If the hunter in your family bagged a good harvest this deer season, you’re likely to find yourself with a variety of venison cuts to wrap and freeze until they’re needed for the table.
Key to best frozen food storage?
- Plan ahead for thawing.
- Get out the extra moisture.
- Get out the air.
- Double wrap.
- Freeze it as fast as possible.
All kinds of meat will taste better if they’re properly wrapped for freezing, not just bunged into the deep freeze in the wrappings they come back from the butcher shop or in from the shed. The idea is to prevent freezer burn and keep both the flavor and texture at its peak, so when you thaw the meat for cooking it will be as delicious as if you’d thrown it right on the grill.
Venison Steaks and Chops
You’ll probably want to freeze these cuts as separate units, so you can just pull out as many as you need for a meal and thaw only those, leaving the rest frozen.
Wipe down the meat with paper towel to get any extra moisture off the surface, then wrap each steak or chop in a piece of plastic wrap and press it down well to get out any extra air. Fold up the edges tightly to make a good seal. Moisture and air are the cause of freezer burn, so you want the plastic wrap to be as close as possible to the surface of your meat with no thin layer of air trapped inside.
At this point, to get the meat frozen as quickly as possible, I like to lay out the wrapped steaks or chops on a cookie sheet and get them into the freezer for about 24 hours, maybe 48 hours if they are really thick cuts.
When the meat is frozen, take it out of the freezer and very quickly wrap it in brown freezer paper (the kind with wax on one side) and tape closed, or put a useful number of the plastic-wrapped portions into a large resealable zip-lock bag. Don’t cheap out – use the thick kind of zip-lock bag that is made for frozen food!
Halfway zip the bag, then press out as much air as you can. Keep pressing out more air as you continue to zip up the bag, leaving about 1 inch open at the end. Put a drinking straw into that small opening and suck out as much of the remaining air as you can to create a vacuum inside the bag, then quickly pull out the straw as you zip it shut.
Return the meat to your freezer.
For laregr cuts, like a shoulder rump or loin roast, you know the meat is going to take a longer time to get frozen so tehre is a greater risk of losing quality by way of freezer burn if it’s not treated right.
With these cuts, I like to dry off the meat with paper towels and then immediately rub it with olive oil or melted fat to create a seal on the surface that protects it from air and moisture.
Wrap with plastic wrap as described for the steaks and chops, but skip the step of pre-freezing on the cookie sheet as it won’t make much difference in the end. Just double-wrap immediately, again with the butcher paper or zip-lock freezer bag (or both), as described above, and get it into the coldest part of your freezer as soon as possible.
How long will venison keep in a home freezer?
Kept in a chest freezer, you can usually count on most cuts of frozen venison keeping its quality for up to 6 months.
In a fridge freezer, where it won’t be as cold, look at using up the meat within 3 months for best results.
Ready to thaw and cook?
When you bring it out of the freezer to cook for a meal, try to plan ahead by a couple of days so you can let the meat thaw (in a pan or tray to catch any escaping juices) in your fridge.
Never let any meat sit out at room temperature to thaw!
If you’re in a hurry, follow the instructions for thawing forzen food in the instruction booklet that came with your microwave (unless, like me, you lost it years ago!) or put the closed zip-lock bag under cold running water until the venison thaws out.
Our home freezer steps up to earn its keep when Fall rolls around, freezing the harvest to save us money on our household food budget and enjoying a variety of nutritious fruit and vegetables all through the winter. This is also the time of year to get a really good deal on meat in larger quantities from the local “chop shop” (butcher) or when the men come in from a successful hunt. When you know how to freeze these good things properly, you can enjoy many meals of great quality food at a much lower price than if you had to shop for it every week.
Photo: A Tasty Bambi