There are numerous ways to butcher a deer. As we are big proponents of cooking roasts and stews using whole muscle cuts, here is our suggested method for breaking down a venison hindquarter for such purposes. To the surprise of the uninitiated, a vast amount of this work will be performed with your hands instead of a knife
Allowing the knife to do the work, slowly and methodically begin cutting along the bone. Never cut too aggressively. Should you make a mistake and lose the bone, you will want to be able to back out a bit and correct the trajectory of the blade without chopping up a whole muscle roast.
Follow the bone all the way around and separate the Sirloin Tip (some hunters refer to this as the “football steak” due to its shape). This is an excellent cut for braising. A look at the Sirloin Tip separation.
Next, we will turn our attention to the “Top Round” and the “Eye of Round.” The “Top Round” is the center cut that runs the length of the ham. If you place your hand on the leg, you will find a seam that separates these two muscles (Top Round & Eye of Round). Work your fingers in this seam and begin separating the muscles. Once you get going, the muscle groups will separate easily. The seams of connective tissue will become increasingly obvious as you gain experience.
The “Eye of Round” should come right out. Depending on the size of the deer, this can be a smaller roast by itself, or added to a dutch oven or Crock Pot with one of the other cuts. You can also tenderize this piece and sear it like you would a backstrap.
Cut the connective tissue of one side, fold the “Bottom Round” over and then cut the connective tissue on the opposite side. This is one of the easiest cuts of meat to remove if you follow the previous steps.
Now we are left with the “Shank” (calf), “Top Round” and the “Sirloin Top” which is the meat around the elbow joint. On a large deer, the “Top Round” can make an excellent whole muscle roast. On smaller to medium sized deer such as this one, it is best reserved as stew meat, jerky or mixed in to be ground (though, that is premium meat you are grinding).
Off comes the “Top Round!” This cut of meat has long, obvious grain, noticeably different from the sirloin cuts. If you are making whole muscle jerky, this one is an absolute pleasure to slice thinly.
Doing your best not to cut meat, separate the Shank with the entire calf muscle attached. This is one amazing cut of meat. Some of the best braised venison dishes are made using the shank. It also smokes well. Also, don’t even think about sawing off the connective tissue around the lower part of the ankle. This will cook down into excellent stock during the braising process.
Top left to Right: Sirloin Tip, Top Round, Top Sirloin. Bottom Left to Right: Eye of Round, Bottom Round, Shank. Take that leg bone, saw or chop a slit into it, and make venison stock.
The fat and silverskin can be trimmed at the beginning of this process, while you are butchering and/or at the end. Be sure to save the fat for rendering into lard.
Images by Grant Me Access.