Years ago, I killed my first elk, a large cow. I shot her after playing cat and mouse with a big herd all morning. When I walked up to her, the unfamiliar immensity of that animal immediately necessitated a dire need for a real freezer. Up until that point, I had barely managed to store butchered deer, small game and fish in the refrigerator’s ice box, randomly cramming things in wherever possible. Organization amounted to little more than making sure I was using every square inch of available space. Sometimes, I was forced to store frozen meat in a cooler until some room opened up in the refrigerator freezer.
With a couple hundred pounds of fresh elk meat hanging in the shed and no cold storage space to spare, I bought my first chest freezer the next day. Since then, thousands more pounds of wild game and fish have passed in and out of those 12 cubic feet and I’ve learned a few things along the way about maximizing meat storage efficiency. Practicing detailed freezer organization allows you to accurately keep track of your meat supply with an eye towards future meals. But, an organized freezer does more than keep things neatly arranged and make meal planning more efficient. Detailed organization also prevents some meat from lingering at the bottom of the freezer for years while only the freshest cuts at the top of the pile make it to the table.
Organizing my freezer at least a few times a year allows me to keep an account of what I’ve got and plan for what I need more of. Here are some easy freezer organization tips that I’ve found very helpful:
Make it a point this year to take your freezer and the meat inside it more seriously. It’s always a good feeling to know exactly what is in your freezer and exactly where it is. That old chest freezer of mine still works great after all these years but I’m starting to think about a larger, fancy stand-up freezer that will make organizing and storing all that wild protein even more efficient.
Brody Henderson is a hunter, fly fishing guide, writer, wilderness production assistant for the MeatEater television show and MeatEater‘s editorial contributor