At 15 years old, I got a job as a butcher’s assistant at a grocery store in Manotick. When I wasn’t cleaning up tables and floors, I watched the butchers break down half cows or a full lamb, and took mental notes on every little cut or incision they made.
Many years later, I was able to apply that knowledge to processing my freshly harvested game. Like many hunters, I find it very satisfying taking an animal from the field to the fridge. It gives me a great sense of completion knowing I tracked, caught, butchered, and processed that meat.
And, I find the final product tastes much better, with the bonus of saving some pennies by not having to pay a butcher.
Here are five tools I cannot live without for processing game meat:
Skinning knife with gut hook – This tool is invaluable for field dressing. A good sharp gut hook makes a huge difference when opening the body cavity without disturbing any organs.
Boning knife – The versatility and slim blade of a boning knife make this a must-have in my butcher kit. From peeling away the back straps from the spine, to cubing up meat for stew, this knife will get the job done. I prefer a stiffer blade over a more flexible one when de-boning game animals, as it helps in those tight joint areas.
Hacksaw/bone saw – I’ve had to butcher a deer before without a bone saw and let me tell you, life is much easier with one. A good, sharp hacksaw will help cut through the legs, pelvic bone, and neck.
Sharpening steel – Nothing worse than a dull knife. An unsharpened blade can cause you to miss cuts, damage meat, or worse, slip and cut yourself. A good steel will help keep your blades honed and cutting clean. After each butchery session I recommend using a sharpening stone or an electric knife sharpener to restore the edge and ready the blade for the next time.
Meat grinder – If you’re a burger fanatic like me, a meat grinder is a must. As executive chef of a hotel I have the luxury of using an industrial meat grinder, but you can find some great little electric ones for a reasonable price. Even an old-school tabletop, hand-crank grinder will do the trick. Most come with sausage attachments which is a real bonus, as game sausages are delicious.
Zip lock bags, food dehydrators, and vacuum sealers are also nice to have, and the list could go on. But these five items will get you started.