Frank Ottomanelli has been a butcher in New York for nearly all of his life. He started hanging out at his dad’s butcher shop when he was about nine years old, and he learned to handle a knife at age 13. Now at 66, the man has a lifetime’s worth of experience in handling, preparing and cutting up meat — ecspecially venison. He’s the go-to man if you want good venison in food-obssessed New York City. Follow Frank’s tips and think like a butcher.
Make sure to hang your deer by the hind legs, not from the head as many hunters do. Hanging a deer by the hind legs prevents blood from clotting up in the veins and arteries, which makes the venison look less appealing and messier.
The perfect temperature to keep your deer before you butcher is from 34 to 38 degrees. This way it doesn’t freeze, but it stays cool enough to not spoil.
Save the bones
Hunters commonly make the mistake of discarding bones that can be boiled to make a soup or broth.
Label your cuts
Label and date all of your cuts before you freeze them. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re defrosting and when you threw it in the freezer.
Use a saw not a cleaver
A hand saw or bandsaw works better for cutting through deer bones than a meat cleaver because it won’t chip the bones and spoil the cut.
Let it hang
Ideally, a deer will hang for between a week and five days before it’s butchered. Don’t skin the deer during this period or it will dry out, and don’t let a deer hang for much longer than a week.
Leave the bones in
Leaving the bone on a cut adds flavor to the meat and keeps it from drying out. When you can, leave the bones in your cuts.
Most do-it-yourself deer butchering doesn’t take place in a sterlized shop, so wear a pair of latex gloves while skinning and butchering your deer and change them periodically. This will keep the meat clean and it will protect you from bacteria and ticks that may crawl off the deer.
Use a good knife
A sharp, comfortable knife is key. A five or six-inch knife works the best for butchering and a shorter, four-inch curved knife works the best for skinning.
The biggest mistake hunters make in deer preparation is not properly field dressing their deer. Make sure everything is emptied from the deer’s cavity including heart and lungs. Doing a poor job gutting your deer is the easiest way to spoil the meat.
To contact Frank’s butcher shop, Ottomanelli and Sons Meat Market, call (212) 675-4217 or visit him at 285 Bleecker Street, New York, NY. Click back here to the Venison Page >>
A chef is only as good as his cut of meat. So when your deer hits the dirt this season, make sure you follow these tips to prepare the best venison cuts.