How to Cook Venison
Venison when properly prepared has the potential to out shine all other meat proteins. Venison is leaner and in my opinion has a much better flavor than beef. The key to venison is knowing how to prepare and cook it properly.
Before venison can even be cooked it needs to be prepared correctly. The mishandling of raw venison will greatly decrease the texture and flavor of your meat. If you are not a hunter I highly recommend finding a quality butcher that has experience and is very knowledgeable in processing venison.
I had the luxury of being surrounded by men who love to hunt and taught me how to address venison properly. They butcher and package their own meats making my job easier. If you know a hunter that is willing to share or let you buy meat from them I would highly recommend going this route. You will not find anyone more qualified to process your meat.
Preparing venison starts in the field. You want to ensure that the venison was harvested correctly which means the deer was cut, skinned, and the venison packaged in a timely manner. The longer the meat stays on the deer the tougher and gamier the meat will become.
Unlike beef fat, the fat surrounding your venison needs to be cut off. Venison fat makes the meat chewy and tough. My meat comes with all the fat cut off, but if you are getting it from a butcher who leaves the fat on, I highly recommend using a sharp knife and removing all fatty tissue before you attempt to cook it.
*Note: Some people like to add fats like butter or bacon grease to certain types of cuts to add a richer flavor to venison. Venison's own fat will ruin the texture of the meat, however fats like butter and lard will enhance it.
I don't personally like to marinate venison as I love the true flavor of the meat, however depending on how you wish to cook your cut marinating could greatly benefit the tenderness. Marinating can also enhance the beautiful flavors of venison, if you know how to merry the flavors correctly. However, just as marinating can increase the flavors it can also mask the flavors of venison entire, so I recommend doing your research and choosing the best flavor profiles and marinades for your cut of meat.
The best way to marinade venison is in the refrigerator overnight. I prefer to use a glass container so the flavors and colors of the marinade don't seep into the plastic Tupperware containers. Large Zip-lock bags work as well, but I don't like these as the bag has to lay perfectly flat or you run the risk of the whole cut not being marinaded evenly.
My personal favorite is marinating in a homemade barbecue sauce. I don't marinate overnight however. I let the meat cook for 12 hours and then let it "rest" in the sauce for another 6 to 12 hours and serve. Below you will find my family's recipe for shredded bbq venison sandwiches.
Shredded BBQ Venison Sandwiches:
This recipe is a family secret. It took me forever to get my dad to reveil his secrets to me. I never follow this recipe, however I never follow any recipe I use. For me it's a guide that's all. What I love about this recipe is that it's simple, easy, and delicious. Thawing the meat is time consuming, usually I let it sit in the fridge over night and sometimes for a day and a half before putting it in the slow cooker.
These sandwiches are moist, delicious, and have a slight sweet and tangy flavor. They are a favorite in my house as they are perfect for any occasion with the capability of be paired with any number of side dishes.
- 3 lbs Boneless Chuck Roast
- 1 tsp Dry Mustard
- 1 tsp Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 cup Vinegar, (White or apple cider both work, I prefer the apple cider)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 cup Catsup
- 1 cup Water
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- Combine ingredients in a separate bowl. Making sure to dissolve sugar completely.
- Put meat in slow cooker and cover with the sauce. I like to add a tiny layer of sauce to the bottom of the crock pot before adding the meat to make sure the entire roast is covered in sauce.
- Cover and cook on high until the meat is cooked through. Around 10 to 12 hours. I usually put it together and get it in the crock pot by 7 A.M. and it will be ready anywhere from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. If I want to let the meat rest, I'll cook the meat overnight and let the crock pot do it's magic for 12 hours. Then I let it sit for another couple hours until we are ready to eat dinner.
Venison is much leaner than beef and it will grill in half the time. To ensure a properly grilled steak allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Allowing the steak to warm slightly will help the meat to grill evenly. Always grill venison on a hot grill or skillet. I prefer a charcoal grill as the smokey flavor enhances the venison. You should hear a nice sizzle sound letting you know the grill or pan is hot enough.
Right before grilling you can sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Be sure not to do this too early or the salt will dry out your meat. Sear your meat on both sides ensuring you only flip the steak once. Sear for approximately 3 minutes per side or until you get an internal temperature of 130 F. Your meat won't need much longer or it will become dry and tough.
Allow the steak to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Slicing your steak too early will let the juices seep out and could give you a tougher piece of meat. Always cut across the grain when cutting your steaks, slicing with the grain will result in a tougher piece of meat.
Thinner venison steaks grill up better because it allows the inside to cook before the outside gets too tough. Steaks over 2 inches think run the risk of becoming tough and chewy on the outside before the middle can become fully cooked. Thicker steaks should be grilled at a medium temperature to ensure a more even cooking.
Venison steaks are another favorite. The key to making these types of steaks is knowing how long to cook them to get the proper tenderness. Venison has a great flavor, however it can be a bit game-y to some people. Many people will mask the game-y flavor by marinating the meat over night in one of their favorite sauces or marinades. Citrus is the best type of marinade if you are trying to mask the flavor.
For our steaks we simply season with Lawry's (a mix meat seasoning) and a dash of salt and pepper. I absolutely love the taste of venison steaks and feel you lose the great flavor when using marinades. We grill them to medium rare and they are the perfect steaks, tender and juicy.
Trying to cook these steaks to a medium or well done will result in dry and tough steaks. Venison steaks are best cooked to medium rare and left on a covered plate to keep warm. Leaving them on the grill too long or to keep them warm will also result in dry steaks.
Venison can be substituted for beef or chicken in a variety of recipes. One of my all time favorite venison for beef substitutes is for tacos. I will not eat any other type of taco anymore. Venison adds an extra dimension of flavor that you just cannot get with beef. I also prefer the texture of ground venison to beef. In my opinion store bought ground beef does not even compare to the fresh ground venison I can get from my dad.
Venison pairs nicely with root vegetables making it the perfect choice for nice hearty dinners like roasts and stews. Below are some great venison dishes that taste better than their other protein counterparts.
- Sausage (My family takes theirs to a place that makes it taste similar to summer sausage. You'll never go back once you've had venison sausage with your cheese and crackers.)
Cuts of Meat and Cooking Methods:
It is important to remember that different types of meat require different cooking methods. You can prepare a cut of meat perfectly, however if you cook it wrong you will end up with a sub-par product.
- Tenderloins and backstraps are my favorite parts of the deer. They are the tenderest cuts of meat and can be used in a variety of different recipes. Tenderloins can be cut into steaks, stew or kabob cubes, used for stir frys, and even cooked in gravy in the oven.
- Sirloin is a bit tougher, but with the proper tenderizing makes for great steaks.
- Roasts should be braised or cooked at a low temperature for a long period of time to reintroduce some moisture back into the meat.
- Stew meat which generally comes from the belly, neck, and lower rib section can be ground to make sausage, burgers, and ground meat for tacos or casseroles.
Whether you are looking for a beef substitute or have a piece of venison you are wondering how to cook these tips are sure to help you get the best flavor and texture from your meat.
The main reason most people do not like venison is because they either don't know how to cook it properly, or they had it from someone who didn't know how to cook it properly. When made the right way, venison is a great lean meat with delicious flavor.