How to Process a Deer at Home: Part 2
Part Two: Butchering and Preparing Venison
So you field dressed and skinned your deer, but what’s next? In this article, we're going to explain the process and techniques we use at home to butcher a deer and prepare the meat for final cuts. A lot of the information here can also be found on our Youtube channel if you would like to see the process we use.
It’s key to make sure your deer is completely clean and free of hair and dirt before butchering. Cleanliness is essential. You do not want to accidentally ruin your venison because of carelessness.
Butcher a Deer
We are going to go through and show you how to break the carcass down into the different muscle groups, then we will come back and show you how to further process those parts. We are using the Outdoor Edge Butcher’s Knife Kit. It comes with all of the essential tools you need. We're going to use the bone saw, the boning knife, and a larger butcher blade that is similar to a Bowie knife. This is a great set of tools to pick up, we highly recommend them for your at home butchering. Let’s get started!
Tenderloins or Fish Tenders
The first thing you will do is reach inside the carcass and find the tenderloins. We call them fish tenders because, well, they are about the size of a fish fillet. Once you get them started, they pull out easily. A lot of people miss these or cut into them when field dressing their deer, which is really a waste of one of the best parts.
We are going to use the Outdoor Edge bone saw to quickly remove the hind quarters. This just makes the next steps easier. First, trim the flap meat, then cut through above the hip joints.
Switching back to the boning knife, you will use some downward pressure to separate the hip joints and slice the haunch off. You can use the edge of the table as you cut to get leverage. This will help separate the joint. Set the rear haunches aside for now. Later, we will break those down into the sirloin, top, bottom, and eye of round roasts and tell you how to make some jerky.
Most of the time as you are butchering an animal, you will see visual cues where to cut. As you work along the front legs, you will find a membrane between the muscles. Just follow that with your knife, and the shoulder will come apart easily. Use short strokes with your knife and apply pressure with your other hand. The muscle groups will usually come apart. Set the shoulders aside. Later, we will clean these up and describe how to cut a venison flat iron steak.
Ribs and Backstrap
Use your knife and make an incision down the spine. Cut along the carcass to the rib, and work the knife back toward your first cut. Like filleting a fish, if you make these cuts right, your backstrap will come right off. The backstrap is one of the most prized parts of a deer. You will make these cuts on both sides to remove the backstraps. Later, we will tell you how to finish processing these and make them into chops.
This is where the heavier bladed butcher knife comes in handy. You will need to cut through the sternum to separate the ribs. There is a piece of cartilage that makes cutting easier. You can also use the bone saw to quickly hack through the sternum.
Use the heavier knife and a sawing motion to cut the ribs from the spine and remove them. These are great on the smoker as is, but if they are too big, you can cut the bottom portion off. Find the cartilage and cut through it to remove. You can process that part later to add to ground venison. Now, you have St. Louis style ribs.
Use the bone saw to remove the remainder of the ribs. An extra set of hands comes in very handy on this step. A pro tip is to use your knife to cut through the muscle to the bone before starting to cut with the saw. This way, you are not wasting energy cutting muscle with the saw.
Waste Not, Want Not
Carefully go over the remaining spine and neck portion to remove any usable bits of muscle. These can be ground up with other trimmings and make amazing sausage. Most of the bones can be boiled down and used to make stock. Venison bone stock makes out-of-this-world gravy, and is an excellent natural immune system booster. The only bones you should not use are the skull, brain, and spinal cord. Some animals can carry diseases that may be transferable to humans and can withstand industrial heat sanitation temperatures. It’s just not safe to use these parts.
Many people have very strong opinions on using deer fat, and there are some serious things you should consider before embarking on rendering your fat.
Probably the most important thing to consider is the diet of the animal you harvested. Deer feeding on grasses, grains, or acorns are likely to have fat similar to that of grass-fed beef and will be pleasant. Deer eating scrub brush and such should be avoided. These deer are likely to have little fat, and what they do have will not taste good.
Fat you find inside the carcass and surrounding the liver is called suet. This is used to make tallow for candles and can be saved, but is usually discarded when field dressing a deer. If you want to embark on a candle-making adventure, or if you know someone who is interested in buying suet to make tallow, you can save these parts.
If you do render deer fat for cooking, remember a little goes a long way. Too much, and it will coat your mouth in an unpleasant way. Deer fat does not keep and will go rancid within three to four months even in the freezer.
Getting Ready for the Next Step
Your deer has been broken down into the major groups now, so it is time to move on to the types of cuts you can get from your deer. We have videos on our Youtube channel that show the best way how to skin and butcher the deer you have harvested.
In Part Three, we will discuss how to get the best cuts and share with you some of our favorite ways to make venison at home using The Bearded Butcher Blend spices and seasonings.
If you're interested in our YouTube video on the entire process, check it out below.
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