Deer Cuttin’ Q&A: About Silver Skin

Video silver skin on deer meat

How important is removal of “silver skin” from venison meat cuts in terms of impact on flavor — e.g., gaminess? Does it matter? Is it worth the time to get rid of it all? — Tim Rued

Removal of the silver skin is best for certain cuts of the deer meat. The gaminess is somewhat on the silver skin—most of that will be in the meat itself—but a lot of the gaminess depends upon what the deer eats, clean the field dressing was, how well cleaned the animal was after being field dressed, and whether it was properly cooled. All of those factors will determine the deer’s gaminess.

The thick, heavy silver skin and heavy white tendons need to be trimmed off. Most of this product is found on the leg meat from the front legs; this meat is commonly called the shank meat. The lighter silver skin on the legs will be fine to grind up for sausage or trim. We say that if you can see through the silver skin, it will grind up easily and be okay. The amount of time to trim off all the silver skin on the leg meat would be substantial, and the benefits so slight that it wouldn’t be worth it. On the solid muscle cuts such as back strap or shoulder clod roast, the silver skin will peel away very easy.

The trick to removing silver skin on these parts is to cut cold meat (at temperatures of less than 40°). Treat the piece of meat like a fish fillet: Turn it over and cut down to the silver skin front, from the thickest part to the thinner part—just like a fish fillet. Hold the first silver skin tight in your left hand, guiding a sharp knife at a 30° angle while maintaining light pressure on the knife. Slowly push the knife along the silver skin and push it all the way to the end. Let your knife do the work; don’t force the knife, or the silver skin will peel right off. Maintain a light, easy pressure, and it will come off easily.

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What’s the easiest way to remove silver skin from shoulder meat so it doesn’t clog up my grinder? — Nate Nance

We’ve talked about removing the silver skin; now let’s focus on grinding the trim. Cut up the deer and let it cool overnight (or, more optimally, for a day) at 32°. A sliver of ice crystals on the trim will tip you off that the trim is ready grinding; the coolness of the meat will ensure that it won’t clog your grinder. It also allows for some of the blood to drain out of the trim before it’s processed.

Other tricks: Make sure the blades on the grinder are sharp—always start out with clean, sharp blades. When you put the grinder together, spray the auger, blades, and head with some cooking oil. This will prevent burnout and the dulling of your blades, which can be caused in those first few seconds of each session, before the machine’s blades are actually grinding meat. The meat keeps the blade and the plate cool; pressure on the blade and plate normally cause them to heat up, with dull blades exacerbating the process. Keep your blades sharp and your cutting will move at a good pace and will heat up the meat more quickly.

Kerry is a professional butcher and the founder of Deer Dummy. Check out his entire line of products at

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