10 Tips for Processing Elk

10 Tips for Processing Elk
10 Tips for Processing Elk

MISSOULA, Mont. — Hunting season is well under way. You finally tag an elk or deer but now the local butcher is swamped, forcing you into a crash course in processing your own meat.

Fear not, says the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which offers the following tips and diagram to guide you.

“Many hunters don’t venture into butchering until they’re forced, either by economics or necessity,” said P.J. DelHomme, hunting editor of Bugle, the Elk Foundation’s member magazine, “but once they try it, it often becomes an enjoyable extension of the hunt. Converting a game animal into food is another way to connect with land and habitat and wild places.”

  1. Consider getting the meat cut, packaged and into the freezer ASAP. Hanging meat for aging and tenderizing is usually preferred but if you don’t have a temperature-controlled environment between 35 and 50 degrees, the process can be risky.

  2. Wild game can be aged and tenderized later using an alternative process. Remove a package of meat from the freezer and allow it to partially thaw. When the meat is beginning to soften and covered with slushy ice crystals, put a tally mark on the package and refreeze. Then repeat. When a package has three tally marks, it’s ready for cooking.

  3. The four basic tools for butchering are simple around-the-house tools. You will need a good sharp knife, a whetstone to keep the knife sharp, a hacksaw and a cutting board. You may also wish to use rubber gloves.

  4. Cleanliness is crucial. Rinse the skinned carcass (or quarters) and pat dry before you begin cutting. Wash your tools with soap and water before you start and clean your knife after each sharpening. If it’s not too cold, set up a cleaning table outside and use a hose with a high-pressure nozzle.

  5. The goal is to simply reduce the animal to individual muscles or groups of muscles, per the diagram. Start by removing the legs. Rear legs are jointed and fit into a socket in the hip. Front legs fit onto the chest mainly with muscles and tendons. The rest of the animal basically is ribs, neck and spine, and meat can be filleted from these areas. Remove back straps by slicing down the center of the back and boning along spine outward onto ribs. Don’t forget to take the tenderloins from the inside spine.

  6. Don’t try to make chops. Without professional-grade saws and butchering tools, consider simply cutting meat off the bones to make steaks, roasts, stew meat and jerky. When cutting a muscle into finished pieces, remember to cut across the grain of the meat.

  7. Trim away bloodshot meat, connective tissue, membranes, cartilage, fat — anything you don’t want to eat — and toss it into a bucket or trashcan lined with a plastic bag. Use another bag or tub for clean trimmings or cuts for grinding into burger. Freeze this bag of meat and take it to your butcher for grinding later when he or she isn’t swamped.

  8. If you have a vacuum-type food sealer, use it. Otherwise, wrap meat in cellophane and then butcher paper. Double wrapping is better. Mark each package with the date and type of cut. Expect finished meat to weigh less than 50 percent of the animal’s live weight.

  9. If your deer or elk came from a CWD area, special instructions may apply. Refer to the web site of the RMEF-supported Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, www.cwd-info.org, for information.

For more information, photos, charts and breakdowns of cuts, go to the RMEF web page www.rmef.org/hunting and click on “Carnivore’s Kitchen.”


Hunter's Meat Map

The following diagram outlines the different cuts meat:


Hunter's Meat Map


Recommended for You

Records

No Kidding: Angler Smashes Record for Lake Trout

Scott Bernarde - May 21, 2019

The Pennsylvania man's trophy fish was more than two pounds heavier than the previous record.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

Walleye

How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

As KVD tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, innovative Humminbird products and cutting-edge technology like that found in the new Mega 360 Imaging sonar are major reasons contributing to his unparalleled success.

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

OutdoorChannel.com Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Stories

More Hunting How-To

Whitetail

Plan It, Plant It for Your Food-Plot Future

Drew Warden - August 07, 2019

Ideally, you want a variety that provides whitetails with foraging options all year.

Hunting How-To

Why Sharp Edges Matter to Suspicious Whitetails

G&F Staff - December 04, 2018

There are shapes, angles and hard edges that drive deer nuts, and it usually takes them a...

Hunting How-To

5 Steps to Recharge Your Hard-Hunting Dog

Carl Myers - August 21, 2018

This routine provides all the benefits hunting dogs need for better performance the next...

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×