There’s no doubt that venison (or deer meat) has a slightly dubious reputation, even amongst those people who love to eat meat. And it’s true that if wrongly prepared it can be tough, stringy and somewhat gamey in flavor. But venison can also be the basis of a wonderfully lean, tasty and healthy grill experience. As with beef, pork or any other meat, the key to grilling venison successfully is matching the right cut with the right method of cooking.
Essentially the harder the relevant muscle was worked during the animal’s life, the more cartilage, tendon and other connective tissue will be present, and the tougher the meat will be. Cuts from the shoulder, shank or leg of the deer can still produce excellent meals, but they will typically require long slow cooking to become tender, and so are less suitable for grilling.
So when planning to use venison for grill or BBQ you need ideally to look for cuts from the saddle (rack or loin). These make excellent steaks, chops and cutlets, but can also be made into delicious sausages, burgers or kabobs. Click for more venison recipes
The Key To Grilling Venison
As with the grilling of any meat, it’s vital to preserve its tenderness by not over-cooking. This is especially important in the case of venison and other wild or game animals, such as wild boar or bison, which tend to be much leaner than farm reared animals, and can therefore easily become dry and tough if over-cooked.
The best protection against this is to cook the meat quickly, at relatively high temperature, and not to let it go beyond medium rare. Timing is critical to texture, and this means paying attention to the grill all the time the meat is cooking. As your venison will not release much fat during cooking it’s also a good idea to apply a light coating of oil to help prevent it sticking to the grill.
With practice it’s easy to determine when the meat is correctly cooked by applying a simple finger and thumb pressure test, or using a wooden spatula. On no account should you pierce the meat as this will release vital moisture.
For this reason, too, it’s important to let the venison rest for at least 5 minutes after cooking so that it retains its flavor giving juices.
Grilling Venison For Flavor
Enthusiasts maintain that well butchered venison, properly grilled, needs no additional flavoring, but although it’s an exceptionally lean, healthy and versatile choice of meat, there’s no doubt that its distinctive taste is not everyone’s preference. But there are numerous ways of enhancing its flavor without losing its essential character, thereby creating something much more interesting than the standard beef steak or pork chop. How to grill venison.
There are innumerable recipes for different marinades, but the essential technique is the same.
A venison marinade is prepared, normally using ingredients such as oil, wine, wine vinegar, Worcestershire or soy sauce, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and other seasonings to suit personal taste. The venison is placed in the marinade using a cling film sealed bowl or perhaps freezer bags, depending on the size and quantity of the meat being prepared.
The marinade is then left to infuse the meat for a minimum of 8 – 12 hours. If time permits, 24 hours may produce superior results. Apart from adding flavor, this process also helps tenderize the meat, although it does not remove the requirement for careful cooking as described above.
- Dry Rub
Similar in concept to marinading, but as the term suggests this involves rubbing dry seasonings, especially salt, directly into the meat. The rubbed venison is then covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Here is a good venison dry rub and seasoning.
This is a slightly different technique which does not directly enhance the flavor of the meat, but may help mask the gaminess of the venison.
Brine is traditionally no more than a simple mixture of salt and water, although some people swear by the addition of a little sugar as well. Like marinading, immersion in such a solution for up to 24 hours will also help enormously in tenderizing the meat.
Adding Extra Flavor to Venison
If you have time to make your own burgers, the inclusion of a little chopped bacon in the mix produces a wonderful combination of flavors. Alternatively, you might include bacon in your venison burger buns, or wrap your sausages or steaks in bacon.
Then of course there are many sauces which perfectly complement venison.
These may be fruit based, blackberry is very popular, or include mushrooms, cream and even whisky. Venison also goes very well with conventional BBQ sauces.
Which ones you choose are of course a matter of the personal taste of you and your guests, but it any event there’s no doubt that with a little care and planning, venison can be an exciting and enjoyable addition to any grill menu.