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Default Preparation is the Key to good Venison
by blake 09-10-2013, 09:21 PM

Preparation is the key to dining on good deer

Deer season gets close you can bet the topic deer meat, debates will follow on how to handle it.

Let’s narrow down the focus a little. The deer has been killed, skinned quickly and processed, properly we hope. Recipes for cooking deer meat are abundant, diversified and readily available on the Internet if you don’t have one handy or a cookbook close by.

A frequent question from someone not experienced in wild game cooking is, “How do I get rid of the gamy taste”? Someone will respond just as quickly, “Why do you want to get rid of the taste? If you want something that tastes like beef, you go to the store and buy some beef.”

Gamy? Call it wild taste to be more precise. Gamy can have a negative meaning also, like the meat isn’t clean or wasn’t cooled properly.

Many people who cook deer meat use a soaking of some sort before getting into the actual preparation. We don’t say this is necessary, but if you want to do it, fine. It won’t hurt anything.

Fresh deer meat can have blood in it, and by soaking a few hours or overnight in a solution like salt water or vinegar and water will remove much of the blood. After the soaking, empty the pan, rinse the meat then proceed. We are using the term soaking here to distinguish it from marinating, but the processes can overlap.

Buttermilk is sometimes used for this purpose, and the theory is that acid in buttermilk helps with the meat like vinegar does.

Experienced wild game cooks know that all deer meat is not the same. Some is more tender than others. Many cooks as well as hunters believe that meat from an older deer will be coarser and tougher than that from a young animal. Some probably can tell by the look and feel of a piece of meat if it will be tender or not.

A suggestion is to soak the meat in solutions of salt and water, vinegar and water or buttermilk if you suspect it could be tough.

Fruit juices can be used as pre-cooking treatments also, but here we are getting more into the marinade process than in the soaking action.

Apple juice goes well with almost any meat – deer or domestic like pork. Cherry juice, pineapple juice and others can be used, and citrus juice – orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit --can be something of a crossover in that the acid can work similar to vinegar and buttermilk.

Soaking and marinating deer meat applies to the various cuts of meat but not to ground deer meat – hamburger. Ground meat doesn’t need the pre-cooking preparation in the view of most wild game cooks, but go ahead and soak the ground meat if you want to. It won’t hurt anything.

Another aspect of the pre-cooking work for deer meat is to tenderize it if you think it needs this.

Some of the best meats from a deer are the backstraps or tenderloins. Slice ‘em thin, then cook ‘em. If you suspect there may be some toughness, a few swats with a meat hammer or the edge of a saucer can help. Most cooks don’t pound the meat to extreme thinness, however.

Experiment if you are not experienced in wild game cooking. Do keep in mind that deer meat is extremely lean meat, and it needs cooking by moist methods for the best results.
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:01 AM   #2
PROGEAR1
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I always soak my deer steaks in salt water twice, 24 hours in the fridge each time. They are a very light pink when I'm done. I then put the steaks in Teriyaki with Pinapple Lawry's marinade for another 24 hours and then put them on the grill making sure not to overcook. The result is the most tender deer steaks you will ever have!
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:20 AM   #3
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What's suggested for how long to hang deer and what temperature? Like, the beef guys have this down to a science and wondering what's correct for deer.
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:39 AM   #4
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I take the tenderloins straight out of the deer after field dressing. My favorite part of the deer, I personally go unmarinated, but light steak seasoning and a little butter. When serving others I put a bourbon marinade on the loins and regardless always go med rare first deer taken this year, ill be having fresh venison on the grill that night
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Old 09-11-2013, 08:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PROGEAR1 View Post
I always soak my deer steaks in salt water twice, 24 hours in the fridge each time. They are a very light pink when I'm done. I then put the steaks in Teriyaki with Pinapple Lawry's marinade for another 24 hours and then put them on the grill making sure not to overcook. The result is the most tender deer steaks you will ever have!

I tried the Teriyaki with pineapple marinade this summer and it was very good. Perfect for the grill
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:14 AM   #6
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Don't mean to highjack Blake's thread but this is a topic I am somewhat passionate about. Much of what follows agrees with his comments, some do not. Doesn't make anyone right or wrong, just different opinions.
A year ago, my sister asked me to suggest some game recipes for her daughter. She grew up a non-hunter but married a hunter and has really gotten into it. Rather than recipes, I wrote a brief (?) summary of what I have learned cooking game (a lot of game) over the past 45 years. I love good food and have been accused of being a decent hand at putting an edible meal on the table. FWIW, here is what I wrote for my niece & my $0.02 worth on preparing venison:

I’ll try to put in writing some general thoughts on cooking game, especially venison and in using the term venison I include moose, elk, and deer.

Most of these of these ideas I’ve learned from others but some are the result of my own musings as well as some trial and error.

Venison is venison. It is not beef, or pork or lamb, it is venison and it tastes like venison which should have a very mild and delectable flavor. It is very lean red meat. It may look a little like beef but it is not beef. It should not be cut like beef. It should not be cooked like beef. Don’t expect it to taste like beef.

Game selection for the table:
I think that deer, elk and moose (and I suspect caribou) are all very similar in flavor. I don’t know that I can tell the difference between them and I have tried, so I address them all with the same basic approach.

Given my choices I will pick a middle age adult male as the best eating. I don’t buy the idea that a real young deer or calf elk or a fat doe or cow elk are better eating. The young of the year haven’t had a chance to develop any flavor at all and are much akin to chicken, veal or much of the commercial pork these days. It’s meat, but has little or no flavor of its own. Not a bad thing but not my favorite.

A fat doe or cow is to some extent just the opposite. They are likely to end up being much more difficult to process and potentially stronger tasting if not processed correctly, which I will address later.

Processing meat:
Obviously field dress as quickly and cleanly as possible. I also skin as soon as I can get the critter hung up. Cools better. I don’t fret about scent glands on the rear legs. Just don’t handle them and them the meat or you may transfer some of the odor to the meat. (This is very important with antelope as their entire hair coat is a scent gland).

Aging is controlled rot and absent the facilities to have absolute control I choose not to age my venison any more than necessary. Some might get “aged” a little more than others but in general I age venison from the time I get it down until I get it cut and in the freezer which ideally is within 2-3 days. I’ve “aged some for up to 10 days inadvertently but couldn’t tell the difference on the table.

Avoid commercial butchers or at the least find one who will follow your instructions. Most “off”, “strong” or “gamey” flavors in venison are in the fat and bone marrow (which is mostly fat). A commercial butcher looks at a deer as if it was a lamb or a small steer and process it the same. They think it should have a little fat around the outside like a lamb chop or rib eye so they leave a layer of fat on. Then they run it through a band saw which smears a layer of fat and bone marrow all over the “chop”. Then we drop it in a hot fry pan and sear that flavor into the meat. Next someone who expects this chop to taste like beef is rudely surprised and declares it “too gamey” and starts trying to find a marinade or spice combination to hide the flavor. Easiest remedy for this is to bone out the meat. A friend confided in me that all he learned in meat cutting school was how to hide the most bone in the least meat and still make it look good to the consumer. You already own the meat and there is now reason to put bone in the freezer so just cut the meat off the bone. Next trim away as much of the fat as you can. Your goal should be red meat. Anything white is either fat which has strong flavor or gristle (tendon/muscle fascia or ligaments) which is tough and chewy. Neither ad to the culinary value of the end product.

After removing as much of the fat & fascia as I can, I package the loins (backstrap) and the large muscles from the rear legs in 2-3# chunks and freeze that way. Then if I want a roast I have it. If I want steaks or cutlets they are easy to cut to any thickness I want when about ½ - ¾ thawed.

The front shoulders, neck meat and anything that doesn’t make a good “chunk” gets processed for burger. Still needs to be trimmed of all visible fat. A little gristle isn’t too bad as a couple trips through the grinder will do a decent job of “tenderizing” that, but big pieces of tendon etc. should be trimmed. We add 10% beef fat to the grinding meat for flavor. I get the fat to grind from the best butcher in town. I figure if they sell the best beef in town, the fat they trim off must also have the best flavor. We have found that if we use less than 8-10% fat, a burger won’t hold together and even loose meat needs fat added to the pan to brown without sticking. This works for any recipe that one would use ground meat for from chili to spaghetti sauce to meatloal not too mention it make the worlds finest ½# hickory grilled burgers.

Cooking venison:
Venison is a very lean red meat. It has virtually no marbling. It’s purely muscle fibers. The first reaction it will have to heat is to start to contract which makes it tougher and tougher as you cook. After prolonged exposure to heat, especially moist heat, the little fibers of connective tissue that hold the muscle fibers together start to break down and the meat becomes “tender” again. Rather it begins to shred but in any instance it can be eaten without undue wear and tear on the jaws. Because of this, venison should be eaten as rare as you can handle it (rare or even carpaccio are really quite good) or it should be cooked with moisture for a prolonged time such as pot roast or “Swiss steak”. Cutlets, pounded thin and flash fried very quickly +/- a sauce or cheese are wonderful. “Cubed” or minute steaks are another good way to go as long as they aren’t overcooked. Venison, sliced into thin pieces across the grain does very well in any stir fry recipe.

On the grill, one needs to be careful to not let venison dry out. There is a reason that pork and well marbled steaks are so great on the grill. Venison can get dry and tough very quickly on the grill. A marinated &/or bacon wrapped piece of backstrap done rare-medium rare is a treat but if you have to have meat “more doner” than medium rare, stick with beef or chicken on the grill.

Prepared for the kitchen as described most venison has a very mild flavor. Some are out off because they expect it to taste like beef and it does not (except the burger which is better than any store bought). Because it is so lean and mild flavored it can benefit from the use of a marinade or cooking with sauces to help prevent drying and to ad some flavors for variety. I avoid any recipe that claims to use marinades or strong spices to cover gamey taste. They are without doubt written by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Rather than searching recipes for “game” (too many are as noted above) I have had great success using “European” recipes such as those used for veal (scaloppini, parmesan, marsala etc.) to work extremely well. Stroganoff with venison is one of my favorites. Again stir fry is great, as is tempura. It may sound unappealing to the uninitiated but I suspect many European recipes have evolved for use with horse meat which is also a lean red athletic meat and probably why they work well with venison. Don’t be afraid to try any recipe that looks good as long as it involves short hot cooking or long moist cooking.

For a very special treat go to Epicurious.com and look for Sauteed Veal with Shrimp, Mushroom, and Brandy Cream Sauce... Sinful good!

A word on wild pigs: From what my Texas friends tell me, when you’re hog hunting leave the big old boars for the trophy hunters and shoot young sows for the table. Then just cook like pork other than don’t overcook or they will dry out. Not as fat as store bought but supposedly have better (more?) flavor. I’ve shot a lot of pigs but most were at a range of about 3” and caught up behind a gate.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:15 AM   #7
Booner
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Great read and advice
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:09 PM   #8
2-bucks
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Amen to everything Hosre Doctor said. Most "gamey" venison people have tasted is due to the way it was handled, not how it was cooked.
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:49 PM   #9
JNRBRONC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HorseDoctor View Post

Processing meat:
Next trim away as much of the fat as you can. Your goal should be red meat. Anything white is either fat which has strong flavor or gristle (tendon/muscle fascia or ligaments) which is tough and chewy. Neither add to the culinary value of the end product.

^^^Agree with this and the statement about not cutting bone/smearing marrow.


Quote:
We add 10% beef fat to the grinding meat for flavor.
If I want fatty burger, I'll buy hamburger from the store. I just can't see taking a lean protein like venison, buying the local butchers "waste" fat and investing my time to make venison patties. Very lean venison burger will stick to the pan if fried, but is perfect for microwave cooking for subsequent adding to other dishes.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:07 PM   #10
2-bucks
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If I want fatty burger, I'll buy hamburger from the store. I just can't see taking a lean protein like venison, buying the local butchers "waste" fat and investing my time to make venison patties. Very lean venison burger will stick to the pan if fried, but is perfect for microwave cooking for subsequent adding to other dishes.[/QUOTE]

I can! I dont make a lot of pounds, am too lazy to go to a butcher and love the taste, so I grind in a little bacon. Mmmmmm bacon. Still keep it lean, then add a little worch. sauce and lawreys before I grind it the second time. Freezer to grill to belly. Awsome. But to each his own. I honestly cant think of any way I dont like it as long as it was not ruined by how it was handled in the field or butchered.
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