How to Cook Venison

Barbara Rolek
Venison on grill

Cooking venison or deer meat shouldn't be a cause for concern. Like any other meat, tender cuts should be prepared using quick-cooking methods and tougher cuts need slow-cooking methods. Match the right cut of venison with the right cooking method for a delicious result.

Quick-Cooking Methods

Tender cuts like the tenderloin, boneless loin, rack, sirloin, boneless leg filets, kebabs, ground patties and sausage all should be prepared quickly to an internal temperature of 130 degrees F to 140 degrees F (rare or medium-rare).

Grilling and Broiling

Grilling at medium-high heat from below and broiling with direct heat from above are good methods for cooking tender cuts.

  1. Heat the coals in your grill for 30 minutes before cooking or turn a gas grill or broiler to medium-high. You also can cook on the stovetop in a cast iron grill pan by heating it on medium-high heat and then adding a little olive oil before adding the meat.
  2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you cook it to bring it to room temperature. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the meat to the hottest part of the grill or broiler. Cook 3 to 4 minutes and flip.
  4. Brush a little butter on top of the meat to help keep it moist.
  5. Sear the second side for 3 to 4 minutes and then move the meat to a cooler part of the grill or turn the heat down on a broiler or skillet.
  6. The meat should be done after 3 to 4 minutes per side but check the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer. It should register 130 degrees F for rare and 140 degrees F for medium-rare.
  7. Let the meat rest for 5 to 7 minutes before cutting.

Deep Fat Frying

Cutlets that have been pounded out and dipped in batter do well cooked in a deep fryer for 2 to 3 minutes or longer depending on size and thickness.

Steaming

Steaming is the most common treatment for venison sausage. Add 1/2 inch of water and the sausage to a skillet. Cover and steam at a low simmer until cooked, about 30 minutes.

Slow-Cooking Methods

Tougher cuts of venison like the neck, shoulder, foreleg, ribs and shank should be cooked low and slow (220 degrees F to 280 degrees F) for a long time to break down the connective tissue.

Roasting

The boneless loin, tenderloin, sirloin, boneless leg filets, chops, chuck roast, shoulder roast, shanks and ribs all do well cooked in the oven with no liquid added.

They can be cooked in the oven with dry heat and without any added liquid. They will need to be barded with strips of bacon or pork fat. Cooking temperatures and times vary by cut.

Braising

Tough cuts like the chuck roast, shoulder roast, ribs and shanks turn out great when they are first seared and then cooked with liquid on the stovetop or in the oven at low temperatures for a long time. Follow handy braising tips to ensure your meat is delicious.

Add Some Fat

Venison is very lean but whatever fat is on the meat should be trimmed away because it can have a strong gamey flavor. That means you will have to bard the meat (add additional fat via butter, margarine, oil, or bacon).

How to Bard Venison

In a skillet or on the grill, barding is done by wrapping the meat in strips of bacon, for example, or basting the cooking meat with melted butter or olive oil.

When cooking large venison roasts, the barding is accomplished by inserting bacon or fatty pork into little slits made in the thickest parts of the meat.

Venison Tex-Mex-Style Chili Recipe

Instead of using ground meat as most chilis call for, this chili recipe is made with cubed meat in the Tex-Mex tradition. Since this dish is braised for a long time to breaking down the connective tissue, it's perfect for tougher cuts of meat like chuck, top round, bottom round and rump roasts. You can make it as mild or spicy as you like.

Venison chili

Yield: 8 servings

Spice Rub Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme

Chili Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless venison rump roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil like vegetable or canola
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 large stemmed, seed and chopped red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 large seeded and minced jalapeños, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and their juices
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can drained black beans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can drained pinto beans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can drained white cannellini beans
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Garnish

  • Grated cheddar cheese or white Mexican cotija
  • Sliced green onions

Make the Spice Rub

  1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Place meat cubes in a zip-top plastic bag. Add some of the rub and shake to coat the meat completely. Add more rub if necessary.
  2. If you have any rub leftover, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Make the Chili

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high until hot but not smoking. To prevent spatter burns, carefully add dredged venison cubes, shaking off any excess spice rub, and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, jalapeños, chili powder, pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, oregano and salt, and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juices, beer, drained beans and stock. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer covered, until the meat is tender and cooked through, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add more stock or water as needed.
  4. In a small heatproof bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Add a few ladles of hot chili liquid to the cornstarch mixture, mix well and add back to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Adjust the seasonings.
  5. Ladle into bowls, top with grated cheese and onions. Serve with crackers, cornbread, muffins or garlic bread, as desired. A nice cold beer is perfect to keep the heat at bay!

Venison Is a Lean Meat Alternative

If you have a hunter in the family, don't turn your nose up at his offer of fresh deer meat. This lean protein is worth experimenting with in recipes. If you know how to pair cuts of meat with cooking methods, you just might be surprised at how wonderful wild (or domesticated) game can be.

How to Cook Venison