Even if you are just beginning to learn how to butcher a deer, the easy tips in this quick start guide will have you grinding venison like a professional!
Many hunters throw away a lot of money paying someone else to butcher their deer when they could easily do it themselves. I don't think it is because people don't want to process it themselves, they just don't know how. And frankly, there aren't a lot of good resources online showing you how to do it right.
So with that in mind, I wrote up this very thorough quick start guide. Whether you have been grinding venison for years or looking to do it for the first time, this guide will give you professional results every single time.
Is deer processing equipment expensive?
You can buy a respectable meat grinder for less money than it costs to process one deer, which is all you really need to get started. Tip: When first starting out, each time you harvest a deer use the money saved from not paying a processor to buy another piece of processing equipment (grinder, vacuum sealer, sausage stuffer, smoker, etc…). In no time you will have an enviable setup.
What Grinder Do I Need to Grind Venison?
Any size grinder can do the job, but a larger one will make your life easier. I find the LEM Big Bite #8 .35 HP grinder (affiliate link) to be perfect for processing one deer. You won’t regret getting as large of a grinder as you can reasonably afford, particularly if you are butching multiple deer at once. If you can’t afford a big grinder don’t fret, I also spent years using small el-cheapo models and they did the job too. Heck, our grandparents used hand-crank grinders (affiliate link) and survived just fine!
Other Equipment Needed to Butcher Deer
In a perfect world, you would own a sausage stuffer and a vacuum sealer (affiliate links). The sausage stuffer is great not only for making venison sausage but also for stuffing ground venison into freezer bags. However, if you can't afford these right away, don't worry, they are not required.
Adding Fat to Venison
Grinding beef or pork fat with your venison adds flavor, acts as a binder, and most importantly adds moisture to your meat. The amount of fat needed varies depending on what you plan to cook.
How much fat do I need?
- 0-10% Fat – Use for heavily seasoned, loose meat meals such as venison chili, sloppy joes, and tacos.
- 20% Fat – Best for juicy venison burgers, venison meatloaf, and venison meatballs.
- 30% Fat – Ideal for making summer sausage and snack sticks.
Best Fat for Grinding with Venison
Beef fat adds a noticeable ‘beefy’ flavor to your venison. Pork fat has a more neutral flavor but goes rancid quicker in the freezer. I typically use beef fat in my normal grind to get a longer freezer life, but I use pork fat when making venison sausages because the neutral flavor allows the sausage seasonings to shine through better. Honorable mention: Bacon fat – great flavor but pricey.
Where to buy fat
Your local butcher shop (not grocery store) will have beef or pork trim you can purchase for cheap. It is best to call in advance. Every butcher I have spoken to has also been happy to share thoughts, tips, and best practices for grinding meat and sausage making.
Do I have to grind venison with fat?
There are a lot of people who prefer to grind venison without any fat added, for both the cleaner venison flavor and fewer calories. Just don’t invite me over for burgers.
How to Grind Venison
Your grinder has multiple grinding plates that are ideal for different uses.
- All-purpose grind: If you are going to grind all of your meat one way, use this grind. Run meat and fat through the medium grinding plate, alternating between meat and fat for even distribution. Then grind everything through a second time. This grind mimics the texture of store-bought hamburger.
- Chili grind: The all-purpose grind is commonly used for chili, but if you want to grind meat specifically for a great chili, grind the venison once through the coarse grinding plate. No need to add fat. The coarser grind will stand up to a long simmer without getting mushy or falling apart.
- Sausage grind: Grind meat and fat through a medium grinding plate, then run a second time through using a fine grinding plate. Alternatively, using the all-purpose grind method works as well if you prefer a coarser grind to your sausages. A good sausage recipe should specify the best grind for that sausage as well.
Tip: Your meat and fat grinds most easily when semi-frozen. Warm fat smears easily and can get stuck on the grinding plate/blade. Briefly sticking your grinding attachments in the freezer prior to use, also helps keep the meat and fat cold.
How to store venison
Vacuum sealing protects well against freezer burn and extends the freezer life of your meat. However, inexpensive wild game freezer bags (affiliate link) work well too.
- 8 pounds venison
- 2 pounds beef fat
- One or more hours prior to grinding place venison and fat in the freezer to firm up. The amount of time will be dependent on how much meat you are grinding.
- You can also put the metal meat grinder attachments (grinding plate, blade, auger, etc...) in the freezer to help keep meat cold as it grinds.
- When the meat and fat are firm, but not frozen solid, remove from the freezer and assemble the meat grinder, using the coarse grinding plate (10mm) for the first run and the medium grinding plate (7mm or 3/16") for the second run.
- Alternating in equal intervals between meat and fat, grind everything through the meat grinder into a large bowl. Mix to evenly disperse the fat if needed, then switch to the medium grinding plate and run everything through again a second time. (you can use the medium grinding plate for both runs if desired)
- Portion 1-2 pounds of ground venison into storage bags and freeze.