Keep the squirrel in an air tight plastic bag. Quart size is big enough for almost any squirrel once skinned. Squirrels can be eaten immediately, refrigerated for 3-4 days, or frozen for several months.
Squirrel meat should be treated similarly to any other meat, and should be handled, stored, and cooked carefully per the FDA guidelines.
Some general guidelines for handling meat apply to handling squirrel as well:
- The danger zone for squirrel meat is between 40F and 160F. Squirrel meat that has been in this temperature zone for more than two hours should be promptly discarded.
- Store the meat below 40F in airtight bags or containers.
- Squirrel meat should be handled separately from non-meat food products such as vegetables, fruit, and dairy.
- Squirrel should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160F.
Squirrel meat can be stored in plastic Ziploc storage bags (not sandwich bags) and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Since squirrel is wild game, the meat will toughen up the longer it is refrigerated. As with other meat products, do not eat any squirrel meat older than 3 days.
Additionally, squirrel meat can be vacuum sealed (for example with a FoodSaver machine and special bags designed for game meat), and sous-vide cooked directly in the bags. Storing squirrel in this manner also allows the chef to season the squirrel in the bag ahead of time.
One way to tenderize the meat is by soaking in brine for several hours to several days. Fill an airtight container with cold water and mix in canning salt. Regular salt will also work if you do not have canning salt. Stir until salt is dissolved, then submerge the squirrel fully in the solution. Place into refrigerator for up to 3 days.
The water solution may turn a reddish color. This is the result of the saline environment extracting blood from the squirrel. Dump the water and dry the squirrel before cooking.
Squirrels will freeze well in freezer bags or dry sealed bags. Be warned however that long-term frozen storage may cause the meat to toughen up. Generally, squirrel meat can be stored up to a month before the texture and taste is too compromised to enjoy.
Any organs you plan to eat (liver, heart, testicles, etc.) should be eaten immediately after field dressing. Due to their water content, organs cannot be stored for more than a couple hours without compromising their structure. This includes both refrigeration and freezing.