How to Prepare Venison
From an economic standpoint. deer are quite valuable in terms of meat that is harvested. A single deer can cover the cost of a good hunting rifle, ammunition, and time spent hunting. A good sized deer can feed a family for months, not to mention that deer meat is lean, nutritious, organic, and the definition of free range. Venison isn’t something you can just buy at your local grocery store. Rather it’s something that you must go out into the wild and get for yourself. As such, venison is a valuable resource that should never be wasted or taken for granted.
Preparing venison starts from the moment you pull the trigger. If the deer doesn’t immediately die, it will run. Adrenalin and lactic acid can taint meat. The calmer the deer is the better its meat will taste. If you run after the dear it will get more scared than it already is and will run and run. The key is to wait a good 15 to 20 minutes before you start tracking the deer. Once the deer realizes that it’s not being chased it will calm down, stop running, and lay down.
When you process the deer, make sure to take the scent glands from the back legs right away as they can taint the meat. Also be sure to “bleed the deer.” If it’s cold enough outside, hang it overnight to let all the blood drip out.
Deer Tallow (fat):
Although venison tends to be lean, it’s still a good idea to cut off the fat when butchering. Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s uses when it comes to cooking (soups and what not), but it’s not something you really want to have a lot of when you’re cooking venison. The reason is quite simple, deer fat isn’t like other animals. The temperature at which deer fat congeals after cooking is significantly higher than other animals and when it does congeal into a solid it does so into little wax like droplets and aren’t exactly the most palatable. An excess of fat can ruin what would have otherwise been a perfectly delightful meal.
Deer fat solidifies around 115 degrees. As opposed to meet such as beef (100 degrees), pork (97 degrees), chicken (90 degrees). This means that deer fat will start to solidify on your plate much faster than other common meat. It will also do so in a somewhat unpalatable manner.
Rare vs. Well-Done:
In general I prefer my meat to be cooked medium rare. Others prefer their meat to be rare or even well done; to each his own. However, venison has its own distinct characteristics that should be taken into consideration. Over cooking venison (well-done) toughens the meat more so than other meats such as beef. This largely has to do with the fact that venison is leaner and as such isn’t as forgiving when it comes to over cooking.
Cooking venison (as with any meat) causes the cell walls to break down causing a decrease in flavor and palatability. This that being said, I’m not generally a big fan of rare or undercooked meat. There is a happy medium that is dependent on the taste of the individual. However, as previously stated, venison is its own meat with its own distinct flavor and characteristics. As such, it’s my opinion (and the opinion of many others) that venison tastes best when exposed to less time on the grill or oven. I have always been of the mind that it’s easier to make rare meat well-done, than it is to make “well-done “ meat rare.
Up to a certain point meats such as pork or beef tend to become lighter in color when cooked. Venison, however, tends to remain dark. As such, it may be advised that one remove venison from cooking heat when it appears slightly under done. If you find that it is in fact under cooked you can always put it back. However, it’s important to remember that the meat will continue to “cook” after it’s removed from the heat source.
If you are frying venison, I would recommend using olive oil over other cooking oils. The reason being that olive oil “smokes” or rather “browns” meat at a significantly lower temperature than other oils. As such, it lends itself better to cooking meat rare or medium rare. Cooking oils with a higher “smoke” rate will require more cooking before the outer portion of the meat becomes browned.
If the meat goes bad: Disclaimer: I have not tried this.
I was talking to my neighbor one night about deer hunting. He is well into his late 70’s and has been a avid hunter all his life. He also owned the largest gun shop in the area and outfitted all the local hunters. While regaling me with epic hunting stories he told me of a time he had an entire deer go bad and what he did about it.
The story goes that when he was a young man his father went out deer hunting. He was successful in getting a giant buck. His father came by when he wasn’t home and left it hanging for him in his smoke house. A week later his father asked him how he liked the deer. To which my neighbor asked “what deer?”
He then went home to find a moldy deer hanging in his smoke house. Needless to say, he was pretty bummed out. He went and spoke to an old man who lived nearby and told him what happened. They went back to his smoke house and when the old man saw the deer he told him not to worry and that the deer was “perfect.” He then told him to collect all the clean towels he had and to meet him back at the smoke house.
When he returned to his smoke house he found his neighbor standing there with a large batch of Apple Cider vinegar. They then preceded to soak the towels in the vinegar and thoroughly whipped down the entire deer.
When I asked him how it turned out, he told me that it was the best venison he has ever tasted.
How to get rid of the gamey taste:
If you have hanged the deer for an appropriate amount of time (a day or so) and it still tastes gamey, there are a few tricks you can try. One popular trick is to soak the venison in salt water over night. The old timer up the road swears by soaking it in butter milk.
Personally, when I am faced with cooking meat that tastes slightly gamey I like to take the time to smoke it. I have found that the mesquite flavor from smoking can help limit and perhaps even complement the gamey taste of wild game. However, with that being said, venison does not lend itself to being cooked over charcoal. The reason being is that as the meat cooks, fat will drip off into the charcoal where it will then burn and produce smoke that may taint the flavor of the meat.
You may also find it advantageous to marinade the venison before cooking. As previously stated marinating the venison in salt water can help extract the gamey flavor of the meat. As such, I personally like to use recipes that call for a bit of salt.
1 tablespoon Warcestershir sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Chopped garlic glove
1-2 pinches of salt
1 chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves
¾ cup olive oil
¼ soy sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
refrigerate for a 1-2 days
2/3 Cup wine vinegar
1 Cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon garlic salt
2 chopped onions
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup Italian salad dressing