84% of meat in high-end restaurants has undergone a form of aging. Why is what has been downplayed as 'controlled rotting' so popular? The simple answer is that aging leads to better tasting meat. How long to hang a deer is knowledge venison-loving hunters need.
So how long should you age a deer? My answer has always been never less than a day or longer than fifteen days, But for some cases 1-2 days is sufficient because of some positive factor. Well now you know, Different factors influence the length of aging time, so what are they. This article offers a comprehensive guide into hanging deer. Read on for insightful do’s, don’ts, and 'how to's.
Why Do You Have To Hang A Deer? A Scientific Approach
There are two answers to why do you hang a deer after shooting it.
- i. Flavor
- ii. Tenderization
Many people associate aging with rotting. When they hear of flavor, they think of a near-rot taste. Nothing can be further from the truth. Hanging deer involves keeping a deer hang without allowing rot.
Flavoring meat by aging it is an old concept. Generations by generations have tried and tested the technique. Some skeptics are, however, still not convinced. Many have asked me for the science behind flavoring by aging. Is there any scientific support? Yes!
The conditions for aging allow for the growth of fungi of the Thamnidium genus. These fungi produce enzymes that add flavor to aged meat. The flavor is not caused by 'decaying' bacteria as many have come to believe.
Enzymes produced by the fungus also tenderize the venison. Collagen is the agent behind the toughness of the meat. How long to hang a deer before butchering is informed by the amount of collagen in the meat. Older deer have more collagen and should, therefore, be aged longer.
Under optimum hanging temperatures, muscle tissues use the oxygen in the red blood cells. They then produce carbon dioxide which is not removed for lack of blood circulation. The result is the formation of lactic acid within the venison. Lactic acid breaks down collagen leaving the meat tenderized.
Next time they ask, “Why do you have to hang a deer?” Tell them it is for the sake of the best-tasting venison.
Factors Influencing How Long To Hang A Deer Before Butchering
Like I said earlier, deer should never be butchered in under 24 hours of the hunt. All carcasses undergo a tightening of muscles called rigor mortis. It lasts for a maximum of 24 hours. Meat butchered from a carcass in rigor mortis retains the toughness.
These are the three main factors influencing aging time.
First of all, deer cannot be hang in every temperature. So, at what temperature can a deer hang? As stated earlier, there is an optimum hanging temperature. It is between 35F – 40F (1.7 – 4.4 Degrees Celsius).
If the temperatures exceed 40F, the deer will rot faster than it ages. If the temperature drops below 35F, water in the meat will freeze and stop the aging process. Calibrated walk-in refrigerators are the best aging equipment. Under optimum environmental temperatures, you can still hang deer in the comfort of your home.
How long to hang deer is greatly influenced by temperature. How long to hang a deer in warm weather differs from the length to hang in colder weather. The higher the temperature, the shorter the hanging time. If the temperatures are too high, however, butcher the meat up as soon as rigor mortis is over. There is no need to risk build-up of harmful bacteria.
If, on the other hand, temperatures only spike up occasionally, insert ice blocks into the chest cavity of the deer. Cover the carcass with a towel and the spike will not affect the aging process.
ii. Age Of Deer
Young deer, under two years old, do not have much collagen. Three days are enough to tenderize their meats. Deer older than two years demand at least seven days. The taste, however, constantly improves with aging time. The longer, the better.
So, even if the meat is tender and ready, you may want to hang it longer for taste. Past fifteen days, however, health risks set in. The carcass runs the risk of decaying. Do not be so quick to believe those claims of 'a month old aged deer.' If the claims were true, the deer would be far from tasty.
Preference affects everything from aging length to what temperature can a deer hang. If you want very tender and flavorful venison, hang for longer in colder conditions.
If you want the venison in record time, hang it for shorter periods at slightly higher temperatures. All in all, aged venison is incomparable to meat harvested and butchered immediately. In fact, even in local markets, aged costs 15% - 25% more than other meat. Now that is evidence of quality!
For The Love Of Venison
Let us revisit why do you have to hang a deer? We said it was for the sake of improving venison quality. Sometimes, temperatures are not favorable for hanging deer. It is at such times that venison lovers are tested. Unless you have a walk-in refrigerator, the tips below are for you.
i. It is freezing cold
When it is cold, harvested deer runs the risk of freezing in a state of rigor mortis. To avoid this, tough decisions have to be made. It is crucial that you keep the deer thaw-free for twenty-four hours. No matter what the cost do not let it freeze before that.
Once, when it was too cold in my garage, I let my harvest share my fireplace. Things we do for love! I had to clean up a lot after but, at least I did not ruin my harvest.
ii. It is too hot
Even on higher temperatures, you can still hang the meat. I recommend forty-eight hours and no more. I know of hunters who push it to three days but, is it worth the health risks?
If you have never tried aging your deer, you have never really tasted venison. Most hunters who claim that venison is too 'gamey' for their tastes harvest and butcher on the same day. Try out our how long to hang deer tips and tell us how you liked the venison in the comments section. Until then Happy Hunting!!!