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#3544532 - 01/13/14 10:24 AM Dry Aged Venison experiments
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Mud Dauber
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Using my secondary refrigerator that I have cured meats in, I experimented with dry aging venison quite a bit this Winter. I'm running this refrigerator at 40 degrees with 60-70% humidity, a bowl of salt water and a clip on fan (facing the wall for indirect air flow).

My setup is not totally optimal, but I did get excellent results, nonetheless. Because this refrigerator is not a full conversion, I don't have it set up for hanging more than one or 2 primal cuts of deer, certainly not an entire deer. To get around this, I use several wire, cooling racks to separate the cuts of meat and rotate and flip them as needed to ensure airflow reaches all of the meat exteriors.



After 3-4 days, the silverskin will have separated a bit from the meat due to shrinkage. This makes silverskin removal, if needed, (the more experience I gain working with venison, the less I find myself needing to remove sliverskin). For example, on a backstrap, after 3-4 days, you can peel the silverskin off with your hands like unwrapping a plastic wrapper. At this point, the meat is very easy to work with as far as butchering. You've had just enough moisture loss that butchering is a very clean operation as there is little excess blood and moisture.



However, the meat has not reached its potential as far as the aging process developing flavor complexities. For this, its going to take 7-10 days, at which point you will begin to notice the earth tones of the meat mellowing out and getting slight pungent overtones (like aged cheese) that will increase as the aging process continues.


Venison leg after 10 days. Notice the darker color and grain separation. The silverskin surface layer peeled off in one pull.

Once you pass 10-14 days, you are beginning to enter the "long aging" process. This should probably not be attempted if you don't know what you are doing and do not have a proper setup.


Venison shoulder at 12 days. At this stage, just another 2 days will make a difference. The exterior of the meat begins to form a slight crust. Earth tones have mellowed almost entirely, meat has a neutral smell with a slight, but building punginous.


Long aging. Somewhere between day 15 and 20, especially on smaller cuts such as backstrap, you will have a definite outer crust that is surprisingly hard. (the pictured meat is uncooked). You can thump it and it makes a sound. The crust is very dark in color and the entire piece is stiff. A very sharp knife is required for efficient cutting (or the meat will crush). Cooked to MR, this piece was excellent -very mellow and subtle with a crunchy surface and tender interior.

With this particular backstrap, I have been cutting small section every couple of days. I may attempt to take the final piece of it beyond 30 days, though I expect a very hard crust by then. *If I had to put a monetary value on this particular dry aged piece of venison, I'd probably place in in the $40+ range per pound.

For comparison sake, below is a picture of a venison shoulder that has been in ice (and shank sawed prematurely):


In the above picture, if you need to remove silverskin, you will certainly have a loss of meat. If frozen with the film of surface moisture, the meat will be more prone to frost and freezer burn.

Conclusion: Dry aging is by far the superior way to go. You can simulate the environment enough for 4 day aging using a very large ice chest with a rack installed to keep the meat off the ice and a tiny battery powered fan for air circulation. I would not, however, attempt aging beyond 4-7 days in those circumstances unless you are monitoring the conditions inside the cooler with a thermometer. In the past, I have been suspicious as to whether actual, productive aging can be achieved at home using layman's tools. After experimenting and getting surprising results, I have to conclude that it can be done.

Meat that will be ground, should go to the grinder sooner rather than later. Since the grinder will tenderize the meat anyway, it won't benefit from the tenderization process. Also, you will be mixing any surface bacteria in with ground meat so it is safer to not give the bacteria much time to develop.

Primal cuts that will be slow cooked or braised will not really benefit much from the aging process beyond 4-7 days. These meats will go into pots and cook for hours, so tenderization is not really a problem. Intrinsic complex flavors will tend to get lost in the process. Nonetheless, I experimented with slightly longer aging times just to see if there is any difference in comparison to the same cuts aged 4-7 days.

Conventional wisdom is that only cuts of meat that will be cooked for a short time under high heat will benefit from any sort of long aging. for the most part, this will be your backstraps and tenderloins, but you could cook eye of round this way as well. -a little tougher, but I have done it before. Based on that, only these cuts will truly benefit from long aging.

* Note my aging temp is 40 degrees. Many people tend to hold their storage coolers just above freezing at 35 or so. That 5 degrees difference will slow the aging process down considerably. Though the USDA requires temps that low, I find it entirely unnecessary and overkill. My comparative results of the long aged backstrap were visually on par with another backstrap aged nearly 2 weeks longer at 35 degrees (5 degrees colder).
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#3544550 - 01/13/14 10:38 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
lockandloaded
4 Point


Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 372
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Good write up. Might have to try it. Did u just cook the price u ate like a steak. High heat sear then finish to a mr.
Can I take blackstrap that I have froze and thaw it and then dry age. Or does it need to be fresh.

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#3544555 - 01/13/14 10:39 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
FULLDRAWXX75
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Registered: 01/29/07
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Great thread, awesome info.

FDXX75
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#3544561 - 01/13/14 10:44 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: lockandloaded]
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Mud Dauber
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Registered: 07/28/10
Posts: 12524
Loc: Tennessee

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 Originally Posted By: lockandloaded
Good write up. Might have to try it. Did u just cook the price u ate like a steak. High heat sear then finish to a mr.
Can I take blackstrap that I have froze and thaw it and then dry age. Or does it need to be fresh.


Yeah, I just cook it like I would a steak: either on the grill on on cast iron in butter.

I don't think thawing and drying aging a good idea since you have already changed the moisture makeup of the meat by freezing it. -could have poor results. I'm not entirely sure about this, but my empirical answer is bad idea.
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3544575 - 01/13/14 10:50 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
FULLDRAWXX75
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Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 6222
Loc: Adirondack Mtns, NY

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 Originally Posted By: Poser
 Originally Posted By: lockandloaded
Good write up. Might have to try it. Did u just cook the price u ate like a steak. High heat sear then finish to a mr.
Can I take blackstrap that I have froze and thaw it and then dry age. Or does it need to be fresh.


Yeah, I just cook it like I would a steak: either on the grill on on cast iron in butter.

I don't think thawing and drying aging a good idea since you have already changed the moisture makeup of the meat by freezing it. -could have poor results. I'm not entirely sure about this, but my empirical answer is bad idea.


I have to agree with Poser on the thaw and dry age idea, the meat has already gone through a process that has changed the fiber structure of the meat by freezing it.

FDXX75
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“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”
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#3544622 - 01/13/14 11:24 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: FULLDRAWXX75]
JMcB
4 Point


Registered: 08/19/04
Posts: 390
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Been wanting to give this a try but the fridge I will be using is in the garage and need to wait until the outdoor temps will hold over 50 deg.

Couple questions, are you using a temp control plugged into the fridge? I am looking for one but haven't decided on brand or supplier. Also is the salt tray enough to control humidity? Finally, do you need to leave the door cracked open for air circulation?

Great post..TIA
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#3544630 - 01/13/14 11:30 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: FULLDRAWXX75]
lockandloaded
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Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 372
Loc: west tn

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 Originally Posted By: FULLDRAWXX75
 Originally Posted By: Poser
 Originally Posted By: lockandloaded
Good write up. Might have to try it. Did u just cook the price u ate like a steak. High heat sear then finish to a mr.
Can I take blackstrap that I have froze and thaw it and then dry age. Or does it need to be fresh.


Yeah, I just cook it like I would a steak: either on the grill on on cast iron in butter.

I don't think thawing and drying aging a good idea since you have already changed the moisture makeup of the meat by freezing it. -could have poor results. I'm not entirely sure about this, but my empirical answer is bad idea.


I have to agree with Poser on the thaw and dry age idea, the meat has already gone through a process that has changed the fiber structure of the meat by freezing it.

FDXX75

Sorta what I thought but with my minimal experience I figured I should ask anyway.

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#3544673 - 01/13/14 12:09 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: JMcB]
Poser
Mud Dauber
16 Point


Registered: 07/28/10
Posts: 12524
Loc: Tennessee

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 Originally Posted By: JMcB
Been wanting to give this a try but the fridge I will be using is in the garage and need to wait until the outdoor temps will hold over 50 deg.

Couple questions, are you using a temp control plugged into the fridge? I am looking for one but haven't decided on brand or supplier. Also is the salt tray enough to control humidity? Finally, do you need to leave the door cracked open for air circulation?

Great post..TIA


I don't have a controller for my fridge, but I should. -I've just haven't gotten around to it.

Humidity: in my case, yes, but that is dependent upon the amount of humidity your unit puts out.

Air circulation: You need a fan. A tiny, battery powered fan would probably get the job done. I use a cheap clip on and just snake the cord out of the fridge. You don't want the fan blowing directly on the meat as it will dry it out too quickly.
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3544872 - 01/13/14 02:17 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: FULLDRAWXX75]
TAFKAP
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Registered: 11/06/09
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Loc: Memphis

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For long-aged beef roasts, don't they remove the outer moldy crust to get the bright red meat underneath?
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#3544944 - 01/13/14 03:02 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: TAFKAP]
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Mud Dauber
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Posts: 12524
Loc: Tennessee

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 Originally Posted By: TAFKAP
For long-aged beef roasts, don't they remove the outer moldy crust to get the bright red meat underneath?


IDK. Do they? On venison backstraps, I'm not giving up that crust -its awesome.
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3544950 - 01/13/14 03:06 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
TAFKAP
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Loc: Memphis

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I thought I remember seeing that somewhere. That backstrap looks very similar to the breasola you cured a while back.
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#3545212 - 01/13/14 06:18 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: TAFKAP]
mike243
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Registered: 09/06/06
Posts: 11549
Loc: east tn

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in beef the outer crust/mold is cut off, deer probably doesn't have the natural enzyme to produce the mold to break it down the same, just funky old dried out deer lol ,the old timers knew all this & they quit passing it down with the advent of grocery stores ect. progress aint always for the betterment of mankind
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#3545948 - 01/14/14 09:09 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: mike243]
Crosshairy
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Registered: 08/22/06
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I suspect most of the USDA rules around temperatures are built under the assumption of farmed animals with much higher pathogen counts within the meat supply. If you are doing only deer, I agree with your 40 degree approach (I'm not sure how wild hog would go, though).
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#3546007 - 01/14/14 09:46 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Crosshairy]
huntinkev
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Registered: 11/23/06
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Great read. I will plan on doing this next year, I have a spare fridge that is just sitting in storage. I don't know about the long aging but will definitely do the less than 10 day aging.

I have always waited 3-4 days in the cooler and kept the water drained off and the meat double bagged but the one I just cut up last Tuesday, even with it double bagged and minimal ice melt because of the cold temps, it was still wet. I decided then to try something different instead of the "wet" aging that I have done for years.

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#3549084 - 01/16/14 01:24 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: huntinkev]
TheRealSpurhunter
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Another extremely informative post Poser.
I have been on the verge of a walk-in cooler purchase for years....I just cant justify it though. I may however purchase a large commercial fridge just for this. Being metal throughout, you can easily install rods across the top and then be able to hang meats, which solves the issue of rotation of racked meats.
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#3549092 - 01/16/14 01:27 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: TheRealSpurhunter]
Poser
Mud Dauber
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 Originally Posted By: TheRealSpurhunter
Another extremely informative post Poser.
I have been on the verge of a walk-in cooler purchase for years....I just cant justify it though. I may however purchase a large commercial fridge just for this. Being metal throughout, you can easily install rods across the top and then be able to hang meats, which solves the issue of rotation of racked meats.


True. You might also watch craig's list for a wine cooler. They have all of the controls you need (humidity etc). There are even double door ones out there that you could probably hang a quartered deer in.
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3549135 - 01/16/14 01:59 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
TheRealSpurhunter
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I figure if Im going to do this, Im going to get something I can hang at least 3 deer in, even if in pieces.
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#3549140 - 01/16/14 02:04 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: TheRealSpurhunter]
Poser
Mud Dauber
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Registered: 07/28/10
Posts: 12524
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 Originally Posted By: TheRealSpurhunter
I figure if Im going to do this, Im going to get something I can hang at least 3 deer in, even if in pieces.


Every man has got to have a dream \:\)
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3549171 - 01/16/14 02:26 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
TAFKAP
14 Point


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Loc: Memphis

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Here's my setup. I broke out the (tempered ) glass shelves, and cut some metal shelving channels to length. Some stainless rings, 'S' hooks, and butcher twine later, I'm hanging meat. The butcher's twine is tough on heavier cuts, though. Weighted down, it has wants to unwind, so I had to tie off an anti-rotational brace to the venison ham.

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#3549299 - 01/16/14 04:25 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: TAFKAP]
BamaProud
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Registered: 04/03/11
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The Temperature controller I use for my brew fermentation chamber is a 2 stage model. 1 for heating and one for cooling. If your aging fridge is in a garage you will probably need a heating stage to keep it "warm" when it is cold for several days.

SCT-1000
http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Temperature-Control-Controller-STC-1000-110V-/220754983199

Here's the unit, it was about 25 dollars shipped:


It is hands down the most popular the most popular temperature controller unit for brewers. If I can wire it anyone can. Here is my build thread in the DIY forum:

http://www.tndeer.com/tndeertalk/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=3214588&page=1#Post3214588


Edited by BamaProud (01/16/14 05:00 PM)
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#3549321 - 01/16/14 04:47 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: BamaProud]
BamaProud
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Registered: 04/03/11
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 Originally Posted By: Poser

True. You might also watch craig's list for a wine cooler. They have all of the controls you need (humidity etc). There are even double door ones out there that you could probably hang a quartered deer in.


I have cured several backstraps, and a 2 pound beef(bottom round) roast in mine now. I think I could hang a hind quarter of an average size Alabama of TN deer in it, but probably not a big Ohio Buck.

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Save the Little ones for the Little Ones.
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#3567963 - 01/30/14 11:47 AM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: BamaProud]
volsgo1
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Registered: 12/19/02
Posts: 4763
Loc: Collierville, TN. 38017

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The venison ageing question is a tough thing to find much info on.

A friend of mine has quite a nice butchering set up and has a cooler where a carcass can hang for a while at a controlled cool temp with skin on for several days.

Recently I had a couple of deer that had hung skin on in the cooler for 14 days. Not an uncommon time for deer to hang in his cooler. Well we had several more deer come in and these two needed to be cut up but we were all tied up for the next few days.

I took the still cold carcasses to a local processor who refused to take them saing that he was scared of venison that was not processed within 3 days of killing. Said something about how vension ages differently than beef chemically and that I very likely had ruined meat. Truth is every deer weve aged like this has always been better tasting then ones butchered sooner.

Information online seems to be all over the place on how and how long to age vension. But in general most of what I read says longer is better if kept cool.

Very confusing.


Edited by volsgo1 (01/30/14 11:50 AM)
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#3567988 - 01/30/14 12:08 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: volsgo1]
Poser
Mud Dauber
16 Point


Registered: 07/28/10
Posts: 12524
Loc: Tennessee

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Yeah, there is very little scientific info out there on it. What is out there, errs on the side of caution for fear of giving bad advice. The problem is one of controlled environment. Every deer kill is different and the factors of heat, humidity, skillset with regards to gutting all come into play.

I don't blame the processor for not taking the meat. Somebody getting sick could have hurt his reputation. As far as his advice about "ruining" the meat, keep in mind that most processors are hardly meat experts. Most of them aren't even experienced butchers outside of deer processing. If your meat tastes good and no one is getting sick, I'd just keep doing what you are doing.
_________________________
It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

Wild & crazy, can't be stopped. Only the strong will survive.

Keep your knife sharp and your skillet greasy.

http://www.GoCarnivore.com

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#3568017 - 01/30/14 12:26 PM Re: Dry Aged Venison experiments [Re: Poser]
volsgo1
10 Point


Registered: 12/19/02
Posts: 4763
Loc: Collierville, TN. 38017

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thx
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