Game Processing: Equipment You Need
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We’ve all heard the saying, “The true work begins after the shot.” The reality is, you do have a major chore in front of you. Whether you hunt big game or waterfowl you have to get it broken down and in the freezer or to your local meat locker. If you then choose to process your own meat, you need to make specific cuts and sort the meat according to the end products (steaks, sausage, jerky, etc.).
Before we get too far into the processing, let’s take a look at the tools you will need in the kitchen.
A majority of meat processing and recipes begin with a grinder. Grinding down cuts for sausage, burger and any other products that require ground meat will be ran through a grinder. This breaks down the muscles and allows you to mix the lean game meat with other fatty meats.
Choosing the right grinder is dependent on how much meat you will be processing at a single time. If you harvest one deer, a smaller grinder will suffice. But, if you harvest multiple animals or have a large amount of meat to do at once, a larger grinder is more ideal.
The everyday versatility of a slicer is essential if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In the kitchen you can use a slicer for cutting salami, summer sausage, cheese, etc. You can also use it to slice your game for jerky and processing in a grinder.
The size of slicer you decide to purchase is dependent on the amount of use it will receive in the kitchen while processing your wild game. Although this piece of equipment is not essential to your setup, it makes slicing easier and faster.
Deciding on what to make from the animal you harvested will determine if you need a mixer or not. However, these are not your standard kitchen mixers. A heavy duty meat mixer will allow you to easily and efficiently blend seasonings with your ground meat to get consistent flavor in every bite.
If you are processing smaller amounts of meat at a time, it is manageable to mix by hand using a big bowl or meat tub. If this is the case, be sure to thoroughly mix this meat so the seasonings distribute evenly.
When it comes time to start filling casings for sausage, brats or sticks, a sausage stuffer is the most ideal candidate. There are many different styles and brands that are manual or automatic. The key is to find one that processes the amount of sausage you desire.
A sausage stuffer can be replaced with the stuffing tubes that come with most grinders. If the tubes are not included, most grinders have the option to use a tube to fill your sausage casings as well.
One of the most crucial elements that can be overlooked is storing your meat. If you choose not to process your meat within a few days of the harvest, it is good practice to vacuum seal to maintain its freshness. Using a vacuum sealer over a standard freezer bag will ensure that you have all of the air out of the bag, avoiding freezer burn. Vacuum sealed bags also stack very neatly in the freezer.
Most vacuum sealers will work for in home use. Bigger machines will seal faster and accept bigger bags. The key with all sealers is that you take care of them. Make sure that it is well cleaned and you keep the moisture and juices inside the bag. A trick is to fold a paper towel and place it at the opening of the bag. This way the towel will hold the juices when you seal the bag.
Some recipes call for the meat to be placed in a dehydrator. They are as simple as they sound; they remove the moisture from the meat and create a chewy snack! Dehydrators come in many different shapes and sizes. You can use these for more than meat. Dehydrating fruits and vegetables create great snacks for you and the kids.
Digital smokers have come a long way in recent years. They now boast features such as digital temperature control, smoke control, and a timer. This allows you to inject the perfect amount of smoke into each piece of processed game.
Smoking breakfast sausage, jerky and bratwurst is easier than ever. Choose the right size based on the amount of meat you want to smoke in a single sitting. Once the meat is smoked, you can refrigerate it or vacuum seal it for freezer storage.
Over the past few years, Traeger has become the king of the block. These smoker grills now include precise digital temperature controls, multiple varieties of wood pellets and consistent performance.
Similar to a digital smoker, you can control the temperature, smoke level, and customize the exact flavor you are looking for. These smokers have a greater temperature range; electric smokers usually max out around 320 degrees, whereas Traeger maxes out around 475 degrees. This increase in temperature allows you to grill on your Traeger, while still imparting a great smoke flavor into burgers, steaks, or tenderloins.