It’s so disappointing…
You open your freezer with excitement to grab a package of back-strap. You cut open the package, and it looks like you just found a hundred year-old mummy buried in the arctic. Thankfully, we have ways to prevent this tragedy. Packaging your game to last is easier than ever, and its actually less expensive than you might think.
Here are two methods I use to prevent freezer burn and help hard-earned venison be just as pleasing one year from the harvest as it was the day I shot it.
A sealer and bags. That’s all you need right? Well, let’s slow down a bit. When I began using a vacuum sealer, I was under the impression that there was a magical system that somehow protected meat longer just because I was using it. I was wrong.
Vacuum sealing is a great way to store meat. By sucking most of the air from the packaging and then creating a semi-permanent seal, the meat is less exposed to the possibility of freezer burn. It creates a nice, clean looking package that you can visibly identify a cut through. It’s especially nice to use for small cuts of individually cut steaks or fish filets.
The challenge comes when using a retail grade vac-sealer on larger cuts. You can become very frustrated when you use a ton of bag material only to discover that the sealer doesn’t have the power to finish the job.
If you’re going to use a vacuum sealer, I recommend purchasing the highest grade sealer you can afford. You don’t always get what you pay for. Prices vary widely between home models and commercial grade equipment. Do your research by way of customer reviews and vacuum specs.
Here’s the hard truth. A vacuum sealer will help meat last longer than simply throwing it in a zip-lock bag. Don’t expect meat to last more than one year with this method. If you use your venison quickly, this is a great way to go. More specifically, this is a great way to store cuts you will use quickly. It’s also a great way to store pre-made items like snack sticks or summer sausage.
Cellophane and Freezer Paper
I have a confession. Even from my early days of hunting, this was my go to method. It worked great. Then vacuum sealers came around and I jumped on the band-wagon. Now, it’s back to the old ways again.
Don’t get me wrong, I like using my sealer. Especially if I’m going to be giving meat away. It’s what people are used to seeing from a butcher. But when it comes to longevity of freshness, It’s hard to beat simply wrapping the meat in a layer of cellophane and then a layer of heavy freezer paper. Even after months of sitting in my chest freezer, small cuts like steaks and big cuts like neck roasts come out looking great.
The idea behind this is simple. Get as much air out of the packaging as possible, and keep as much of the cold, dry air of the freezer out of direct contact as well. It’s the same idea behind freezing fish in water.
What About Ground Meat?
Ground meat never sticks around our house long so I’ve never been able to test the freezer life of it. I recommend getting as much air out of the pre-made freezer bags as possible before freezing, and then do a sight and sniff test once you open the package. If there is a ton of frost built up around the meat when you open the package, if it looks gray and un-appealing, or if it has the telltale smell of freezer burn, you’ve found the limit.