Prepare venison properly with these helpful tips

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lots of men and a few ladies are spending their holiday vacation in the woods hunting deer.

Here are a few reminders of some basic food safety tips to ensure they prepare venison properly. Amelia Mitchell, a regional extension agent in food safety and quality with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, has some hints to prevent contamination and improper food handling when dressing and cooking deer meat.

• Always wear gloves and wash your hands when dressing a deer. It is important to keep your hands clean to prevent cross contamination of potential pathogens on the meat. “I would recommend carrying a make shift handwashing station consisting of a water jug with a spout, soap and paper towels as part of the hunting gear,” Mitchell said.

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• When dressing the deer carcass in the field, do it as soon as possible. After cleaning the cavity, quickly cool the carcass to 35 to 40 degrees F. Also, it is recommended the hide be left on the carcass when transporting, to prevent the meat from drying out and to protect it from contamination.

• When cooking deer meat, make sure the venison is cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees F. According to Hall, this temperature will reduce the risk of causing a foodborne illness.

• Improper thawing is a common food safety mistake. Hall stated that it is dangerous when people thaw their meat at room temperature, in their sink or on the counter and even in a cooler. You should thaw meat ahead of time in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria growth. The rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds thawed.

To ensure you are storing deer meat properly, keep in mind that unfrozen meat in the refrigerator should be used within 2 to 3 days. When freezing meat, space out packages to allow proper air circulation for cooling. After 24 hours, when the meat is solidly frozen, you can stack them together in the freezer. Frozen deer meat, when properly wrapped, can last for 9-12 months. Enjoy!