Hunting season can mean a generous amount of deer meat to process and enjoy. But if you are like me, you set out a pack of venison to cook, and then life gets in the way…
Can you refreeze that venison after it’s thawed out?
The Deer hunting community seems to have this rumor floating around…” you cant refreeze deer meat!”
But that’s just not true…
You can refreeze thawed venison without safety concerns, provided you make sure it has been kept cool and dry, such as in the refrigerator. After that, the only real issue with re-freezing is that you may notice a distinct drop in taste and tenderness from moisture loss.
If you are looking into making the most out of your venison, keep on reading.
In the rest of this article, I’ll get into the details of how protein-rich and flavorful venison meat is processed and stored and how refreezing them could impact quality.
Table of Contents
- Can You Refreeze Defrosted Venison?
- What Happens When You Refreeze Defrosted Venison?
- How To Transport and Process Freshly Hunted Venison
- How Do You Store Venison?
- Do You Need To Freeze Venison?
- How Should You Thaw Venison?
Can You Refreeze Defrosted Venison?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, you can still refreeze thawed meat, although you must handle it correctly before being refrozen. This includes keeping venison thawed in the refrigerator for a maximum of four days or at room temperature for no more than two hours.
Thawed meat also cannot be left out of the fridge at a temperature above 90 °F (32.22 °C) for more than an hour.
Be mindful, however, that these standards are the essential elements of safely storing and preparing meat products for future consumption. Safety, though, does not necessarily guarantee quality.
Unfortunately, the taste and quality of venison can deteriorate when refrozen, so this is something you will also have to consider.
It’s also important to fully understand the meat you’re working with, as it has slightly different properties to beef and pork.
What Is Venison?
Venison is any portion of deer meat that is edible. Generally, venison includes all the deer’s internal organs, such as the heart, kidneys, liver, intestines, and of course the main cuts of red meat. It takes its name from the Latin word venatus, which literally means “to hunt.”
Composition-wise, it resembles that of beef and can also be prepared into similar cut-types such as chops, cutlets, tenderloins, and ribs.
In the United States, Canada, and other countries like Australia, deer hunting is extremely popular. Hunters help regulate populations, and in turn, provide funding through license sales that help fund conservation efforts.
Whitetail deer is the most popular big game mammal in the United States, and millions of ethical hunters harvest and process their own venison for the dinner table.
What Happens When You Refreeze Defrosted Venison?
We’ve already established that refreezing defrosted venison a second time is generally safe, given that you observe certain safety caveats.
Many are curious, though, about the specific trade-offs when you refreeze venison and why it is usually discouraged.
While refreezing venison is safe, it can come with quality tradeoffs. In a mini-experiment, tasters compared two types of cooked venison meats, with the first thawed once and the second twice. They found the twice-frozen venison meat either less tender or less flavorful.
Still, it depends on the overall food preparation and handling, as one of the tasters reported that they did not notice any difference between the two types of meat’s overall flavor.
How To Transport and Process Freshly Hunted Venison
Freshly hunted venison needs to be processed correctly to avoid contamination and possible poisoning. Licensed venison processors adhere to safety standards to produce safe, retail-quality deer meat.
Upon transporting deer carcasses from hunting to initial processing, handlers must ensure that environmental elements or fecal matter do not contaminate the raw meat.
During transport, pack ice cubes into the deer’s cavity to keep its insides cold. Ice must be contained in a sealed pouch as once it melts, excess water inside the cavity may lead to spoilage. Carcasses must also be processed immediately and placed away from sunlight to maintain their freshness.
Especially when the ambient air is above 40 °F (4.44°C), hunters must refrigerate venison as soon as possible, ideally within three to four hours.
If you bring your venison carcass to a meat processor, they could refuse to handle it if they find apparent signs of meat mishandling. The measure is necessary to keep you and the rest of your family safe by consuming only fresh venison, so it is best not to argue with them.
How Do You Store Venison?
You should store venison below 4 °F (-15.56°C). Raw, uncooked venison also cannot stay in the refrigerator for more than four days. However, if you plan to cook it after a more extended period, there is always the freezing option.
Just make sure to portion your venison into meal-sized cuts to prevent you from thawing excessive amounts when you decide to cook it.
Also, ensure that the packaging you’re using to store your venison in before freezing is not permeable to the air.
Freezer burns often occur when meats are frozen in the presence of oxygen, resulting in the deterioration of meat quality, color, and taste.
To prevent freezer burns, wrap your raw venison portions in butcher paper. I recommend using Reynolds Freezer Paper Plastic from Amazon.com. This packaging has a wax-lining on the side the meat touches preventing oxygen from penetrating the meat during storage.
All you have to do is put your raw venison portions into the bags and let your vacuum sealer do the work. The sealer sucks the air out of the bag, ensuring that your venison is in an oxygen-free environment for the entire freezing time.
See Also: Can You Eat Venison Rare?
Do You Need To Freeze Venison?
You do need to freeze venison if you don’t plan on eating it right away to prevent bacteria and parasites from ruining it. At low enough temperatures, the activity of these organisms can completely halt due to the slow movement of molecules inside the meat.
The US Food Safety and Inspection Service recommend freezing all kinds of meats, including venison, to 0 °F (-18 °C) to keep them safe for consumption indefinitely.
However, prolonged freezing time may affect the quality of meat. Fortunately, the quality of frozen raw venison will remain more or less the same for 8 to 12 months as long as it is prepared and packed correctly.
How Should You Thaw Venison?
To thaw venison, you can either let it thaw in the fridge, immerse the whole package in cold water, put it in a microwave, or skip the separate thawing part and cook it immediately. The most important thing to note is that It is not safe to thaw venison at room temperature.
It will likely take one to two days to thaw venison in a fridge, and if you store them in large chunks, each pound of venison could take an additional five hours of thawing time.
If you need the thawed venison a little faster, you can opt for the cold water thawing. Place the venison in a leak-free container, usually a plastic pouch, and completely immerse in cold water.
While the last step can be much faster, you will also have to be physically present to change the cold water once every half an hour and check for possible water leakage into the meat as this could lead to spoilage.
See Also: Why Does Eating Venison Give Me Gas?
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