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Preparing Game Meat for the Freezer

With the end of the shooting season just around the corner, many of you may find yourself left with an abundance of birds that you really don’t want to let go to waste. Having spent the last few months venturing out into nature in your finest country shirts, shooting jackets and hunting boots, it’s only right to make the most of what you’ve gathered throughout the season. Freezing your leftover birds is a fantastic way to cut down on wastage, and means that you can enjoy delicious game dishes all through the year! Our guide is here to help you to prepare your birds to perfection so that you can make the most of this fruitful shooting season. 

Preparing the Bird 

First off, you should prepare your bird to an oven-ready state. This means that you’ll do all the standard prep as if you were going to cook the bird today. This should include plucking the feathers and removing any poor-quality meat, de-skinning the bird is also often recommended. You can freeze the bird as a whole, leaving the meat on the bones, or you can remove the legs and breasts and pack them up together. 

Packaging the Meat 

Once the meat has been prepared, it’s time to package it to perfection. If you’re freezing multiple birds, it’s best to package them all individually to aid the freezing process and to give you flexibility in the future. The same goes for packaging legs and breasts; freeze them in groups of 2-4 so that you’ll only need to thaw what you need. The best way to package the meat to retain its quality is through vacuum packing; these machines are often relatively cheap and will mean that your meat keeps much better for much longer. If you’re opting for freezer bags, ensure that all of the air has been removed before sealing, and double bag the meat for extra protection. Cling film is another alternative, however, each bird will need several layers of film to ensure that no frost or air reaches the bird, as this will often leave the meat spoilt. Each bag/bird should be packed and labelled with the date the meat was frozen; this will help to rotate the meat and to ensure that it is used within a suitable date.

How Long Should I Freeze Game Meat For?

It’s recommended that frozen game meat should be thawed, cooked and eaten within six-months of the initial freezing date. This is when the frozen meat will be at its best, however, many freeze game for up to 12-months. 

Thawing Game Meat 

There are two ways that are preferred for thawing game meat, in the fridge and in cold water, these have been explained below:

Fridge Thawing

This method of thawing is best for defrosting whole birds, but will also take longer than other methods, often requiring a day or two. Smaller cuts may defrost within a day. It’s important to defrost your meat on the bottom shelf of the freezer and use a tray or a tub underneath the meat to ensure that no juices contaminate the fridge. You can also add some kitchen towelling underneath the bird to absorb the moisture and to secure the bird. Once thawed, or regularly during the process if you feel necessary, drain the juices from the thawing tray, as these will make the meat spoil faster. Thawed meat often keeps for between two and five days after defrosting.  

Cold Water Thawing

The cold water thawing method should only be used if you’re sure that your meat is in leak-proof packaging; if water leaks into the packaging, the meat will absorb the water and often ruin the texture. For this method, you’ll need to set up a bowl large enough to fit your bird or meat to be completely submerged in the water. Put the meat into the bowl and run the cold tap over the bird until it is completely covered. Ideally, the water should be changed every half-hour; small packages often take up to an hour, whilst larger ones can take 3-4 hours. Meat thawed using this method should be cooked the same day.