View Full Version : Gamey flavor

Tim Tang
December 1, 2001, 11:18 AM
Hello! I relish the idea of hunting for food but have never had the chance. Anyway, I hear and have read that venison and other wild animals have a "gamey" flavor. What exactly does that mean? How does this compare to free range beef? Any information is appreciated!

December 1, 2001, 11:24 AM
So much variation in venison. Habitat, food, condition, age, field dressing, season, butchering, aging......all tend to alter the flavor of the meat. Can't really describe a taste, and it would be different from test to test.

Hoze that for a non answer.?


December 1, 2001, 12:14 PM
I read in a hunting magazine some time ago that the "gamey" taste is actually the meat that has gone bad.

I dont know if there's any truth to that but, I have eaten plenty of venison and have yet to experience a "gamey" taste.

December 1, 2001, 03:38 PM
Garlic and bacon make deer taste better than beef and a whole lot better than sheep or goat.

December 1, 2001, 08:32 PM
To a lot of people different = gamey. Venison does not taste like beef, or chicken, or fish - it tastes like venison. I find that the steaks, chops and tenderloins have a mild liver flavor usually, but don't notice that in the sausage, ground, or roasts. I just finished a charcoal grilled venison tenderloin 30 minutes ago and it was delicious.

Mad Max
December 2, 2001, 12:35 AM
The word "gamey" usually seems to imply a bad taste, and its usually from people not handling the meat correctly after they make a kill. If beef was handled the way some guys handle venison (not cooling the carcass enough, gut-shooting it, driving for hours on the way home with the carcass in the back of the truck) it would taste "gamey" too. When cared for properly, no wild game meat should taste really strong, unless something in the animals diet causes it. Just my 2 cents.

December 2, 2001, 06:22 AM
I'm agreed with Mad Max.

I've done all my deer hunting in upstate NY since I was young. It's a little colder up there than here in Virginia. 9 times out 10, the meat I receive from friends here in Va has that gamey taste you're talking about, whereas I have yet to taste a deer steak from one of my kills in NY that tastes gamey.

Don't get me wrong, there's a distinct taste difference in venison versus other meats, but proper techniques to avoid meat exposure make it a more pleasant taste. Like ATTICUS said, I guess it's kinda like really good liver without the mealy texture (you'd be surprised how much you like liver when it's not mushy!).

I think the the biggest key is in the meat's exposure to temperatures before processing, aside from other more obvious mishandlings.

December 2, 2001, 04:40 PM
Take care of your meat & it will take care of you - it's symbiotic. ;)

We've had elk hang in camp over 10 days with nada bad. Slap it on the hood over a hot engine, drive a few dusty, dirt roads over to Horace in a coupla counties over & watch it "get gamey" in a couple hours.

"Really good liver" has to be right up there with "community-oriented serial killer." :D There is no reason for that to come in contact with my mouth. :barf:

December 2, 2001, 05:27 PM
I've found that if you debone the carcass and make sure you cut out all the sinew and silverskin you avoid the major causes of "gaminess" in venison. Don't remember where I first heard it, but I recollect being told that the bones and sinew are often the sources of the strong flavor. That, and letting the deer hang to become tender (which is, in effect, letting it start to decompose).

After the kill, field dress and cool the carcass quickly, then debone while butchering. The venison should taste fine.

By the way, last year at one of the area's "upscale" restaurants I found venison on the menu . . . for a price significantly higher than the best cuts of beef on the menu. Just think! As a hunter I get to feast on rare and tastey meat year round! :D

Mad Max
December 3, 2001, 12:24 AM
As far as hanging goes, I think it really improves the flavor as long as it is done right and kept at the right temp (thats why they do it with almost all good beef). I asked a butcher why it helps, and he explained that after the tissue dies, certain metabolic reactions and enzymes change the pH of the meat to more acidic, and this has a tenderizing effect on the meat. After a certain amount of time (I think a month or so) the meat reaches its peak of flavor, and the pH begins to rise, and this results in spoilage(I think he meant this is when real decomposition happens, and bacteria take over). I've read that venison must be kept around 34-40 degrees F, but being from Texas it usually doesnt stay that cold long enough to age deer.

December 3, 2001, 12:20 PM
Muscle.... Yes

Organ........... No

Just one of my personal rules to Live by.

December 4, 2001, 12:08 PM
Cut the fat and sinew out. Most flavor is in the fat, not the muscle. Use fat from domestic animals to flavor it if you don't like the venison taste.

Alaska Roy
December 4, 2001, 07:02 PM
Aside from the already well covered meat prep and storage, travel etc the main cause is simply a poor kill or killing an animal that's sweated up running on adrenaline. The adrenaline gives a gamey flavour, choose an animal at rest and make a quick clean kill.

Mad Max
December 4, 2001, 07:27 PM
Alaska Roy,
I hate to contradict you, and my dad would totally agree with you, but double blind studies have been conducted (I forget what university it was done at) that proved that there is no significant difference in meat that had alot of adrenaline in it. I believe the article was published in the Texas Trophy Hunters journal. The volunteers had no idea whether or not the meat they were tasting was full of adrenaline, and couldnt tell the difference with normal meat. Lactic acid builds up in muscle as a result of anaerobic respiration (like when the deer is running really fast with no functioning lungs), and this might cause a change in taste in the meat, but I cant remember if the aforementioned study included this aspect. I do agree it is always best to try to drop the deer in its tracks; that way you dont have to worry about any of this stuff.

December 8, 2001, 08:54 PM
The best venison I have had have been southeast Minnesota younger bucks that have been feeding on corn and apples from the local orchards. Deer that not been run all day do not have lactic acid built up in their systems. I think a deer being in shock for some time also alters taste.

But most importantly, take care of the deer after the kill. Try to shoot it in the chest cavity or neck. Make sure you kill it quickly. Field dress it immediately being very careful not to cut the bladder or intestines. Don't wash out the inside as the water can flush bacteria into the meat.

I don't split the chest or cut the neck, but I do place the deer on the snow open cavity down to let most of the blood drain. Then I put the deer on its side and prop open the deer with sticks to cool as quickly as possible. When the temp is below freezing, you can hunt the rest of the day and hang the deer in the evening.

I suggest hanging the deer by the rear legs. This stretches the muscle fibers and allows blood to drain from the legs and loin. I haven't aged deer as I don't have a locker, but I let them hang at least over night or two days with the skin on when it is cool. Try not to let the deer freeze, however.

Head-down hanging makes skinning easier. Start at the back legs and peel down cutting the fascia. If you are careful, you won't get much hair on the carcass. You can saw the head off at the neck. The back loins come out easy, and the back legs stay up off the garage floor until you are ready to take them off the hooks.

My girlfriend's dad (future father-in-law) worked as meatcutter several years ago. My dad is a retired biology teacher. Removing the meat from the bone, fat and connective tissue and then cutting it across the grain results in perfect cuts of meat.

Both stress using clean, sharp knives and a clean work surface. I use clean plastic sealed Rubbermaid tubs to sort meat and store it in the fridge until packaging. One pound of steak is sorted, wrapped in Cling wrap, wrapped in commercial plastic-backed freezer paper, labeled and stored in the deep freeze. We use a commercial electric meat grinder and make our own hamburger. We know exactly what goes into our burger and homemade sausage!!!!!!!!!!!

I will never take a deer to a processor. Some just let them sit stacked up outside where rodents knaw on them. They just band saw the meat with fat and bone chunks and wrap it. No wonder why people say deer meat tastes bad. Remember to wash your hands a lot and use clean plastic sheeting on your work tables.

Clean, Clean, Clean means great venison.

December 9, 2001, 01:19 AM
Beats me. I think the biggest deal is just taking decent care of the meat.

We've shot elk/deer & had them run 1/2 mile or DRT before expiring, gutted, skinned & cut 'em up. Hang so they cool off as quickly as possible. Always think cool & dry.

One elk I shot this last season, I had it about 90% done - gutted immediately & mostly done with the skinning (BTW, the skin keeps heat in just as well as it keeps cold out on the living critter) - cut the dickens out of my hand in a stupid accident (what other kind?). Scooped the backstraps & terderloins into my pack & off to camp. Elk was left laying on the ground for another 3 days - in the shade (dark timber) & at a max temp of 35-40 - till I could get back & pack the thing out in quarters. I did make a trip or two a day, but was 3 total before it was all out.

Got it home, boned it out (I never worry about the silver or fat - they're so lean anyway), cleaned & wrapped to squeeze out all the air & froze. Zip for losing any meat. Tastes just as good as anything else we've done.

& I have never been able to tell the difference between deer/elk that live in predominately sage or corn.

Navy joe
December 9, 2001, 07:29 PM
I know for me it's three things.

#1 Diet. I grew up on mountain deer, mostly grass, ferns, and acorn diet. Very lean. Mild taste to the point that I like the liver. And I hate liver. Had some lowland deer once, didn't much care for it. Very fat deer, corn diet, strong taste.

#2 Age of the deer. If and when legal, spikes are tender and tasty.

#3 Treatment of the meat. Virginia good ol' boys are convinced the deer must hang outdoors for several days while they continue to drink, hunt, and shoot at other members of the club. Nevermind that often temps are higher than ideal. I've always believed in imediate field dressing, skin and bone out while its warm, wipe down with vinegar/saltwater, wrap and freeze.

December 10, 2001, 12:42 AM
If anything has even the slightest taste of liver I won't eat it. I eat a lot of venison and I process my own. I skin and quarter as soon as possible. Usually within an hour. I remove evey bit of fat that I can. I cool the meat immediately in either a cooler or an Ice chest. I like meat rather spicy hot, so I marinate my deer in a tuperware container for about a day or 2 with some cajun seasoning. We had a dinner party the other night and the big hit was my thinly sliced, marinated, grilled venison back strap. Even the city boys and girls were scarfing it down like no tommorow. Venison I love. Gamey I hate. Good hunting, Weagle

p.s. A great all around marinate is regular old coca-cola. Add spices to taste

Dave McC
December 10, 2001, 06:12 AM
I hunt on Md's Eastern Shore, which has well fed deer, milder winters than most, and a year round food base. Most deer carry lots of fat, and that gives a bitter flavor when cooked. Since this fat is mostly external, it's not too hard to eliminate it during butchering.

The butcher I use lives and has his shop about 3/4 mi from the checkin station, and that's within 30 minutes of where I hunt. Clean, quick kills, prompt dressing and cooling out, and hanging in a meat cooler for 3-5 days at 35F results in very mild flavored venison.

If venison is still too "Gamey" after all this, try a precooking soak in cold water for 30 minutes.

December 10, 2001, 10:32 PM
Gutting, bleeding, hanging, skinning, butchering,etc. You eventually get to find out what it tasts like. :) :( :confused: :barf:
(Choose one of the above Smilies:p )
One way I've used on the larger cuts, like a roast, is a Sauerbrauten marinade overnight, followed by a nice slow roasting....This gives a taste like this =:D
The original Sauerbrauten recipe was used for game in Europe, venison, boar and the like = Yummie!