Aging meat

karltime

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
26
Location
Utah
Curious on what everyone does for aging their meat. Do you put it in a refrigerator for a few days? Store in the garage in coolers constantly packed with ice? What special techniques have worked out for you?
 

Boxerboxer

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2017
Messages
601
Location
West-central MN
I have paid processors anywhere from $15 to $30 to hang it for me for a week in their cold storage. Last year I got my deer back mid-week and didn't have a ton of time to butcher all at once, but temps in my garage were perfect so it went another 4 days in there, or at least the last bits I got to did. One year I ended up doing 4 days in coolers on ice. Leave it in the shade, leave the drain open, and keep adding ice as needed. Nice to not have meat touching ice, though as long as the meat is on top of all the ice it will be ok. Eventually I'd love to take some fridge guts, build an insulated box just big enough to hang a whitetail, maybe even with humidity control so I could easily cure sausages and such if I wanted to, but the cooler thing is fine if that's what you have to do.
 

Wrench

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Joined
Aug 23, 2018
Messages
927
Location
WA
I've used them a bunch. Don't give up, it's fantastic info and not emotions or hunches.
 

ramont

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2017
Messages
259
Location
Montana
The big issue for me has always been temperature. I like to hang my game in my shop but how long I hang it will depend on the temperature. If the temps are over 60 degrees I will start butchering by the second day. As the temps get lower I'll let it hang for longer time but I've never let anything hang more than 10 or 12 days. After reading some of the info from those pdf files I might try to stretch things out a bit if the temperatures cooperate.
 
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Cwfa

Junior Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2014
Messages
13
I converted a refrigerator to hang meat in. I have a small fan inside so it keeps the air moving, don’t let the meat touch as this will promote bad mold to develop. I aged pronghorn, elk, and whitetail for 30 days, until I developed a white crust on the outside. You will lose some meat when trimming for final cuts but the taste and tenderness is remarkable !
 

Holocene

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
44
Location
Portland, OR
That's a great article from WY extension that sums up a lot of research and forum feedback out there.

When I started hunting (whitetail in South Carolina), I either took deer to one of our many, many processors or aged at one of my mentor's house. Processors hang a whole gutted deer and process it after 4-5 days. That's my preferred method, and now that I live in Oregon there are not a lot of game processors open at convenient hours for hunters. Luckily, I befriended a butcher and I keep my animal at his walk-in fridge and cut them up there. Aging times roughly match the WY extension article. This year I aged a spike elk for 10 days and it developed a hard rind on the outside. I will watch the humidity in the future and not go that long.

One special technique I picked up back in South Carolina is to age cuts and subprimals in a 5 gallon food grade bucket in an outdoor refrigerator (indoors is okay if you are a bachelor). In the bottom of the bucket, we'd put one of those plastic "grit guard" screens used when washing your car to keep grit and sand off the sponge. This screen allows blood to drain from your meat and settle on the bottom. Remember, moisture breed bacteria. Plus, getting the blood out will improve the finished taste of your meat since that "metallic" or "livery" taste that appears in some wild game comes from blood. Pour off the blood every day.

I much prefer this method to a cooler with ice because it ensures adequate airflow.

For backstraps and special leg steaks, a solid technique for getting tender, quality steaks is to dry age in the fridge a few days before cooking. There are some videos and articles online about doing this for beef, and the technique applies to wild game too. Just don't let the meat dry out to much.
 

rdurning

Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
56
Location
Centeral oklahoma
I have seen some videos of where people turn fridges into dry aging chambers. I have been thinking about doing it. Age whitetail and ducks in it
 

30338

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Messages
782
I aged some sharptails last year for 7 days with feathers and guts inside. Turned out very delicate and delicious. Going to be a lot of pheasants hanging around my barn this fall.
 

TristanJH

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2018
Messages
39
Location
OR
Big Game

This is can be a serious rabbit-hole, but it's a fun one to explore. First, I think it's most important to differentiate between hanging and Dry Aging:

Hanging is the process of letting Rigor wear off before butchering, which is super important as meat cut and frozen during rigor-mortis will stay that way - about as pleasant to chew on as a rubber band. This only takes 24-48 hours, but is best done on the bone.

The Aging process is a little more nuanced, and can produce a range of improvements to flavor and texture, but one must be aware of the variables and tuned in to their effect on the meat and that for every action there is a consequence - in this conversation that usually means loss.

Perhaps the most important consideration though, is why? What cuts of meat will be used in preparations that will allow the flavors produced in the aging process to come through. Aged round steaks are great burger can be awesome especially with the right fat, and backstrap can be a good candidate, although I prefer to be more careful with that. Roasts, shanks, on the other hand don't benefit a whole lot from the process.

You can hang meat for quite a while and let things get really funky as long as the temperature stays above freezing and below 40 and the humidity isn't so low that things turn to jerky. Ideal conditions in my book are 38 degrees and about 70% humidity. Regardless of your aging goals, you'll want to stick with larger cuts (small cuts from small critters dry out too fast) and keep things primal or sub-primal (No steaking)

If we all had a temperature and humidity-controlled environment at our disposal this would be easy, but most of us don't and all too often we're coming out of the field under less-than-perfect conditions. Fall and winter in most places gives us a little leeway; a cold garage will suffice for a couple days, the rest of the time a properly drained cooler will work for a day or so, but its good to befriend a butcher and get things hung up quick - that way you can take your time, let things be for a couple days to relax and get to butchering on your own time.

Birds

There's also a clear benefit to hanging birds - especially upland game birds, but they come with a very different set of variables. Because of their size and physiology we generally hang 'em whole, unless they're shot up. Sniff and feel for a perforated gut - if you encounter anything offensive, just clean that bird right away. There are also a few other caveats to consider; Turkeys are real hot inside, so generally I send those straight to a brine bath. For me, the benefit of aging ducks and geese are hard to discern. With grouse, pheasants, chuckar and quail, I'll allow them to go up to a week as long as it isn't much warmer that 50 degrees. All that said, most birds will hang in my garage for a day or three, intentionally or not.

elk shanks cut for osso buccoremoving pellicle from elk blade roastaged whole wild pheasant
 

100percent

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
219
Big Game

This is can be a serious rabbit-hole, but it's a fun one to explore. First, I think it's most important to differentiate between hanging and Dry Aging:

Hanging is the process of letting Rigor wear off before butchering, which is super important as meat cut and frozen during rigor-mortis will stay that way - about as pleasant to chew on as a rubber band. This only takes 24-48 hours, but is best done on the bone.

The Aging process is a little more nuanced, and can produce a range of improvements to flavor and texture, but one must be aware of the variables and tuned in to their effect on the meat and that for every action there is a consequence - in this conversation that usually means loss.

Perhaps the most important consideration though, is why? What cuts of meat will be used in preparations that will allow the flavors produced in the aging process to come through. Aged round steaks are great burger can be awesome especially with the right fat, and backstrap can be a good candidate, although I prefer to be more careful with that. Roasts, shanks, on the other hand don't benefit a whole lot from the process.

You can hang meat for quite a while and let things get really funky as long as the temperature stays above freezing and below 40 and the humidity isn't so low that things turn to jerky. Ideal conditions in my book are 38 degrees and about 70% humidity. Regardless of your aging goals, you'll want to stick with larger cuts (small cuts from small critters dry out too fast) and keep things primal or sub-primal (No steaking)

If we all had a temperature and humidity-controlled environment at our disposal this would be easy, but most of us don't and all too often we're coming out of the field under less-than-perfect conditions. Fall and winter in most places gives us a little leeway; a cold garage will suffice for a couple days, the rest of the time a properly drained cooler will work for a day or so, but its good to befriend a butcher and get things hung up quick - that way you can take your time, let things be for a couple days to relax and get to butchering on your own time.

Birds

There's also a clear benefit to hanging birds - especially upland game birds, but they come with a very different set of variables. Because of their size and physiology we generally hang 'em whole, unless they're shot up. Sniff and feel for a perforated gut - if you encounter anything offensive, just clean that bird right away. There are also a few other caveats to consider; Turkeys are real hot inside, so generally I send those straight to a brine bath. For me, the benefit of aging ducks and geese are hard to discern. With grouse, pheasants, chuckar and quail, I'll allow them to go up to a week as long as it isn't much warmer that 50 degrees. All that said, most birds will hang in my garage for a day or three, intentionally or not.

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Thanks for the info! Good stuff! We use a similar process with deer in a walk-in cooler with great results. I would add that keeping it dry is critical.
Curious on the upland birds... as you say to hang them whole. Assuming you gut them first, right? I need to try this!!!
 

Skerhunter

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2018
Messages
40
Location
Nebraska
I have experimented with this and failed last year.

Typically I shoot my deer, bone them out and have them in the freezer before rig even sets in (have done hundreds like this with great results). Elk sit in a cooler for 1-2 weeks on ice in game bags before I butcher/freeze. Antelope are boned out on the spot and on ice within minutes, then frozen 2-3 days later.

Last year I tried aging two deer, like the elk. On ice for 7-10 days, draining any water 2x a day. These deer tasted very gamey. Maybe the meat was more tender, but the taste it tasted so bad that it all got turned into sticks/dogs. Any advice or similar experience? I've heard good things about aging this way, but not for sure what I could have done different. Would like to try some dry aged hanging deer, but don't know anyone who does it!
 
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