How Long Can You Keep Venison in The Freezer? (Best Practices)

Wild game provides a unique flavor to your diet and a sense of satisfaction if you hunted it yourself. One good-sized deer can provide your family with meat for the winter. To get the most from your hunting trip, make sure to store the meat properly so that the quality remains as good as the first day.

When properly stored,  venison will stay good in the freezer for 8-12 months. Ground venison is best when used within 3 months of freezing. You should eat frozen, raw venison within 8 months for food safety. Roasts and steak cuts of venison will have the best quality up to 9 months and are safe to eat up to a year.

You can freeze cooked venison up to 9 months. If it is the meat only it will last the longest in the freezer. If you are freezing a stew or casserole, check on the freezing time for the other ingredients to determine the length of time you can freeze a particular dish.

The length of time venison will stay good in the freezer depends on multiple factors including how it is prepared before freezing, what kind of packaging it is frozen in, and how quickly it freezes. Continue reading for details on properly storing venison for the best results.

How Long You Can Freeze Venison?

Properly prepare and label your venison before freezing it. Be sure to wrap it carefully to keep air away from the meat. Rotate the venison when storing it, so that the newest meat is at the back of the freezer and the oldest is at the front and will be used first.

Various cuts and preparations of raw venison have different storage times. The FDA notes storage times for different cuts of meat. Uncooked ground venison will have the best quality before 3 months in the freezer, although it will be safe to eat until about 8 months. Venison roasts and steaks will have the best quality within the first 9 months of being in the freezer but will be safe to eat up to about a year.

The FDA explains that while meat that is frozen and stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit is will be safe to eat indefinitely. However, the quality, taste, and texture may suffer.

Cured venison has a significantly shorter freezer life with 3 months for the best quality and only 4 months for being safe to eat. 

You can also freeze cooked venison in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags for 6-9 months. Bear in mind that other ingredients may affect the freezing time of venison dishes. For example, if you are freezing only venison meat like a cooked roast, it will keep for up to 9 months.

Frozen Venison

However, if you are freezing venison chili with beans, you should consider how long beans stay good in the freezer. Beans tend to lose their texture and flavor after about 3 months in the freezer, so you should only store venison chili for 3 months for the best results.

Properly Preparing Raw Venison For Freezing

Venison should be stored below 40 degrees as soon as possible to prevent any food spoilage. It should also be processed at a low temperature to preserve the meat. Excess fat should be trimmed off to reduce the gamey taste of the venison

Aging venison makes it more tender through the release of enzymes that break down the tissues. You should only age venison for three days maximum and always at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to inhibit any bacterial growth.

While smaller cuts of venison are more convenient because they are ready to go, larger cuts will freeze better longer, because you can trim off any freezer-burned portions if necessary. Be sure to consider how often you will use venison and for what recipes to determine the size and quantity of cuts that work best for your family.

Materials For Freezing Venison

When preparing cuts of meat for storage, you need to be sure that the packaging you will use is the best for long-term freezer storage. Your goal is to package the venison so that there is no air touching it, and in materials that don’t allow for freezer burn. The best solution for freezing venison long-term (as well as a multitude of other items) is a vacuum sealer.

Without a vacuum sealer, make sure to choose freezer paper or bags that are specifically designated for the freezer.

Preserve Venison with a Countertop Vacuum Sealer 

A vacuum sealer with heavy-duty freezer bags is a quality investment for anyone, but especially for hunters needing to store meat for a long time. For under $100 you can buy a countertop vacuum sealer with bags for preserving just about anything.  Vacuum sealers come in 2 basic formats, external and chamber.

The external vacuum sealers are much less expensive and are easy to use. You simply slide your cuts of venison in the bag and put the open end in the vacuum sealer and seal it. If you struggle with juices from the meat running out of the bag when you try to seal it, set the machine up on a stack of books or boxes so that the bags hang down while they are being sealed.

Wrap Individual Portions in Freezer Paper

You may also consider wrapping venison in waxed freezer paper then slipping individual portions into a heavy-duty zip-top bag or airtight container. Regular waxed paper is not freezer quality. Be sure that you have heavy-duty paper made for wrapping and freezing meat. Otherwise, the wax coating on the paper may dissolve in the freezer, leaving your venison essentially unprotected.

Zip-Top Freezer Bags

Venison

If you prefer to place the cuts of meat in individual bags, be sure that you have heavy-duty freezer bags, not just regular sandwich bags. Remove as much of the air as possible from the bag before sealing. If you anticipate keeping the venison in freezer bags for a long time, consider double bagging each piece for even more freezer protection.

Upright Freezer Or Chest Freezer

Consider the kind of freezer you have. Upright freezers are the most convenient format making it easy to see what you have in your freezer. They are also the easiest to rotate food in, putting new food in the back and moving the oldest foods toward the front.

The drawback of an upright freezer is that they tend to lose cold more quickly when the door is open and you are looking for something.

Chest freezers, the kind that are horizontal and you lift the lid to open, do a much better job at maintaining consistently low temperature than upright freezers. However, it is difficult to rotate old and new food through because things fall to the bottom.

Best Practices For Freezing Venison

Once the venison is packaged and ready to freeze, you will get the best results by freezing it in batches rather than trying to pack the freezer full all at once. Package up all the venison and put it in the fridge. Then place one batch of packages in the freezer, leaving room between them.

After 3-4 hours, move the frozen packages and add more packages leaving space between them. This method leaves air around each package to help them freeze faster. Also by only adding a few packages at a time, you won’t lower the temperature of the freezer as much.

Defrosting Frozen Venison

For many recipes, you will need to defrost the venison before cooking it. The safest way to defrost venison is to place it in the refrigerator to thaw for several hours or overnight. If you vacuum sealed the venison or saved it in zip-top bags, you can also set it in a bowl of cool water to speed up the thawing process.

On the other hand, if you are cooking a roast or venison stew meat in your pressure cooker, you can cook it from frozen as long as you add extra liquid to the recipe.

Be sure to defrost only the amount of venison you need for one meal. You should not refreeze raw venison once it has been thawed. However, you can cook the venison then freeze the cooked portions

Refrigerating Venison

If you know that you will use the venison cuts soon, you can keep them in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container. The same rule of thumb holds true for cooked venison. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 

Venison Sausage

Many people enjoy delicious venison sausage. Freshly made venison sausage will keep well in the refrigerator for 2 days. However, smoked sausage will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.

Venison Sausage

For the best results store your venison sausage in a vacuum sealer. Non-smoked venison sausage will stay good in the freezer for 2-3 months. Smoking the sausage preserves the meat better, making it freezer safe for 5-6 months.  

Venison Jerky

Another popular preparation for venison is to make jerky. Properly dried venison jerky will stay good in an airtight container for 2 weeks at room temperature. You can significantly extend the shelf life of your jerky by refrigerating or freezing it.

You will get the best results by storing jerky with a vacuum sealer. Vacuum sealed jerky will stay good in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 months and in the freezer for 7 months to 1 year.

Using Venison In Recipes

If you are new to venison, you may wonder what recipe to use it in. Essentially, you can substitute venison for any beef, lamb, or pork recipe. You should note, however, that venison is a lean meat and has a tendency to dry out when you cook it. Venison is a good candidate for brining before cooking or to make into chilis and stews. 

You can roast venison in the oven by covering the baking dish loosely with foil to keep the moisture trapped in the dish. When you pan sear venison, cook it slowly and baste it frequently. 

Cooking venison in the pressure cooker or slow cooker helps preserve the tenderness and the moisture of the meat.

Final Thoughts

Venison will freeze well and keep your family fed through the winter. Be sure that your venison is properly wrapped so that no air reaches the meat to preserve its highest quality. Keep ground venison in the freezer for 3 months for the best quality and no longer than 8 months. Other cuts of venison like roasts and steaks will keep best for up to  9 months and should be eaten within a year.

Cured venison has a shorter shelf life, only 3-4 months. Smoked venison sausage will freeze well for 6 months and jerky lasts up to a year in the freezer.

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