Tips for Cooking Venison
Hunting season means anticipating your favorite venison meals. Venison is a delicious, healthy, versatile, and self sustainable food that needs a little extra help to be at its best. However, with a few tips and tricks, you can master cooking the deer you hunted successfully.
Be Prepared to Process Your Venison
You should be optimistic and prepared to start processing your deer meat. There has to be a plan in place. Have the following tasks already to go before you hunt:
Aging Your Venison
If you have been processing your deer yourself and haven’t been aging it properly, you are missing out. The truth is, a lot of people don’t age their venison and just get accustomed to the flavor. That is fine, but aged venison is a very traditional method of preparing deer and the meat comes out much tastier and easier to cook. If you are using a processor, simply find one that does the aging as well.
There are two methods for aging venison. These are dry and wet. If you have a garage refrigerator, you can have the shelves set up to allow for large plastic storage bins that you can buy at your hardware store. Make sure the fridge is set between 34-37ºF. Using a drill, poke holes in the bins to allow for air flow. Find some cooling racks that fit inside the bin, or engineer your own system so that the venison is not just resting on the bottom, but lifted so air can flow around it and that blood can drain. Drain the blood every other day. Age for at least a week, for up to two weeks.
Wet aging can be done with the help of your handy-dandy vacuum food sealer. Simply place the meat in vacuum sealed bags, remove all of the air and do that for 10 to 14 days.
Cook Venison Differently Than Other Meats
Venison is often overcooked. Know that you don’t need to cook it as long as beef, and the best way to make sure it is done correctly is to get an internal read thermometer, and use it many times until it become second nature. It needs to get to 130ºF and not much more! At 140ºF it starts to over cook.
Go Really Low Temp When Cooking
Some people swear by their slow cooker for cooking Venison, but unless yours can cook very low, you are still not getting the most out of your meat. You want to cook your Venison low and slow somewhere in between the low 130ºF’s and high 140ºF’s. Two devices are great for this: a Dutch oven or a Romertopf. Venison is constructed differently than many of the meats we eat everyday, and if you can give the meat a long slow, low temp braising, it will break down perfectly.
For thin cuts that you can cook on the stove, a cast iron skillet works great.
Of course, the different parts of the deer can be cooked very differently, so get yourself a Venison Cookbook and have a full reference source for exact methods for preparing every part of the deer. (also check out our post on the Best Wild Game Cookbooks)
Coffee and Venison
One of the oldest and most tried and trued tricks for preparing venison is the coffee marinade. Brew a few pots, let them cool (you don’t want to start the cooking process) and submerge the meat completely in the cold coffee in the refrigerator for a full day. The acid in the coffee will do a lot of legwork on tenderizing the venison even before cooking. Tip: keep this trick for yourself and use a robust roast. People will not be able to figure out how you got the venison so tender!
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment with Venison
Venison is an incredibly versatile food and it is a shame to get locked into the same old recipes. Get yourself a great Venison cookbook, such as is suggested above, find old cookbooks at thrift stores or search the web for traditional recipes. Here is one of our favorites, a traditional Native American inspired way to enjoy venison:
Venison Stew with Acorn Gravy
About 2 pounds of cubed venison
1 Cup Sweet Acorn Meal (very hard to find, look locally, but chestnut flour works great as well)
Juniper Berries (crushed)
Salt and Water
This is a good meal to do the coffee marinade the day before. When cooking, put all of the venison in a Dutch oven or Romertopf (see links above if you don’t have one), and cover + an inch of water. Crush the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle or with a meat tenderizer with the berries in a plastic ziplock bag. You don’t have to crush them too much, just break them up. Cook very low, between low 130ºF’s and high 140ºF’s for about 6 or 7 hours, checking to see if you need to add water every few hours.
One hour before the end, stir in the acorn meal or chestnut flour. Add salt to taste at this point.
This is the basic recipe, you should make it once according to these instructions, and then find different flavors that you would like to add. It is a traditional recipe that you will find that will become a family tradition.