In rural America, especially on the East Coast, deer are everywhere. Hunting deer is a common pastime and venison, or deer meat, dishes are popular. Venison can be substituted for almost any other meat.
Venison is rich and earthy. Sometimes it has a nutty flavor depending on what the deer ate throughout its lifetime.
It’s often less juicy and more tough than beef but it is also smoother and less fatty. Freezing deer meat is an important step to cooking venison and should not be ignored.
Generally speaking, deer meat can be frozen, thawed, and eaten for up to 9 to 12 months after initial freezing. However, some say deer meat can be frozen for up to 10 years and still tastes fine when thawed and cooked. The 9-12 month guideline is set by the USDA’s guidelines for wild game and pertains directly to manufacturers.
How long you can freeze deer meat depends upon the size and type of the venison cut, how it is stored, and your type of freezer. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about how long you can freeze deer meat.
- Why You Should Freeze Deer Meat Before Eating?
- Did You Know?
- How Long You Can Wait to Freeze Deer Meat?
- Consider Size of Cut When Freezing Deer Meat
- How to Properly Freeze Deer Meat
- Other Ways to Freeze Deer Meat
- How You Can Tell If Frozen Deer Meat Is Bad?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
- Other Interesting Guides
Why You Should Freeze Deer Meat Before Eating?
Freezing deer meat before eating can be an important step. It’s not always necessary but a best practice if you can. This is especially important for freshly hunted game in warmer weather.
Did You Know?
A live deer has an internal body temperature of about 101°F. Deer meat begins to grow harmful bacteria between 70°F and 100°F.
As soon as the deer is killed, it will begin cooling down and fall into the temperature danger zone. Deer hunting was originally a winter sport for this exact reason.
Generally, meat cannot be in the temperature danger zone for more than a couple of hours, sometimes even less, before it starts to harbor food-borne illnesses.
This is why it’s so important to prepare and freeze (or cool below 70°F) immediately after a hunt. If you are hunting in cooler weather, below 60°F, you might be ok to skip freezing but remember you might still be risking bacteria growth.
How Long You Can Wait to Freeze Deer Meat?
When freezing deer meat, it is best to freeze immediately. Either immediately after you personally hunt it or immediately after purchasing it.
Deer meat can last in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days before it starts to degrade and does not taste as good. For this reason, you want to freeze your deer meat as soon as possible.
If your venison has been in the refrigerator for more than 2 days, you should avoid freezing it. Instead, either cook it or throw it away.
How Long You Can Keep Frozen Deer Meat?
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about how long you can keep deer meat frozen before its taste will suffer.
As a general rule, you want to eat frozen deer meat within 3 months for best results. However, many people say you can keep deer meat frozen for up to 10 years.
It can’t be certain that 10-year-old deer meat will taste very good but it will be safe to eat. Frozen meat can be enjoyed safely indefinitely as long as it is frozen properly.
Consider Size of Cut When Freezing Deer Meat
The way your deer meat was processed can greatly impact its freezing potential. For example, ground venison freezes well but does not last nearly as long as other cuts. It won’t last as long in a freezer because the ground game has a lot more air.
Air is the enemy of the freezer and ground deer meat tends to get freezer burnt more easily. Freezing deer meat that was ground, will last from 3 to 6 months in the freezer.
Other cuts, like steaks and roasts, are better candidates for freezing. As a general rule the bigger the venison steak, the longer it will last in the freezer. Steaks and roasts will freeze well and can last up to 9 to 12 months, if not longer.
If you want to extend the time you can keep your frozen deer meat, you’ll want to make sure there are larger cuts like steaks and roasts.
If you opt for ground venison, there is a possibility that taste will be affected after only 2 months of freeze time.
How to Properly Freeze Deer Meat
There are many options for freezing deer meat to preserve its flavor and consistency through the freezing and thawing process. Some options are better at this than others.
For the best results, you’ll want to use a vacuum sealer to store your deer meat when freezing.
Freezing deer meat after vacuum sealing it will greatly increase its shelf life. Some people say that by using a vacuum sealer, you can freeze deer meat for up to ten years and it still tastes fresh!
Vacuum sealing works so well because it removes any residual air which helps retain the moisture in deer meat.
In addition, for best results, you should use a chest or deep freezer when freezing your deer meat. Chest freezers work best because, by design, they keep frozen foods colder. The shape of the freezer allows for cold air to sink when opened.
Chest freezers limit temperature changes within the freezer which is a huge cause for freezer burn.
By using these two techniques, vacuum sealing and using a chest freezer, you can significantly extend the shelf life of your frozen deer meat.
Instead of 2 to 3 months, this method allows you to freeze deer meat for up to a year or two. Some say even longer!
Other Ways to Freeze Deer Meat
If you don’t own a vacuum sealer, there are other ways to freeze deer meat that are just as effective. However, in using these options, you will find the venison might not last as long.
Using a plastic bag topped with a few layers of plastic wrap can still have very good results. If you use this method, you will want to use a sealable plastic bag that you remove as much air from as possible.
From there, you will use plastic wrap to create as tight of a seal as possible. You can then store your deer meat in a chest freezer or stand-up freezer.
This method will allow the frozen deer meat to last for 3 to 9 months.
Another storage option for freezing deer meat is to use freezer paper. Freezer paper is a lot like wax paper but it is heavier and conforms to the shape of meat to create a fairly airtight space for it to freeze.
It is extremely important to wrap your deer meat in plastic wrap before covering the plastic-wrapped meat in freezer paper.
Once your deer meat is covered in plastic wrap, you will put it on the waxy side of the freezer paper. Then fold until you create an airtight space. Pop in the freezer and it will last for 6 months to a year.
How You Can Tell If Frozen Deer Meat Is Bad?
There are two main ways to tell if your frozen deer meat is no longer good to eat.
Frozen deer meat is a deeper red color than beef. If the frozen deer meat has gone bad, it will likely have a grayish tint to it. The less vibrant the red coloring, the worse the frozen deer meat will taste.
Another great way to tell if your store-bought frozen deer meat might not taste good is to look for frozen liquid in the packaging.
Frozen juices at the bottom of frozen deer meat usually mean that it was frozen, thawed, then frozen again. While this is particularly unsafe to eat, it will definitely alter the flavor of your deer meat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should You Freeze Deer Meat Before Making Jerky?
Smoking and dehydrating deer meat is the best way to preserve it the longest but it changes the flavor profile and consistency considerably.
If you are going to dehydrate your deer meat, you will want to freeze it for a minimum of 30 days before making jerky.
Is 2-Year-Old Deer Meat Still Good?
There is nothing unsafe about freezing deer meat for more than two years. As long as your freezer stayed working the whole time, your deer meat is safe to eat.
However, if you store your deer meat in anything besides a vacuum-sealed package in a very cold deep freezer, it may not taste fresh.
Can You Eat 4-Year-Old Deer Meat?
It is safe to eat 4-year-old deer meat as long as it was consistently frozen and stored in the proper packaging.
Even though it is safe, deer meat not packaged or frozen correctly might likely result in meat that is dry and flavorless. Be sure to use a vacuum sealer and deep freezer for the best results.
Freezing deer meat is the best way to preserve it. Refrigerating deer meat only keeps for 2 to 3 days while freezing deer meat can last for years. It is important to package your deer meat properly before freezing if you want it to last the longest.
Using a vacuum sealer and a deep freezer is the only want to ensure your deer meat will taste great for years to come.
However, if you don’t have these items, some alternatives will allow your frozen deer meat to last anywhere from 3 to 12 months.
Many factors could change the shelf life of deer meat but as a general rule, the best flavor will be preserved for 3 to 9 months, despite how it is frozen.
Other Interesting Guides
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.