Generally speaking, frozen deer meat can safely last in the freezer for about 1 year. While the moisture is in solid form, the growth of bacteria is severely halted and oxygen is usually locked out.
Dehydrated meat shelf life is about the same. However, the meat has a greater quality because the muscle fibers of the meat are protected from damage. When water in meat is frozen, it becomes sharp and punctures the meat on a cellular level, which also leaks nutrients.
That being said, the shelf life of frozen venison is less, in terms of quality. By cooking and drying it, you’re able to savor more of the texture and nutrients over the long term.
Wild game jerky
If you’re a hunter, you’ve likely heard of a jerky cure. It’s a process that uses salt, nitrates and water to draw out undesirable juices, flavor the meat and prevent bacteria growth. We have guides on how to do this, and you can find expert advice on the web.
A dehydrator for jerky is a powerful tool for meat storage. If you want to know how to make deer jerky, all it requires is a knife, a deer jerky seasoning or marinade and a suitable meat dryer.
The following recipe uses apple cider vinegar to tenderize the meat. White wine, beer, tomato puree and pineapple juice are also popular options, which contain citrus.
- 4 lbs. deer meat
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tbsp. brown sugar, maple syrup or honey
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. pepper
How to make venison jerky
After curing your deer meat, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Partially frozen meat is easier to cut cleanly and efficiently. When all of the portions are roughly the same thickness, they’ll all cook and dry consistently.
Using a sharp knife, carefully make ¼-1/8” slices. Cut against the grain to achieve a tender jerky and to allow the marinade to seep into the fibers of the meat.
Place the strips of venison in a zip lock bag or covered container, fully submerged in the marinade. Leave it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Set your jerky dryer machine to 160 degrees F. Place the marinated strips of jerky meat on the dehydrating trays, leaving room between each piece. Dehydrate for about 8 hours, until most of the moisture has reduced and the meat is almost totally dry.
Beyond the shelf life of jerky meat
Making beef jerky or venison jerky isn’t the only way to preserve meat. If you have a meat grinder, you can also cook and dehydrate venison meat in ground form, then re-hydrate it later.
This may not sound as appealing as it actually is. In fact, the taste and quality of the meat is more pleasing than simply freezing ground venison for a up to a year or longer, because it isn’t frozen with moisture content.
Moisturizing dried ground venison is a simple process of adding boiling water or broth. Afterward, you can season and enjoy it the same way you would with fresh-cooked meat. Mac and cheese, stews and burgers are great examples to use on a camping trip, where you don’t have access to a refrigerator.
Read our previous article on freezing ground beef. It reveals methods and how-to information on how to store dry ground beef for months or years. They apply equally well to venison, turkey, chicken and virtually any kind of meat.
A deer jerky dehydrator will provide abundant opportunities to improve the shelf life of your venison!