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Thread: How long should meat cure?

  1. #1

    Default How long should meat cure?

    Not to give a life history here, but, for lack of a better way to start; I recently re-attended the archery class with my wife as sort of a refresher for me and hopefully a new past time for my wife. I was shocked when it came to the point in the class where we covered "how to properly care for meat." The class actually had 3 instructors, and all three unanamusly declared that the sooner you process your meat, the better. Now i have no real theory or proof or anything of that nature as to my methods, but i was always taught to hang meat as long as possible in order to let it cure.
    I assumed that hanging/curing the meat allowed it to bleed out and my thinking was that, less blood meant less gamey taste. This is of course in the right temperature conditions. In fact my family in idaho have a game cooler and will let the meat hang at +/- 40 degrees for as long as two weeks, or until the meat begins to mold on the outside. They claim that it makes a huge difference in the tenderness of the meat.
    Another thing that the instructores said that i had never heard before is that the animals bones will spoil the meat or give it a more gamey flavor, and that where possible, the meat should be taken off of the bone in the field. Of course all the instructors said that all of this was their own opinion, which i respect, i just wanted to know what everyone else thought about this. What are the pros/cons to hanging/curing your meat as compared to processing it asap?

  2. #2

    Default Horse pucky!!!!!

    I would have to strongly disagree with your instructors. I'm sure everyone has heard the term "well aged beef". They don't mean an old steer.....

    The longer you can hang your meat the longer the enzymes have a chance break down the tissue. Making for more tender meat and less gamey. Your family speaks the truth and your instructors speak with forked tongue!

    I have taken my fair share of old rutted bulls (and I mean ones that make you want to gag) and as long as I can hang them for a week or more (temperature permitting) it is as good as any cow. In my younger less experienced days I would butcher to early and it was rolling the dice on flavor and toughness.

    One more thing if I may and then I'll be quiet.... If you let the meat freeze before rigor sets in the meat will be tough no matter what unless you tenderize with a meat grinder. O.K. I've said my piece.

  3. #3
    Member ozhunter's Avatar
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    Default

    A ditto to your "horse pucky" ltsryd.

    We kill and butcher our own lamb on the farm once or twice a year, and try to let them hang for up to a week, depending on the weather. The longer it can be left to hang, the better the flavour and tenderness will be.

    I will be killing half a dozen next weekend, and I have lined up a coolroom, so I can hang them without worrying about it getting blown

    oz
    il vaut mieux Ítre bon que la chance

  4. #4

    Default

    Depends on the species, the temperature, the humidity, the age of the animal when shot, and personal tastes. Lots of variables, and there's no pat answer. Your instructors' advice is way, way out there from the perspective of gourmet butcher shops, much less from individuals who have spent a lifetime providing their own meat. Sounds more like they were spouting something they read somewhere than anything based on experience.

  5. #5

    Default

    The instructors were actually quite believable, and i say that because i felt the same as you until they said "this is our personal experience, this is what we like to do." otherwise i would have written it off as huey myself.

  6. #6
    Member JustinW's Avatar
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    Default

    I was reading on this exact topic a few weeks ago. There are some good university based articles online talking about aging beef backed up by research, not just huey from whereever. For beef, it seemed that about 7-10 days ends up being the right amount of time to hang and you get diminishing returns with hang times of any longer. YMMV.

    http://www.extension.umn.edu/distrib...on/DJ5968.html

    I googled "aging beef" because it gave me more info that was peer reviewed than other search terms I tried. Check it out, hope it helps

  7. #7
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    I'm with your instructors first... and also with BrownBear. It depends on species, temps, and humidity.

    Take away all three of those factors, and I am working on processing right away.

    Clean is always best for me.

    "Curing" is not done with age. It is done with cures.

    As for hang time, I will say that the typical deer spends at least two days in my fridge while I work on it. It isn't hanging, but it is doing it's thing while I am doing mine.
    "...just because we didn't agree with you doesn't mean we didn't have good discussion. It just means you missed it." -JMG-

  8. #8

    Default Depends on the fat content?

    My buddy owns a butcher shop. I was told that beef is better if left to hang 10 days to 2 weeks. The aging process helps with animals with higher fat content. He claims it is not so important in deer as it is so lean. Moose, caribou would be the same I reckon? I try to butcher wild game as soon as possible.

  9. #9

    Default Temps and humidity.

    To add to what I had stated earlier.... I just assumed someone would only consider hanging in a cool dry area. If it is warm and humid and you hang it for very long, yes your meat will be tender, but rancid. Now if you can hang it at 38 to 42 degrees in a cool dry area with no blow flies a week to ten days is great.

    I can only say this is my chosen method for the species I am used to dealing with... Sheep, Goat, Moose, Caribou, Sitka Blacktailed deer, Bison, and Black bear. I have not had the opportunity to try it with other species from the states so I could only just assume......

    It is fun to see the different ideas and opinions of what works best. I guess the bottom line is, if it aint broke don't fix it! As long as you and your family are enjoying your meat then you are doing it correctly.

  10. #10
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    Default Hanging meat

    My wifes family had a meat shop in Delta Junction way back when, they always hung meat 7-10 days if possible. My father was a meat cutter in the States as was his father and they always hung meat about 10 days. On a ranch that I worked on, when they slaughtered beef it was always hung 10-14 days. With the expection of caribou and bear we will hang game meat 7-10 days depending on the weather. As long as we can keep it in a cool dark place with the air moving, we will let it hang until there is a little surface mold.
    So far we have not had any bad meat. You need to hang meat to what ever tatse that you expect.

  11. #11

    Default Tender and Tasty

    It is not uncommon for good beef to be aged 20 to 28 days. Most game, however, has a higher bacteria count, which hastens aging. Five to ten days should be plenty of time. Process before you notice a reduction in muscle mass.

    All that and I have had some very tasty meat that has aged very little. Time, temperature, humidity, species, and patience are all factors --$0.02.

  12. #12

    Default

    Im suprised again. I figured after that class that there would be a wide array of opinions on this matter. Judging by the comments here, these were three like-mind instructors and quite possibly a minority in this aspect. I keep hearing/reading "time, humidity, species." Does anyone care to elaborate? How does time relate to species and so forth?

  13. #13
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lv4bowfishin View Post
    Im suprised again. I figured after that class that there would be a wide array of opinions on this matter. Judging by the comments here, these were three like-mind instructors and quite possibly a minority in this aspect. I keep hearing/reading "time, humidity, species." Does anyone care to elaborate? How does time relate to species and so forth?
    LV ... GREAT READ! I'm always in the minority. And, people always enjoy my grub. So, how is it factored?

    Diet.

    Sex.

    Size.

    My big game is almost always limited to deer. Specifically blacktails in SE.

    I have never killed a buck in or after the rut, and I've never killed a trophy.

    What I have killed are very well fed animals with no other factors.

    You can't use beef as your "high water mark" unless it is range cattle. Then I'd compare it to a moose (maybe).

    Clean, clean, clean.

    I honestly wish I could attend AKDSLDOG's potluck, because I would compare "fresh" to "aged" in my game any day.

    So, as always, I'll be the thread minority.
    "...just because we didn't agree with you doesn't mean we didn't have good discussion. It just means you missed it." -JMG-

  14. #14
    Member wjackson's Avatar
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    Default game meat and enzimes?

    I too was re-taking that same class with my wife as lv4bowfishin. I was just as shocked as he was to here about the lack of " hang time" on there game meat and that bones will "spoil the meat".

    When I asked them if they hung the meat at all, they said that game meat differs from beef in that it dosen't have the necessary enzymes to "age" the meat and it was more or less a waste of time. I'm not sure if it does or not but I'd like to know. Does anyone have any scientific data or studies on it?

    I'm not tryin too bash those instructors, I think they did a good job and was greatful they donate their time for such causes!

    jackson

  15. #15
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    Default previous source

    A year or two ago, there was a thread on this topic that had a link to research done by some university. It was thorough and good information. You might try to do a search for it. If I recall correctly their conclusion was it is generally a waste of time to age your meat on the hook.

    I know Strahan has some opinions on the topic and has done a fair amount of research on meat care as well. You might PM or email him.

    As for me, I generally let my schedule direct me. If I can let it hang for about week in low temps I will. But often there is more hunting to be done for other species that gets me on it sooner. Sometimes it is spread into several evenings less than a week after the kill (after work) so I can get out on the next weekend. I've never had a problem with well cared for meat being too gamey. On the other hand I generally end up with young animals not in the rut.

    -Carnivore
    Everything that lives and moves will be food for you.
    Genesis 9:3

  16. #16

    Default

    The "bone" thing is pure hooey. The rest is a mix of variables, as I stated before.

    Here's the bottom line for me: Sometimes the variables don't work for you to allow longer hang times. You have to do your cutting sooner. In that case my criteria is the firmness of the meat. If it's loose and flabby and not cased and firm, you can't do as good a job of getting nice, straight cuts. Without straight cuts you won't get uniform thickness in your portions and you won't be able to respect the lay of the grain. Mess with the grain and your meat is going to be tough.

    Though I greatly prefer the effects of aging on flavors, you can't get that if conditions won't allow you to age the meat. But at the very least I'll hang it long enough to really firm it for easy cutting.

  17. #17
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    Default Interesting

    Great opinions out there fellas.

    Here's how I roll with moose. First and foremost is to keep it clean and DRY!!! If I can get a moose out of the field without getting wet I am thrilled. If I can I will hang tarps around the animal before I even start the gutting process.

    Once out of the field, weather still plays a role. I have a meat shed with a cooling system that I keep at 37 degrees or so. If I have dry weather I have hung moose as long as 15 days- but have had to go as few as 5-7 depending on the weather and the condition of the meat. Getting a good solid 'crust' on the meat really helps the aging process- and I firmly believe that meat has better flavor and is more tender the longer it is able to hang.

    I don't usually hang my sheep and deer in the same way- simply becuase the situations and weather are different from when I get my moose. Sheep usually is processed as soon as I get home- beucause it has usually already been dead a few days, and most of my deer are harvested in october/november and its too cold out for the meat shed- so they hang in the garage for a day or two.

    Hanging meat is probably best for larger, older animals- I butchered a 16 year old cow last year after a few days, thinking that it was a cow and would be deliciously tender already...big mistake- toughest moose I've ever chewed through- great flavor, just tough. I'm sure she would have been a much better moose had I let her hang longer...

    my $.02

  18. #18
    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    It's likely that your instructors said what they did because so many hunters get into trouble with meat spoilage and wanton waste violations. "Bone sour" can happen in warmer temps too, and in general the rule of thumb is to get a moose out of the field asap and then get it cut and wrapped and into a freezer.

    We've never had a freezer and have always had to hang our meat on the bone until ma nature naturally froze it. This has often been problematic for us (especially the last five years) as we can't control fall weather. Sometimes our meat hangs for ten to fifteen days before it freezes, sometimes longer. Sometimes temps are in the 40s while it's hanging, but invariably it gets warmer than that. So we've had lots of experience with differing temps and hanging times, and there definitely seems to be a breakover point of diminishing returns after it has hung a couple weeks. Crust gets thicker so you lose more meat, and the meat can get so tender it is like mush <grin>.

    Having said the above, I've got some friends who hunt via super cub and when they get a moose it's immediately boned and put in bags and then flown home asap and cut and wrapped and froze and it hasn't been "tough." A LOT of whether meat is tough or not depends solely on how it is boned and then cut and prepared. I've also shot caribou and moose in the minus 30s and had meat freeze before it could rigor and it was fine. So in the end, some of the actual taste differences betweeen hanging meat or not are probably pretty small. I think the instructors who said sooner the better are on the whole looking out for the best interests of the majority of hunters who are unfamiliar with meat care, and rule of thumb there is to get the meat out of the field asap and get it dealt with. On really old moose, regardless of whether you hang them or not, they will be tougher than younger animal. That's why veal is veal, and we don't get veal from an older animal <grin>.

    Sockeye1, just curious, did you age one of the lower incisors yourself or did ADFG give you the age of that cow? FYI, it's not that hard to age a moose yourself by pulling out one of the lower incisors, cutting it diagonally mid way up the root, then stain it with something (we use blueberry sauce) and count the "rings" using a magnifying glass. May not be as exact as what ADFG does but you can learn to do it fairly well.
    Cheers,

  19. #19
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    Default Aging...

    Interesting technique B-rat, haven't tried it before. As part of the permit, I was required to take in the lower jaw to F&G. When I took it in, the bio opened a nifty little briefcase that had incisors from yearlings to 14 year old moose- he simply matched up the teeth from my moose to ones in the case- unfortunately, it was clear to even the untrained eye that she was older than anything in the case- he guessed her at 16, or within a year of that- I suppose I should have known before I shot her that she was old...she didn't have a calf and she was using a walker to get across the field- guess I put her out of her misery...

    We just finished the last package of steak from her- I am really looking forward to eating the big old bull I got this year- he is MUCH more tender (especially after hanging for 2 weeks)!!!

  20. #20

    Default

    Years ago I to read about the bullet doing the bleeding out for you and not bothering to age "WILD" game (not beef) and basically I do not age anything longer than what it hangs untill the hunt ends and I have never had any tough meat. Even a moose that ended up freezing solid before we could get it home was not togh.

    Rather than worry about aging, I spend my time making sure the animal is killed as quickly as possible, that it is "VERY" well cared for in the field (clean, cooled quickly...), butcherd well (I do it myself because the butchers are paid by the pound), and learning how to cook it properly.

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