Froze deboned Elk immediately after kill

PhilSchmidt

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We shot two cow elk (smaller yearlings) at daybreak a couple of days ago. Were in a hurry to get on the road to home so we quickly gutted and skinned the animals, deboned the meat and had in ice chests by 10AM. We used a process my hunting buddy suggested using layers of ice, salt and zip lock bags of boned meat, resulting in the meat freezing in only a few hours.

Got home after a days drive, put the bagged meat in a freezer and placed one bag of frozen backstrap in the fridge to thaw out. This morning I cut off a small piece and cooked it, looking forward to some delicious breakfast meat. It tasted good but the normally tender backstrap was tougher than any meat I have ever experienced!

A quick Google search said meat must go through the rigor mortis process before freezing or it will end up very tough.

Since the meat started freezing before rigor mortis began I suppose there is an outside shot the meat could start the rigor mortis process by thawing it out but I'm very doubtful.

I know meat slow cooked for a long time (stew) gets more tender but cooking too long diminishes the nutritional value. Jerky is another option I suppose. Any suggestions as to what I can do to improve this meat would be greatly appreciated.
 

Moosehnter123

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Hello, I have shot and boned several elk, some of them had even froze before I got them packed out. Two were herd bulls in full rut, and several of them have been cows. They all ended up being tender with no gamey taste. I would put them in the refrigerator, thawed, (I have a separate refrigerator in the garage that I just take the sodas out when the space is needed.) I usually let them stay in the refrigerator for about a week. I've never had them in ziplock bags, but would have the meat packed into those heavy plastic tubs, covered with towels. 2-3 days per 100 lbs is about right. I usually cut and wrap myself, and take the scraps to the butcher to have hamburger made.

That week in the fridge should tenderize it some. I am not sure if the meat goes through rigor while in the fridge, but it will drain any excess blood, just like letting them hang at the butchers shop. Hanging the meat is supposed to let enzymes work on the meat, which is what tenderizes it. Kind of like Angus beef being aged for 30 days.

You should be ok with thawing the meat and putting it in the refrigerator, but do not let is sit any longer than you need to let it sit. You already know when it was harvested and how long it has sat out, and how it was taken care of. You don't always know or trust that kind of info from a store when buying meat. I would not freeze and refreeze any store bought meat.

Hope that helps and works for you too.
 

PhilSchmidt

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Moosehunter,

That's encouraging. I hope after thawing and aging some in the refrigerator it will do the trick! I will report back on that.

My hunting buddy cooked some backstrap this AM also and was very surprised it was so tough. We then talked about this and he sliced some of the backstrap thinner, followed by pounding with a tenderizer hammer and said it was quite tender. He is making a batch of stew from front shoulder in the slow cooker today so we'll know tonight how that goes.
 

Deputy819

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You could try brining it for 24 hours or so. I’ve used the following brine recipe for deer and it worked pretty well.

 

Dr. Vette

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Holland, MI
We had this happen about 4y ago with two antelope we shot. They were probably the toughest game meat I’ve ever eaten.

I did try letting some sit in the fridge to “age“ but at least in my case it didn’t help.
If you figure out a fix, let us know.
 

Montucky Roamer

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NW MT
I had a cow freeze on the way home in the back of a truck the same night I shot it. I recall the first steaks were rather bouncy to chew but taste was great. And it does seem related to the rigor mortis cycle.

But i think later steaks that I took out of the freezer and let thaw slowly in the fridge were good and tender.
I like to take the package out a week before I eat them. Unwrap and drain blood after a day or two. Keep in sealed container.
Would probably be best to age so it doesn't sit in blood tho.
Now days I actually prefer fish a day or two after catching too. It stops curling up in the pan so bad and seems more tender.
 

flyguy1

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Oct 17, 2015
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Montana
One thing I will comment on is that I shot a calf about this time of year once; it did not freeze, yet was the toughest elk I ever had. All the elk I've shot during regular season have usually frozen in camp, as we hunted in the wilderness many miles back. Hung them frozen until they thawed enough to butcher. All were fine. It may be that the fat content is just lower this time of year; just like the difference between select and choice T bone. Just a thought. Cheap gin/olive oil/black peppercorns (crushed)/ salt makes a good marinade too for a few hours before grilling.
 

Montucky Roamer

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Also....my cow thawed back out before I butchered it the rest of the way then was frozen afterwards obviously. So maybe that freeze, thaw cycle makes a difference too.
Like flyguy said too, maybe the feed or lack thereof or stress levels change. Anyway, almost impossible to quantify any of it. I just eat them regardless.
 

djfriesen

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Sep 27, 2016
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Sous vide cooking is your friend. You can cook it low and slow without losing the nutrients.
 

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