hunting deer

Aging the Best Deer Meat with the Game Locker

hunting deerDeer hunting seasons are underway in some parts of the nation, so it’s time once again to prepare yourself to venture into the fields and forests. Once you’ve managed to harvest and field dress your first deer, there’s the matter of storing it in the proper environment to get the best tasting meat.

Some people will quarter the deer without aging it, but this is a major mistake if you want quality venison. The deer stiffens during rigor mortis in the 24 hours after being killed. If it is processed during this time, the muscles shorten and contract causing the meat to become tough. You should let your deer hang for 2 to 4 days at minimum before processing to avoid this. For the best tasting deer meat Mississippi State University recommends 14 to 18 days of hanging time. A general rule of thumb is, the older the deer, the longer the hang time. Longer hanging times will allow the deer’s natural enzymes and acids to break down and tenderize the meat and give it a smoother, less “gamey” flavor.

meat in game locker
Deer meat hanging in a U.S. Cooler Game Locker

An optimal temperature to hang deer meat at should be temperature above freezing but below 40 degrees F. Many people let the deer hang in their garage, but this far from the proper conditions because of contaminants, pests and temperature fluctuations that come with an uncontrolled environment such as this. If your meat is stored above 40 degrees it will start to rot, but if it is frozen at temperatures below 28 degrees it can become freezer burned. In these situations, having access to a commercial-sized refrigerator that will keep your deer at a constant temperature and free of outside contamination is optimal.

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance

I’m Mitch Byrne. I have been working in the Refrigeration Trade for over 16 years. I know from experience that commercial refrigeration maintenance can extend equipment life by years & save big on electrical consumption. This article will explain the importance of Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance. It will also outline basic DIY Maintenance as well as professional clean & checks done by a contractor. It is possible for equipment owners to perform some basic maintenance tasks between contractor visits.

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance is critical, especially when it comes to Walk-In Coolers, Freezers & Ice Machines. This is especially true when it comes to line coolers. All refrigeration needs to expel heat. The majority of units do this through an air cooled condenser coil. This is done by drawing air through the coil. This causes dust & debris to form fairly quickly on the condenser coil. Failure to clean condenser coils on a regular basis will increase electrical consumption & lead to major system component failure such as burnt wiring, a failed condenser fan motor, a restricted metering device or a failed compressor. These are some, but not all of the possible consequences of lack of maintenance. Without a doubt poor maintenance will decrease the lifespan of equipment & increase electrical consumption.

There are things you can do between contractor clean & checks that can really help. The following is a checklist of tasks you can perform to help extend the life of your commercial refrigeration equipment.

  1. Visually inspect the condenser coil on self contained refrigeration. Often the condenser coil is behind a cover at the top or bottom of commercial coolers & freezers. Condenser coils can also be located at front right or left on a unit & also at the back of a unit.  The condenser cover can usually be removed with a Philips screw driver. Occasionally a ¼” or 5/16” nut driver is needed to remove cover. Pictured are a couple types of coolers & condensers.restaurant commercial refrigerators

Diagnose Walk-in Cooler & Freezer Refrigeration Problems

A systematic approach to walk-in cooler and freezer maintenance is the technician’s best guide.

The ubiquitous walk-in cooler or freezer is an essential part of many cafeterias, restaurants and convenience stores. It is also a large energy user in these facilities but is rarely considered until problems emerge.

Problems include failure to maintain pressure and compressor failure, both of which can result in expensive losses to the products stored in the cooler. These problems, as well as unnecessarily high energy use, can be avoided by observing equipment and taking corrective action.

Evaporators
Moisture from the air freezes onto the evaporator coils (the cooling coils in the freezer) and forms an insulating barrier to heat transfer. Airflow also decreases as the passages narrow due to ice buildup. Each evaporator has a defrost cycle to melt frost/ice that has built up on the evaporator coils. Water from the melted ice is drained from the freezer . . . ideally.

11 Tips for Purchasing a Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

It’s important to carefully select your walk-in because it’s a major purchase that will have a lasting effect on the operation of your business. Before diving headlong into this purchase, here are a few items to consider before making this decision.

  1. Storage Space – If you’re running a restaurant, you will need approximately 1.5 cubic feet of storage space for every meal you serve per day. Read this article for a more in-depth sizing formula. It’s better to have too much storage space than not enough. However, your walk-in shouldn’t be exorbitantly large because your monthly operating cost generally increases as its size increases.
  2. Location of Box – Whether you’re going to locate your walk-in indoors or outdoors, make sure you have adequate space to accommodate the box. Outdoor walk-ins will require a rainroof, refrigeration hood and a drip cap for over the door (if the door doesn’t open from within the building). Assess the floor to make sure it’s suitable for load-bearing. If you have a concrete floor, a walk-in cooler can be placed on it. If the walk-in is going on a wood frame floor, it will require floor panels. A walk-in freezer always requires an insulated floor.
  3. walkin remote refrigeration
    A walk-in with remote refrigeration.

    Refrigeration System – Confirm that you are getting a refrigeration system that is sized correctly for your walk-in. If your system is underpowered it will run often and wear out quickly. If your system is overpowered it will not cycle enough to effectively remove humidity from the box and may cause icing. There are different types of refrigeration systems with different purposes and benefits. For example, remote refrigeration can be located outdoors when your walk-in is located indoors. This is beneficial because you’re not adding heat or noise to the room where the walk-in operates. It’s also important to know the voltage requirements for your building (single or 3 phase power). In general, commercial buildings will use 3 phase power and residential will use single phase. Learn more about the different types of refrigeration for walk-ins.

Reduce Energy Costs in Your Walk-in

Whether you own a restaurant, bar or convenience store, your walk-in cooler or freezer is likely one of the largest line items in your energy usage. If you’re looking to reduce your overhead it is imperative you do all you can to optimize your walk-in for maximum energy efficiency. In this article we’ll cover everything from maintaining your refrigeration system to energy saving accessories.

Maintain your Walk-in

door with icing
Investigate icing around your door immediately

Check your door sweep, door and panel gaskets for any rips, cracks or icing and replace if necessary.  Icing around the door could indicate a failure of the gasket, heater wire, or the door closer. Lubricate hinges twice a year to keep them closing smoothly. Make sure your walk-in is organized and covered items are clearly labeled to reduce the amount of time spent searching for ingredients.

Maintain your Refrigeration

Every six months, visually inspect your unit for corrosion, electrical issues, leaks or improper fan operation. Clean the evaporator coil and blades. Make sure the drainage system is clear of any debris. Ensure airflow to the unit is unobstructed.

There are many more steps to take to make sure your refrigeration unit is running efficiently. Visit this page for more refrigeration maintenance tips.

Upgrade Your Refrigeration System

New Department of Energy standards went into effect in 2009. If your walk-in was manufactured before 2009, your refrigeration unit is likely less efficient than newer energy act compliant units.

When to Replace an Old Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

leaking water
Freezer panels will sometimes leak water when returned to room temperature.

Buying a new walk-in cooler or freezer can be a large expense, but so can inflated electricity bills. Depending on how bad of shape your current walk-in is in, a new walk-in could pay for itself within a year or two.

How long is the lifespan of a walk-in?

There’s no set time limit for when you will need to replace a walk-in. This depends on many factors including the original quality of the refrigerator, type of insulation used, how well the box and refrigeration were maintained, and if it has suffered any harsh usage. After 10 years or when your warranty runs out, you should do a cost-benefit analysis for purchasing a new walk-in.

ice accumulation
Ice accumulation on panels should not be ignored.

What are some signs that I need a new walk-in?

  • If you notice a steady increase of energy bills from month to month, it could be an indication of the gradual decline in the R-value of your insulation.
  • If there is condensation or ice buildup on your walls or ceiling it could be an indication that your insulation has failed and is saturated with water or ice. This moisture accumulation could also be the result of air leaks between panels or elsewhere.

Thermometers: Trust but Verify

If the temperature in your walk-in cooler or freezer is not optimal for the type of products you are storing, it can lead to spoilage or the spreading of food borne illnesses. Thermometers are a very important indicator to tell if your walk-in is maintaining your desired holding temperature properly. However, thermometers don’t always give accurate readings, so it’s a good idea to verify that they are working correctly from time to time.

When the thermometer for your walk-in cooler or freezer left the factory, it was calibrated to be accurate within one degree of the actual temperature. However, the thermometer may have been mishandled in transportation, or it may have lost its bearings over time; so it’s always a good precaution to test the reading against a known standard such as melting ice water. If the reading is incorrect, you will need to calibrate it.

thermometer calibrationDial Thermometer Calibration

1. Remove the lens to expose the pointer by un-threading counterclockwise (threaded lens) or by carefully prying (press-in lens) the lens away from the case using the molded slots.

2. Fill a glass or insulated mug with crushed ice and add water. Stir the glass and let it sit for 5 minutes, until all the ice is melting into the water.

3. Check the accuracy by inserting the temperature sensitive probe into the center of the cup of melting ice and water (32°F, 0°C). Keep it there for at least 30 seconds and take it out when the pointer has stopped moving. If your thermometer does not read 32°F, ± 2°F, continue onto step 4.

4a. If the temperature reads high: Stabilize the pointer by placing a finger next to the left side of the wide end. Insert a screwdriver into the slot in the pointer hub and carefully turn the hub clockwise until the desired setting is reached.

4b. If the temperature reads low: Stabilize the pointer by placing a finger next to the right side of the wide end. Insert a screwdriver into the slot in the pointer hub and carefully turn the hub counter-clockwise until the desired setting is reached.1

Digital Thermometer Calibration

digital thermometerYour digital thermometer should have a reset button or a recalibration screw.

Walk-In Cooler & Freezer Installation Tips

All U.S. Cooler walk-ins are test assembled in our plant prior to shipment. This ensures problem free on-site installation. If you have had problems setting up your walk-ins, we have some tips that may be helpful.

1. Receiving your walk-in: When your walk-in cooler or freezer is delivered by the freight company, it is critically important that you inventory the items delivered.

packaged for shipping
Most walk-ins are shipped “knocked down” or in stacks of panels.

a. You must be sure when you sign the delivery receipt, you have received the freight in good condition and not damaged in anyway. The person signing the delivery receipt is responsible for inspecting the freight.
b. If you see any damage to the container or boxes, this is a good sign that you may have hidden damage. If you have a camera, take pictures of any damage to your freight, even before it is taken off the truck. Call U.S. Cooler and ask for Customer Service if you see a problem with your shipment. When you call, have your order number available. The order number allows us to pull up all details needed to answer your questions.
c. Insist that the driver does not leave until your satisfied all freight damage has been noted on the delivery receipt before the driver signs the delivery receipt.

2. Take time to read the instruction manual and review drawing: Before you get started take out the installation instructions and drawing package. Inventory your parts against the drawing to be sure you understand the layout. If you have any questions on how to assemble the walk-in call U.S. Cooler or the manufacturer of your walk-in and ask for Customer Service.

3. Make sure your area where the walk-in will be installed is flat: Level is critical when installing a walk-in cooler or freezer. Before installation you should get an exact tolerance of the entire space you are planning to install the walk-in. The longer the box, the more important it is to have a level area. Floorless boxes should be shimmed inside the vinyl screed to prevent gaps and air infiltration. A liquid leveling compound is very useful for floors that are not completely level.