Cuts of Meat - Know What Resides Under the Hide

Skinned deer ready for butchering

With the exception of size, most ungulates (hoofed animals) have extremely similar builds. For instance, below is a skinned fallow deer. It looks and breaks down the same as skinned animals that are much larger than it. So, whether you are butchering a fallow deer, antelope, mule deer, white tail deer, elk or one of the several other sought-after big-game animals, you can use the below guide and the following pages as a reference.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with this guide. Breaking an animal down properly makes the following steps easier.

Meat butchering diagram - deer cuts

1. SHANKS -  While fairly tough and somewhat sinewy, these are still valuable. Can be boned out, or if you want to try something a little different, leave them whole with the bone in.

2. HINDQUARTERS - Large and relatively tender, this area of your animal has many potential uses. Do your best to leave the muscle groups whole so you have options when processing.

3. TENDERLOINS - Some of the most sought after cuts on a big-game animal, these tender pieces of meat are located inside the body cavity on either side of the spine.

4. BACKSTRAPS - These precious hunks of meat are located on either side of the animal’s spine. Leave whole with as few nicks as possible.

5. FLANKS AND RIBS - There’s no need to be careful with this meat. Get it off the bone in any way possible. Clean every piece of usable meat from the carcass to ensure you’re getting the most from your kill.

6. SHOULDERS - This is one of the trickiest portions to bone out due to its “paddle”. However, once you get it down, it goes quick and leaves you with some versatile cuts.

7. NECK - Often overlooked, neck meat is valuable and versatile. We suggest leaving it in large chunks so you have more options when processing.

THE ORGANS - While personal taste and family tradition vary, the most commonly consumed organs of game animals are the heart and liver.

HEART - Remove the ventricles and valve openings with a slender knife (this process is similar to hollowing out a bell pepper after the top and stem have been removed). Then wash the heart thoroughly and cut it into slices approximately ¼" thick. These slices can then be fried, grilled, seared, canned, pickled and more.

LIVER - Slice into thin slices that are ¼" thick or less and soak in a mixture of water and lemon juice overnight, or, if you plan to fry the organ, a pan of milk for up to one hour. Soaking will help draw the blood from the tissue and result in a milder flavor. Drain the liquid from the meat and prepare the slices to your liking by frying, grilling or searing. Frying liver in bacon grease until it’s brown is another way to minimize any strong, gamey flavor.