FIELD CARE OF GAME MEAT
Words by Ross O'Meara (@_rossomeara)
One of the great rewards of hunting is the meat that you harvest. With any animal you harvest it’s an instant access to quality grass fed, free-range organic protein. Here are just a few tips to make sure you meat is kept at top quality.
A simple gear list is a sharp knife or knives, game bags, strong cord or rope and disposable gloves
Tips for field care
- Make sure the animal is well bled. Do this with a sharp clean knife. The throat is the best place for this.
- If you are taking the whole carcass make sure you remove the bottom part of the innards (i.e lower intestines) as soon as possible as it will start to taint the meat if left in the carcass too long. You can leave the heart, liver and lungs (pluck) for travel until you get back to where you will be hanging the animal but remove this before you hang it. Always inspect the pluck to see if there is any signs of disease and if they don’t look right don’t eat the offal.
- If you are breaking the animal down in the field use good quality game bags. These will help the meat cool down and set properly. And if you need to manipulate the body you can use the rope or cord to do this to make it easier to work with.
- You can pack the meat out and leave part of the hide on the meat to act as a protecting layer and you can leave this on to hang the meat.
- You want the meat to cool down as soon as possible, it will hold it’s temperature a lot more on the bone so if it’s in winter hang it outside over night for it to cool. If you have access to a cool room even better but breaking it down to smaller pieces and placing it into a fridge will also do the trick.
Take your time and work to a pace that suits you because an animal will always grow in size once it has hit the ground.
If you are harvesting a stag in the rut you will see the glands are larger than normal, make sure you remove these so they don't taint the meat. Hanging the meat for time helps it become tender and, if needed, you can also soak the meat in red wine to remove any gamey flavour. I have done this with rutting red stags for a week in wine and it’s surprising how well it cleans up.
Cooking Game Meat
When cooking game meat, it’s a bit different to normal domestic farmed animal and that’s mainly due to fat content. You can get great fat coverage on game animal at different times of the year but not intramuscular fat like the domestic farmed animals. I find that you either have to cook the meat quick and hot to a pink internal at the most or long a slow and forget about it until it falls apart. Whichever way you choose, some cuts are better than others. The main grilling parts of the deer are the eye fillets, topside, rump cap, back straps, hanger steak, skirt steak and oyster blade. I find the scotch at the top end of the back strap behind the scapular a bit hit and miss it just depend of the age and sex of the animal you harvest so I normally slow cook this. Then I also slow cook the brisket, round, silverside, shoulder and then I mince ever thing else. Here is a quick simple guide to grilling.
- Make sure you season with salt and pepper before you cook.
- Once seasoned oil the steak on a separate plate and not the pan or grill that you are cooking on
- Get the pan or grill hot as you can with out catching it on fire
- Place the meat down and watch it don’t walk away and leave it. Some people say only turn the cut once but I don’t believe in that turn it once it has a good char on the side and turn it as many times as you feel. I usually wait until I can see moisture appear on the side that’s facing up and then I turn.
- Once you feel the steak is cooked to your liking remove the cut from the heat and let it rest on your cutting board for a minimum of 7 minutes, 15 preferably and then slice or serve.
- This is the same method for whole back straps or steaks.