Deer, or venison, is one of the most traditional and popular game meats in the world. The animal was the main source of protein for North America's early settlers during the long, harsh winters. As hunting was replaced by farms, meat from domesticated animals became more common, and deer became an exotic option. When properly prepared, however, venison can be even tastier than a good old rump steak.
- Preparation time (venison steaks): 20 minutes.
- Cooking time: 6 to 12 minutes.
- Total time (without marinade): 30 minutes.
Method 1 of 5: Preparing the Meat
Step 1. Buy meat that has been cleaned properly.
The longer the meat is attached to the dead animal's carcass, the harder it becomes. Choose a deer that has been opened, skinned, wrapped and refrigerated immediately after death by a professional or a butcher experienced with game meat.
Venison must be aged for 10 to 14 days before being prepared for sale to lose some of its moisture and smell, making it more palatable
Step 2. Remove the pieces of fat
Unlike beef fat, which gives meat flavor and juiciness, deer fat does not taste good and does no good to the texture of the meat. With a sharp knife, cut the connective tissue and fat from the meat before cooking it.
- Fat can be discarded or turned into tallow to make soap or feed birds.
- The "silver skin" is a thin membrane found in freshly processed deer cuts. If it has not been removed, cut it off. It's a pretty tedious job, but removing the layer makes the meat more delicious and easier to cook.
Step 3. Marinate the meat overnight before cooking it
Venison has a strong game meat taste, which you can either accentuate or hide, depending on the cut and cooking method. In order to know how to tenderize and flavor meat, it is essential that you learn to combine the cuts with the right marinades. The best way to marinate a deer cut is in a large ZipLoc in the refrigerator. The meat must stay overnight in the marinade.
- Put the thinnest cuts in a marinade and put the thicker ones in the brine. In one night, the marinade will only penetrate no more than 3 mm of the meat. So putting thick meats to marinate doesn't make much sense. To get the most out of a marinade, use it to season thin strips of skirt steak or sirloin.
- For a simple marinade, buy an Italian salad dressing or make one from scratch with half a cup of vinegar, half a cup of oil, a clove of minced garlic, a teaspoon of dark mustard, and a teaspoon of oregano and basil.
- For a barbecue marinade, saute a finely chopped yellow onion and three or four chopped garlic cloves in five tablespoons of butter. The onion should be translucent. Then add two cups of tomato sauce (or one cup of ketchup), half a cup of cider, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, half a cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of chili pepper powder.
- If you are not very fond of the flavor of game meat, bet on a citrus marinade. The acidity masks the strong deer flavor, making it more palatable for children and people with a conservative appetite. Mix together half a cup of lemon juice, half a cup of olive oil, half a cup of chopped cilantro, a chopped green pepper, a teaspoon of ground cumin and a shot of tequila.
Step 4. Replace the deer fat with another fat
Although the animal's natural fat has a negative impact on the meat, deer needs some kind of “coating” to stay tender and juicy. Otherwise, the meat runs the risk of drying out. Those who have experience with venison meat tend to barde or lard the meat with some other fat, such as butter, margarine, oil or bacon fat.
- Bardear means adding an outer layer of fat to meat. The method is ideal for preparing meat on the grill or in the pan, as it basically consists of covering the meat with fat. After turning the meat, you can also spread a little butter or olive oil on the golden side to make the piece more succulent and flavorful.
- Larding means putting fat into the meat by making small cuts. The method is great for larger pieces and roasts, especially if you use other meats such as ham or bacon. With a chef's knife, cut through the thickest part of the meat and shove bits of bacon or some other greasy pork into the openings. The fat will help keep the meat juicy over the fire.
Step 5. Choose the right cooking method for each cut
There are several ways to prepare venison, but not all of them match every cut. Some are best prepared as steaks, while others make great stews or even sausages. Whether you have a specific dish in mind and are looking for the right cut for it, or need to find the best way to prepare the meat you already have at home, take a look at the tips below:
- The cuts of the loin are the softest and most sought after. They can be cooked whole, sliced into steaks or cut into smaller pieces for stews and frying. Venison loin is usually served between rare and medium.
- The underside of the hind legs, known as ham, is the best roast meat. To soften it, braise it or cook it over low heat.
- The upper part of the hind legs is best for steaks. This is the most versatile cut of deer there is. Although it is a little tough at first, once tenderized, the meat can be prepared in a variety of ways.
- To make a stew, opt for rib, belly and neck meat. If you have a meat grinder, you can also use the cuts to make minced meat or venison sausage.
Method 2 of 5: Cooking Venison Steaks
Step 1. Grill or fry the steak in a skillet
The best way to make venison steaks is on a grill or in a hot skillet. With both methods, you can seal the meat and cook it until it reaches the right internal temperature, which is essential for preparing a good quality deer.
- To give the meat that smoky barbecue taste, you can use either a gas or charcoal grill. Heat the charcoal for 30 minutes before grilling the meat or turn the gas grill on medium.
- To fry a venison steak, it is best to use a cast iron skillet. Heat it over medium high heat and add a tablespoon or two of oil. The skillet should be very hot before you add the venison to seal the meat properly. Wait for the oil to almost smoke.
Step 2. Leave the meat at room temperature before cooking
About 20 to 30 minutes before cooking the venison steak, take it out of the fridge and out of the marinade. Wait for the meat to fully come to room temperature.
If you move the meat straight from the fridge to the grill or hot skillet, the outside will cook, but the inside will remain cold. Cooking the meat completely without burning it will be practically impossible. It's much easier and smarter to cook meat at room temperature, and the end result is much better
Step 3. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper
With or without marinade, it's always a good idea to season both sides of the steak with a little salt and a little fresh pepper before putting it on the fire. However, salting the meat too soon can cause it to lose moisture and become hard, so wait to season it immediately before placing it on the grill.
Step 4. Seal both sides of the meat
To fry steak, the temperature should be between medium and high. So put the steak in the pan as soon as the oil smokes or place it on the hottest part of the grill above the charcoal. The meat will make a very characteristic squeak when it comes into contact with the hot surface. If it doesn't, remove it from the heat immediately and wait for the grill or pan to heat up a little longer. Cook the meat for three to four minutes on each side to form a crust on the outside. Then move it to a cooler part of the grill or lower the heat.
- If you are using a cast iron skillet, remember that the material retains heat and remains hot for a long time. So it might be a good idea to put out the fire after sealing the meat so the steak doesn't burn.
- The time needed to seal the meat will depend on the thickness of the steak. However, even a steak that is more than 2.5 cm thick should not spend more than ten or 12 minutes in the skillet. Keep an eye on the meat and see if it isn't burned underneath.
- Venison must have an internal temperature of 55 °C. When it reaches 65°C, it will start to harden. If the steak is more than 2.5 cm thick, put it to cook longer on a cooler part of the grill or lower the heat to set the skillet temperature.
Step 5. Bathe the meat with butter
Ever wonder why homemade steaks are not the same as the ones we eat in restaurants? The secret is butter! After turning the meat for the first time, spread a little butter on the top to retain moisture. If you are preparing the meat in a skillet, add approximately a tablespoon of butter and let it melt. Stir the skillet so the butter drains onto the steak.
Step 6. Cook the meat until it is rare to medium
You don't need to mess with the meat too much. Just turn it over once and cook it for three to four minutes on each side. It's easy to make venison overcooked. It happens so fast that you almost don't notice. Therefore, test the point of the meat frequently with your finger to know when to take it out of the fire. Let the steak rest before eating.
To learn to recognize the spot on the flesh, place the tip of your index finger on the tip of your thumb. Then squeeze the fattest part of the big toe, near the palm of your hand, with the fingers of your other hand. A rare meat should have exactly this consistency. On the other hand, a medium rare meat to the point should have the consistency of your hand with the middle finger glued to the thumb. To learn to recognize the point of a well-done meat, change your index finger to your pinky
Step 7. Let the meat rest for five to seven minutes
Put the steak on a plate or cutting board and let it sit for at least five minutes before slicing and serving. That way, the muscle fibers will cool and the meat will retain the juice instead of dropping it onto the plate. The meat will also continue to simmer if you cover it. Serve the steaks whole or cut them in the opposite direction from the fibers into generous chunks.
Method 3 of 5: Making Roasted Venison
Step 1. Lard the meat with bacon and aromatic spices
After grinding the fat, silver skin and connective tissue, make ten to 12 cuts, roughly 2.5 cm long and 5 cm deep into the meat. The cuts should be spread over the meat. Then fill it with aromatic spices and a fat source, such as bacon, to inject flavor and moisture.
- For aromatic spices, try using garlic, rosemary, thyme or sage.
- For fat, chopped bacon is best, but you can also use chunks of chilled butter.
Step 2. Cover the meat with dried herbs and refrigerate for several hours
To make roast deer meat, the best option is to use dry seasonings. You can buy a ready-made mix or prepare your own flavor mix. Choose your favorite spices and try different variations. You can't go wrong. Just take a handful of the seasoning and rub it on the outside of the meat.
- For a basic spice mix, mix together equal parts oregano, basil, parsley, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- To make a seed mix, toast ¼ cup each of fennel, coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet. When it starts to smell, remove the seeds from the heat and break them with the smooth part of a kitchen knife. Mix with chili pepper powder, paprika and brown sugar.
- Another option is to put the meat in a brine overnight. The technique is loved by many venison lovers. The brine helps to tenderize the meat and leave it with a smoother taste. Whichever method you choose, refrigerate the meat overnight or for several hours before putting it in the oven.
Step 3. Roast the meat in a pan lined with vegetables
Line the bottom of the pan with vegetables so the meat doesn't touch the metal. This will better distribute the heat and add flavor and perfume to the dish.
- The most commonly used vegetables for making roast deer are onions, carrots, potatoes and celery. After washing them, cut them roughly. It is not necessary to season them. The juice from the meat will do the job.
- As venison tends to dry out, it is also a good idea to put a little plain water or chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan. The liquid will keep the inside of the oven moist, preventing the meat from drying out.
Step 4. Cover the meat and roast it at 160 °C for three hours
Place the meat over the vegetables and cover it well with aluminum foil. Bake for about three hours. From time to time, take it out and cover it with the juice at the bottom of the pan. If you are using a meat thermometer, take the meat off the heat altogether when it is between 55 °C and 65 °C, depending on where you want it. The meat will harden if it gets hotter than that.
Remove the meat from the pan and let it rest covered for ten to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Sift the broth in the bottom of the pan to make a delicious meat sauce to go with it
Method 4 of 5: Making Venison Stew
Step 1. Brown the meat
In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat a little olive oil and brown the meat on all sides. It is not necessary to cook it fully. In fact, it's best to avoid cooking it entirely. The goal is just to seal the meat to create a layer of flavor and add a little color to the bottom of the pan. If she starts to add brownish burns, great!
- To make a good stew, use around 500 g of minced ham, belly and neck meat.
- To brown the meat and thicken the stew, pass the minced meat in a little wheat flour, as if you were preparing a roux. Use about a teaspoon or two for every 500g of meat.
Step 2. Add vegetables and aromatic spices
After browning the meat, take it out of the pan and add the vegetables you want to add to the stew. Start with the heaviest ones and finish with the lightest ones. That way, the ones that take longer to cook will start earlier, and everything will be ready more or less at the same time. Start with roots such as potatoes, carrots and turnips. Leave mushrooms, peas and basil leaves for last.
For a basic stew, start with two chopped potatoes, two medium-sized chopped carrots, and a small whole white onion. Place the heat on medium and stir until the onion starts to turn translucent. Then add three or four chopped garlic cloves. Cook for another minute or two. When the vegetables start to brown, it's time to deglaze the pan
Step 3. Deglaze the pan
At this point, the bottom of the pan should be covered in color and flavor. However, you can only incorporate these elements into the dish if you add a little liquid and stir vigorously. To deglaze the pan, you can use two or three cups of red wine, stout, or chicken stock. All these options are delicious with venison. Another option is to use a combination of liquids or a mixture of equal parts water and some other liquid to make the flavor smoother.
- After adding the deglaze liquid, wait for it to start bubbling vigorously and then stop for a while. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the flavor and season the stew to taste. Try using dried thyme, salt and pepper.
- Return the meat to the pan and cook over high heat until it comes to a boil. Stir from time to time so that the broth does not stand still. When it boils, turn the heat down completely and cover the pan. Uncover from time to time to stir.
Step 4. Cook the stew over low heat for a few hours
Cook the stew for at least an hour, with the pan covered. It may take up to three or four hours to stitch. The delay and low temperature will make the meat soft and tasty, so it is essential that you set aside some time just to cook the dish. The meat will be “ready” after an hour, but it will be even better after a few extra hours. Over time, the proteins will break down and the meat will be so tender it will crumble on your fork.
If you want to add more vegetables to the stew, such as mushrooms or some greens, leave it for 10 to 15 minutes before eating. Otherwise, the vegetable will be extremely soft. A dash of chopped fresh parsley makes a great complement. Serve the stew with French bread or corn bread for a meal beyond delicious
Method 5 of 5: Making deer chili
Step 1. Mix the minced venison with other meats
Minced venison is great for hamburgers, meat loafs, and any other recipe that calls for minced meat. However, the dish that she is most delicious is chili. It can be used alone or mixed with a little minced meat or pork sausage. The end result is super satisfying. Half a kilo of venison makes between eight and 12 servings.
- It is important that you grind the meat well or buy a deer ground into smaller pieces than usual so that it is just right for the chili. A good idea is to buy a grinder and grind the meat at home.
- If you prefer a Texan-style chili, use minced meat instead of minced meat and cook on a low temperature longer. The ingredients and the rest of the technique are pretty much the same.
Step 2. Brown the minced meat and onions
Place one or two tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a thick pan and add the minced venison meat. With a wooden spoon, stir the meat until golden. Just before it is fully browned, add a medium chopped yellow onion, a chopped red pepper and three or four chopped garlic cloves.
Step 3. Add beans and mashed tomatoes
When the onion starts to brown, it's time to add the beans and tomatoes. Ideally, use approximately 340 g of kidney beans or a mixture of red beans, white beans and chickpeas.
- Use about 500g of mashed tinned tomatoes and a tablespoon of the paste to make the base of the chili. If the tomatoes are fresh, separate four ripe ones, chop them roughly and save the juice. Keep an eye on the chili and add water whenever it feels too dry.
- If you don't like beans, use the chili recipe of your choice. Venison goes well with almost all types of green chili and other variations of the dish. Use whatever flavors and seasonings you prefer to find what works best with deer.
Step 4. Season with three or four tablespoons of chili pepper powder
Season the chili to taste. If you like pepper, add more tablespoons or use a more potent pepper, along with a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and any other spices you like on the tile. If you prefer a milder flavor, add thyme, cumin, powdered coriander and other aromatic spices. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You need at least a little chili pepper to give the dish that distinctive taste. Add one teaspoon at a time. You can always add more pepper later
Step 5. Cover and cook over low heat for at least one hour
Turn the heat down completely, cover the pan and let the chili cook for a few hours. The meat will be on point in about 30 minutes, but the flavors will need an hour or two of slow cooking to blend together. Taste the chili after half an hour and adjust the seasoning. Take the opportunity to add more pepper, if necessary. Serve with corn bread.
You can also transfer the chili to a slow cooker and cook it throughout the day or night to release the flavors well. In general, the longer the chili cooks, the better it tastes
- Some spices that go great with venison are parsley, thyme, garlic and onion. These and others can easily be found in powdered soup mixes.
- Venison can be served as a steak, as a roast, in cubes, in soups and stews, as a hamburger or in a chili. It is possible to find countless recipes on the internet and in books dedicated to the preparation of game meat.
- If you are in the habit of hunting, how about learning how to cut a deer yourself?