Knives. I like a filet knife for removing the fat and tendons and a butcher knife for cutting steaks. I am not overly picky about brands but want one that takes a good edge and re-sharpens fast. We have a good set of kitchen knives that work pretty well and I have an Outdoor Edge butcher kit that someone gave me that has some decent knives in it as well.
Cutting boards. I typically bone and trim meat on the table but use a cutting board for cutting steaks. The big plastic ones are good but they do slip around on the plastic tables. You can put some of that rubber stuff they sell in rolls in Walmart under your cutting board and it will stay put.
Meat Tubs. You can use any big pans to put meat in through different stages. Works better than just making piles on the table. I do like the 7" plastic tubs they sell for butchering and have 6 or so. I will put my grind meat in one, cube steaks in another, use them for mixing sausage, curing sausage and jerky, etc. They are very handy.
Wrapping paper. You can get rolls of the white wrapping paper at the grocery store or order a big roll and cutter from Cabelas. If you use the white butcher paper, it is good to pre-wrap with cellophane and get all the air out first. Your meat will last longer in the freezer with the double wrapping. I used to use the big roll and cutter until I went to a vacuum sealer and now much prefer the vacuum sealer.
Trash Can and trash bags. You generate a lot of waste boning and trimming. You will want some heavy duty trash bags and a smaller trash can. The bags will get surprisingly heavy, especially for an elk or moose so you don't want them to rip when you change out. I will toss out the leg bones and a lot of the trimmings to feed the local foxes but sometimes the neighbor's dogs get into it so I don't just make one big pile any more. Used to be a lot of fun to see what would come by when I lived in a less populated area.
Grinder. Get a good one, it makes a huge difference. I bought a 3/4 Hp one from Cabelas over 20 years ago. Not sure how much meat has gone through it, but it has to be in the tons by now. Still going strong. You can get a good grinder that will last you a very long time and that you can add attachments to for around $500. Get one with coarse and fine plates and the sausage stuffing tubes and you are set. On the good ones, you can add extra tools that are very useful.
Tenderizer. Some might call it a cuber. This one almost makes it to the "Required" category. You can use this for a lot of the tougher cuts with tendons inside to make great tenderized/cube steak. I love me some chicken fried steaks! I bought a hand crank tenderizer probably 15 or more years ago and it works great. You can get an attachment for a grinder, but they cost more.
Folding tables. I started cutting up meat in my kitchen. It works, but can get a bit messy and difficult to keep clean trucking in and out with meat and waste. Since I got married, I do it in the garage to minimize the conflicts... Those lightweight plastic folding tables are really useful. I just got some last year that have extendable legs to go higher and they really help your back!
Vacuum sealer. This will really make a difference in how long you can store your meat and many, many other uses. It is an amazing tool. I just got one from Walmart for around $100 about 5 years ago and am surprised that it is still working after quite a few elk and deer.
Sausage stuffer. Finally broke down and bought one last year. Had been just using the grinder to stuff sausage for many years but didn't like how it would tend to re-grind the meat. A stuffer will not regrind the meat like the grinder so you can get a better texture on your sausages. It definitely works better than a grinder to make better sausage.
Sausage Mixer. I do not have one, yet. That will be a purchase for this year. After mixing over 100 pounds of sausage by hand last year, I decided I really need one! My brother and cousin bought one and made up over 200 pounds of sausage last year and said having a mixer was much easier than the old hand mixing that we had been doing. Enjoy!
I do all my own deer. Last year was the most yet at 5. My wife helps with the packaging but I do pretty much all of the cutting myself. Trim the hang out of the meat, no fat or silverskin, and you will have the cleanest, leanest grind you can imagine. I like bone-in shoulder roasts, keep the shanks for braising recipes, ect. Since I've started cooking quite a bit, it's put a whole new love into hunting. There's nothing like putting hours into a complicated dish based on meat you've killed and butchered and having it come out right. More of you guys need to get into it. Makes a turkey look totally different when you've got about 15 different things you want to do with it. Meat is amazing. Check out Scott Rea on Youtube. He's a British butcher by trade who loves teaching. He's got a new book coming out "Merchant of Venison".
I do my deer as well, trimming everything that's not clean meat, rolling out the muscles like Hunt, etc. Several hours of labor, but I enjoy it.
Elk is another story...you can just about multiply the labor by 4. Did half an elk last Season, took me a good 8 hours to get it all trimmed up, vacuum packed, and in the freezer.
Doing an entire elk, is a good long Day for me, which is why I usually drop it off with the Butcher, and trim it up after I thaw it out for cooking.
I prefer vacuum seal but if you do paper try putting each cut of meat or burger into a thin plastic butcher bag first and rolling the air out before papering. You can buy them online by the roll and they are cheap. Takes about five seconds more per package but has a similar effect as vacuum sealing for preventing freezer burn.
This is really important if you use a self-defrosting freezer. Personally I would never store game meat or fish in one of those.
Yes sir, we've cut up all our own for years!
We have started saving all the trimmings and silver skin and making it into one pound packages wrapping and freezing. The dogs just love having one of these frozen chunks thrown out in the yard.
Like others I process my own. From cutting it up, trimming it out, packing it for freezer and making other products (Jerky, sausage, bacon, pastrami, etc). I am likely repeating what others have said. I break down the critter by muscle group. The hind quarter roast (the muscle group has a coarse grain to it) I label as crockpot roast. Backstraps are cut into ~ 12" chunks and lableled. Most of the other stuff is labeled for grind. (Exceptions. Cook tenderloin ASAP. Lower legs-Google Hank Shaw Osso Buco) When trimming, if it is white it has to go. Fat, tendons and no bone (Except Osso Buco makings)
I package all meat the same. I wrap all cuts the same. Wrap in cellophane to remove all air and wrap again with freezer paper. (Thanks Bowsite nijamsu! [sp?]) I like leaving all cuts whole, even if I plan on steaks. Saves on exposing cuts to extra air. I also make my burger "fresh". I do not like freezing meat with livestock fat as it seems to affect taste after a few months. When I thaw meat labeled "grind", I allow it to thaw for several days in a bed of paper towels which allow blood/water to be absorbed. I then grind it for burger or jerky. (For jerky gun) Burger is cooked fresh, no fat added. Add a little olive oil and that is it.
Pic is from my 2009 elk hunt. Pic is at trailhead. Yes it takes time, but it is worth it.
I cut 20-30 deer a year for myself and family. Agree with a lot of points above but think the tenderizer is definitely optional. I have a large handcrank one that I got about 15 years ago. Used 1 time and never again. If I think it’s going to be a tough cut I just make it stew meat, grind it, or plan on using the slow cooker. It’s a nice piece of equipment but for me is useless. Now for an elk or moose, maybe useful.... Cutting your own meat is part of the process/journey.
Ermine- love the picture of your daughter helping. Had a buddy's son helping one year by writing on the packages. We laughed every time we thawed a pack of "booger".
I’m all fired up to do this now.
Question...do you guys hang? If so, how long? Butcher recommended 4-7 days. At 5 dollars a day to use the butcher locker it seemed like a good option.
I hang for a week...might be a "short week", depending on my "Free Day" to cut it all up.
I converted a small bathroom in my workshop, into a cold room/meat locker.
If you ever do it yourself, you will never pay to have it done again. It is work, but it's very satisfying and you will never wonder if you actually got your meat back from the processor or not. It also allows you to be as picky as you want getting fat, sinew, etc. out before grinding the burger. I bought a low end $79 grinder from Cabelas 10 years ago and have used it every year without a problem. You might use some of what you would spend at the processor to buy one and then you're good for years to come.
If the temperatures are right I prefer to hang the quarters at least a week. Hard to get it just right at 7K where I live now. Always seems to be either too hot or too cold.
Used to hang meat for up to 4 weeks when I had access to a mine tunnel at 11K. That mine had the perfect temperature and humidity to make for the best meat ever!
I will cut backstraps and wrap tenderloins the first day.
Absolutely! Do all my own game meat processing...except September elk. Simply too hot during an out-of-state elk hunt to risk meat spoilage...and need lots of freezer space immediately after butchering. For deer sized animals, however, I started off small years ago...using a meat grinding attachment on my wife's Kitchenaid mixer...but now own a stand-alone meat grinder. Once I upgraded my hunting trailer with 320 watts of solar power on the roof and installed a 1,000 watt inverter, I take the meat processing show on the road...and process and vacuum seal everything while still in camp. The RV freezer is big enough to store an entire ground javeliana along with the backstraps and tenderloins of a mule deer (typical second animal on these hunts). The remaining muley venison round steaks and burger are stored in the RV refrigerator until I get home and drop it in my chest freezer. It's a great set up for deer sized game animals for sure. Certainly works for me and the type of hunting I do most of the time...and allows me to stay in the field longer enjoying what I like to do! Kevin
Here's the vacuum sealed finished product...RV style! Kevin
Also, as far as "hanging," I never cut meat that was killed less than 7 days earlier. However, I usually keep it in our garage fridge or often in ice chests. I always freeze several cases of water bottles so I can put them in and on top of the meat. They chill it and keep it cold without adding water like ice does. I drain the blood every few days and have kept elk for as long as 10 days this way in very warm weather.
And of course, the reward !!! Kevin
I too do most of my own. One thing that is a big time saver is to get online and buy the premade vacuum bags rather than a roll and making your own.
Something I run into - I would rather be hunting than cutting meat. By the time I shoot an August pronghorn, a Sept Elk, Oct/Nov WT or another pronghorn or elk, its a good thing to have an empty freezer or two to freeze the quarters and then start my butchering when my seasons are done - like December. YMMV
Do all of our own! We processed 19 animals this year in my buddy’s garage. Full freezer!
I do all of mine and have done so for years. The biggest tip beside keeping everything clean and trim well, is don't let making a mistake on a cut worry you. If it is a usable piece of meat, it can be consumed in some manner. Say you take a roast and butcher the hell out of it your first time, make steaks, stew meat, or even grind if needed. The more you do it the easier it becomes. As others have said, just separate muscle groups like the rear leg shown here. They are all seams. I also recommend that you YouTube the bearded butchers. They are good, knowledgeable guys. Good luck
as some have said here, a propane torch to singe off hair is a must ......
What tobywon said. Bearded Butchers youtube channel is great
I really like this plastic bags like these cabelas ones I have. They make it easy for burger
I don’t add fat to my burgers. Prefer strait
I wrap steaks and roasts etc in Saran Wrap and then paper. Works better for me than vacuum sealing.
I put my burger in 1 gallon baggies, get all air out, twist and then wrap with freezer paper. No freezer burn even after 2 yrs
I do same as HUNTMAN.
Get yourself a vacuum sealer. I used other methods for many years, then I got a vacuum sealer and wished I could have the years back. One of the biggest advantages is having your ground frozen in thin packages that thaw in 10 minutes in warm water. Great for those days you forgot to take something out for supper.
Ermine, I like those bags too for grinds. I just don't like the tape dispenser. I started using small zip ties to seal.
Have been doing our own for 30+ years. The only thing that I have to add is to point out axle2axle's pic of the finished product. We vacuum seal all of ours and flatten all burger packages. Stacks very easily and does not break the vacuum seal. Having done both, vacuum seal is definitely superior to paper for freezer shelf life and freshness. Pete
1 Cow Elk ready for the freezer. Dad, Son & G-son from field to freezer on all our wild game.
Shot a small doe and decided to do it myself and it was easy.also saved 100 dollars, bigger deer cost 150. I'm done with butchers, like to know that what I kill it what I'll be eating.
We also use the plastic cabela's bags for stuffing, works like a charm and you burn through them quick. I've never brought anything to the processor. One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday is cut/vacuum seal a deer with a beer in my hand. Just start doing it yourself, you'll never go back.
"have the inner loins for dinner that night unless you use the gutless method then forget about that & the ribs."
Don't get caught in Colorado leaving the tenderloins. By law, edible meat needs to be prepared for human consumption. "At a minimum, the four quarters, tenderloins and backstraps are edible meat"
We've been doing our own for over 40 years. Like others, we separate the individual muscle groups, trim well. Keep some as roasts, cut most into steaks if big enough, then stew meat, then ground. Sometimes adjusting to more stew or ground as needed. We only worry about labeling cuts as tenderloin, loin, shoulder, or round. We don't grind trimmings, just pure meat. There's no difference in quality between a steak and burger. Trimmings get made into dog food. One other note; For years we used the shanks for dog food. Big mistake! We don't keep the bone in, but save the shank meat as one piece. In various braising recipes like osso buco , they're great.
After I started doing my own I am no longer happy with most processors. I do have one who does our elk when I go to elk camp and I am very happy with their work. I do several deer a year. I butcher a couple into different cuts and do a can a couple deer. Canned venison has become a favorite in our household and several relatives who are asking for it now. Anyone else can any of theirs?
Like many here I taught myself years ago and now don't even know where to find a processor. When I hunt of state, however, I usually hang the meat at a processor if I'm going to keep hunting (have more tags). Then, to travel home I'll cut the meat into great big hunks and vacuum pack them. This keeps excessive moisture off of the meat - like would be a cooler. And, it makes it easy to fly.
Then, when I get home I can butcher it with all of my regular equipment. All that is needed is to bring a small Foodsaver and some big bags on the trip. Here is a source I just found for big bags - see the link.
One other thing to remember do not hang your animal outdoors, temperature swings are way too much and don't allow the meat to tenderize correctly. If you have no choice then cover tightly with a reflective tarp.