Tips for Storing Elk Meat

Fresh dark elk meat with ingredients for cooking on brown wooden cutting board

For over 50 years, Samuelson Outfitters has been providing great elk hunting experiences in Colorado. When hunters get elk, then they also get lots of elk meat. They take that meat home, and over time, they and their friends and families eat it.

Elk meat is tasty and nutritious, and a nice alternative to the meat you find in most stores. When you obtain elk meat, you don’t want it to spoil and you don’t want to allow for the growth of certain organisms on it that would cause foodborne illness.

Tools and Techniques

Dealing with elk meat requires some tools and techniques such as rubber gloves, sanitary knives, sanitized coolers (insulated and large enough to keep the meat and ice inside), ice from potable water, and, above all, a plan to transport the carcass from where the animal is shot and killed to where it will be prepared to take home.

A good idea with elk meat is to trim large muscle cuts into small pieces. Smaller cuts need less time and energy to cool and freeze! Meanwhile, smaller cuts get less exposure to air (and re-sealing) so you can avoid off-odors and maintain the quality of the meat.

The carcass of the elk needs to be field dressed and cut, as well as cooled below 40 degrees if you plan to package it and store it in a freezer. Ideally, freeze the meat at zero degrees or below as quickly as you can.

Freezing Tips

When freezing elk meat, use freezer paper along with flexible freezer bags. If you have a vacuum sealer, use that! What you want to do is get as much air expelled out of the packaging as possible before closing it. Label and date your packaged meat.

Want to avoid freezer burn and having rancid meat? The less air in the package, the better you can avoid those problems. Package your meat properly; Cool it quickly. Avoid letting excess moisture into the packaging. Once the meat is in the freezer, avoid stacking it. Instead, spread packages out to allow air circulation among them.

Finally, eat the meat within 8 months to a year after packaging and freezing it. After that, it might not taste as good.