Venison Leg Takedown

20131203_210550There 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

20131203_210625Using a boning knife, begin by making an incision just above the knee joint. Your knife blade should ride tightly against the bone. Do not cut too far on this initial cut. We’re just getting started.

20131203_210632Allowing the knife to do the work, slowly and methodically begin cutting along the bone. 20131203_210641Never 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.

20131203_210715Follow 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. 20131203_210740A look at the Sirloin Tip separation.

20131203_210849Next, 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). 20131203_210930Work 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.

20131203_211009Use your boning knife to cut the connective tissues at each end of the muscle.

20131203_211022The “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.

20131203_211037When using your knife, take extra care to only cut connective tissue and not actual muscle.

20131203_211140Now, we will turn our attention to the “Bottom Round.”

20131203_211202Using your hands, separate the “Bottom Round” from the “Top Round.”

20131203_211348Cut 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.

20131203_211509Now 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).

20131203_211623Once again, using your hands, begin to separate the the “Bottom Round” from the “Shank” along the natural seams. Take your time and find these seams and you will have very little, if any waste.

20131203_211952Use your knife to get a clean dispersal from the bone.

20131203_212119Off 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.

20131203_214644Bend the knee and find the “sweet spot” on the joint between the two bones. Carefully work your blade in this joint.

20131203_212607Doing 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.

20131203_212921Boom! There it is.

20131203_212939Top 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.

20131203_214918An alternate option is to leave the “Top Round” and the “Top Sirloin” attached the the bone. This entire group of muscles makes for an excellent bone in roast fit for a feast!

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.

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9 Responses to Venison Leg Takedown

  1. Pingback: Venison Leg Takedown | – Go Carnivore | Hunting Tips For Beginners

  2. Pingback: Venison Pastrami |

  3. TDubbs says:

    I realize this is a necro-post, but are you 100% sure on the top round and bottom round nomenclature? I’ve been looking everywhere for which one is which, and in the last picture you posted with all of the muscle groups labeled, the “top round” on the bottom looks an awfully lot like the “bottom round” I’ve seen other places, and vice versa for the piece labeled the “bottom round” in your photo.

    Just trying to get this cleared up for myself…

  4. Mary allison says:

    I too am confused. Like you, in my mind they are reversed!

  5. Pingback: Big Meat Down |

  6. don wallace says:

    ihe best i ever watched mislabled a couple so what it was on cutting not labelling keep up the good work

  7. Archi says:

    Great guide. I’m cutting up a 150kg kudu right now and this helps a lot

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