There’s a certain sadness that sets in when hunters see winter approaching and realize their favorite season is drawing to a close.
The flip side to this, however, is that many of us have put up a good store of game. And the months ahead are the perfect time to reap the rewards of our labor—and show a final gesture of respect to the animals we’ve harvested.
While gamebirds add variety, venison is king of the chest freezer. My aim in the next few columns is to give hunters a few new kitchen tricks to try. And to put to rest those wrongheaded notions about venison being tough or gamey. But, before we get into the business of backstraps, steaks, roasts, and burger—which I’ll handle in future installments—let’s bullet point some basics of venison cooking.
- Trim it: Venison is lean compared to domestic meats, but it does have fat. For reasons that are not well understood, venison fat has an unpleasant tallowy taste. Chew the fat of pork chops or T-bones and you’re already craving your next meal. Try chewing on venison fat, though, and you’ll be put off deer meat for some time. Trim away as much visible fat and silver skin as possible, especially for steaks and backstraps. For roasts and shanks, you need only trim the top layer; what remains is broken down in cooking.
- Sear it. Prime cuts of venison like steaks and backstrap are uber meats. They need just a fast, hot sear in a skillet or over the grill. To further tenderize, marinate in a four-to-one combination of acidic liquid (red wine, Worcestershire, soy) to oil. But watch the heat! Juicy and bright can turn tough and livery if the meat cooks too long. Shoot for medium or medium-rare. And bear in mind that meat continues to cook after coming out of the pan.