You can do that in many ways, depending on the weather and the circumstances — from skinning and hanging the carcass to rinsing it in a river before packing it in ice. However, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife recommends “taking the carcass to a cooler on the day of the kill,” if you can.
In addition to cooling your meat quickly, it’s also important to keep the meat cool until it’s ready for further processing or freezing.
These are both certainly good reasons to consider building a walk-in cooler on your property. But even beyond that, a cooler gives you options you may not otherwise have.
Here are a few ways a walk-in meat cooler will help you put better-tasting venison on your plate.
You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to processing
If you don’t have a cooler, and you don’t process your meat yourself, you can be somewhat at the mercy of the processor.
Sometimes you can’t get there before they close for the night. Sometimes they might be full and you’ll have a long wait. And sometimes, like in this story from Will Brantley, the processor just mixes all of the meat from different hunters together and gives you back a corresponding amount, rather than your own animal.
With a walk-in meat cooler, you can keep the meat fresh for a longer period of time, which means you can take the time to find the right processor who will process your meat for the right price. Alternatively, you can get a grinder, a slicer, and a vacuum sealer and do it yourself.
You can age the meat properly
Aging venison and other game meats makes it more tender and improves its flavor. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife warns, however, that “if not done correctly…aging will result in spoiled meat that could sicken your family.”
Here’s what they recommend:
- Aging should be done at temperatures between 34°F and 37°F, and for no longer than two weeks.
- Aging is generally not beneficial for animals less than a year of age, as the meat is already tender and, due to the low fat content, may become excessively dry when aged.
- Aging should not be done under the following circumstances, as the meat is more likely to spoil than age:
- The animal was shot during warm weather and not chilled rapidly.
- The animal was stressed by running excessively before it died.
- The animal was wounded and trailed for several hours before it died.
- There is excessive tissue damage from the gunshot wound.
- The carcass was heavily contaminated with dirt, hair, excessive blood, etc.
- If, during the aging process, the meat begins to develop slime, mold, or “off” odors, aging should be stopped, the spoiled portions trimmed, and the remainder of the carcass frozen immediately.
With a walk-in meat cooler, you can ensure your meat is kept at the right temperature and conditions for proper aging.
You can get creative and cure the meat
You might not want all of your meat to be ground or made into steaks. How about some dry-cured venison sausage or venison terrine? Venison prosciutto, anyone? Just raise the temperature in your walk-in cooler to create a perfect environment for unleashing your inner salumist and creating your own cured meats.
As you can see, a walk-in meat cooler will help you take your game meat game up a step or two by controlling your harvest from field to table! Learn more about building your own walk-in cooler on our Hunting and Meat page.