Can You Eat Deer Liver?

There’s nothing more rewarding than going out and hunting your food. That’s what we as hunters do, after all.

However, when it comes to utilizing as much of the harvested animal as possible, a lot of people fall down.

Deer liver is one of the most underrated cuts of deer. You can eat the liver of a healthy deer. If handled and cooked properly, deer liver can make superior dishes.

How to Tell if Deer Liver is Bad?

Before preparing your deer liver for consumption, it’s important to check if it is healthy.

The first step is to examine the deer you just harvested. Is it a healthy-looking deer? Does it show any sign of diseases?

Once you are satisfied the deer is healthy, you can continue to process it. Make sure you wear gloves when processing the deer to prevent the spread of any bacteria.

The most common issue with deer liver is the presence of liver flukes.

Liver flukes are leech-like parasites that live in the deer’s liver. They live in little cavities in the liver and are roughly 1 to 3 inches in length.

Spotting these flukes can be difficult as they are the same color as the liver.

While the flukes can prove fatal to deer, they are harmless to humans. However, it would be best if you did not consume the liver.

How to Store Deer Liver?

 It’s important to store your liver correctly to keep it fresh and prevent it from harboring any bacteria.

Like most liver and meat, deer liver can only last so long in the fridge. Deer liver will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days if it is properly stored in an airtight container.

It is recommended to freeze your liver to keep it fresher for a longer period. I personally can not taste the difference between liver that has been frozen and liver that has not.

Before you store your liver, you can get the soaking out of the way. I prefer to do it this way, and then once it’s defrosted, you can get on with the cooking rather than waiting again while it soaked.

Once you soaked the liver overnight, make sure to pat it dry to prevent any ice crystals from forming in the freezer.

I treat liver like any other cut of deer meat when it comes to freezing. The best method is to vacuum pack; however, it is also the most fragile method.

I like to wrap the liver tightly in freezer paper, but not too tightly; the liver is more fragile than other cuts.

I then mark it and put it in a Ziploc bag.

It’s important to note that deer liver won’t last as long in the freezer as other cuts of meat. You can expect the liver to last around 4 months in the freezer at 0F

How to Prepare Deer Liver?

can you eat deer liver

Once you collect the liver from the deer, store it in your cooler until you get home and are ready to prepare it.

Start by cutting the liver into manageable size pieces. This is better for cooking and makes it easier to prepare.

Once the liver is cut into smaller pieces, you can remove any veins or unwanted tissue.

Next is to soak the liver overnight. What you soak it in is down to personal preferences. Usual favorites are milk, buttermilk, water, or saltwater. I usually use buttermilk or saltwater.

The soaking process helps leach blood from the liver and reduce the intensity of the liver as deer liver can be quite strong.

How to Cook Deer Liver?

Deer liver can be incorporated into many dishes, and there are many ways of cooking it. 

My favorite ways of cooking deer liver in no particular order:

Pan-fried

Pan-fried liver is a historical dish. It’s no different whether you are using beef liver or deer liver; in my opinion, the taste is just as good. Fry it up with whatever your favorite side dish is, be that onions or herbs.

To fry deer liver, preheat the pan to a medium-high heat and add in butter or oil. 

Place the liver on the pan and cook until golden brown. Reduce the heat and cook until the blood stops forming on the top.

Pate

Pate is another classic liver dish. This is a great introduction to liver if you’re not sure if you will like the taste. When making deer liver pate, you can mix in all your favorite herbs and spices.

Then you can spread it on your bread or crackers. This way, you are getting a lot of different flavors, so the liver isn’t overwhelming.

Sausage

Liver sausage is one of my favorite things to make with deer liver. It’s a very common dish in Europe, especially in eastern Europe.

In Germany, it’s known as liverwurst, and in Italy, it’s called Mazzafegati. Hank Shaw has a great recipe for Mazzafegati, it’s for wild boar liver but it also works great with venison liver.

Can You Eat Deer Liver Raw?

For many hunters cutting a small piece of deer liver off a fresh harvest and eating it is a right of passage. 

However, more and more hunters are turning away from this practice for health benefits, and rightly so.

Hunters who eat raw deer meat are at risk of contracting toxoplasmosis. 

The liver of a freshly killed deer is also a perfect host for bacteria and if consumed, could leave you feeling very unwell.

Can You Eat Deer Liver With Fluke?

While deer liver fluke does not affect humans, it’s still not recommended to eat liver with fluke.

According to Idaho Government, the meat from a deer with liver fluke can be consumed, but the liver should not be consumed.

Is Deer Liver Healthy?

Deer liver is full of nutritional benefits, just like liver from other animals. It’s a very high protein food with very little fat.

A typical 100g of venison liver

can you eat deer liver

Sources

https://idfg.idaho.gov/conservation/wildlife-health/giant-liver-flukes#:~:text=Giant%20liver%20flukes%20(Fascioloides%20magna,tailed%20deer%20and%20occasionally%20elk.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/2/19-1218_article