Last week we cooked Venison for dinner at our home.
Venison steaks, to be precise.
I thought I would give you a short synopsis of how I prepared it, and things I’ve learned in preparation and serving.
One of the Most Important things to remember about Any Wild Game, is it is harvested from the wilderness and you need to be careful with handling, cooking and consuming it. There is no one to look at your meat, to approve it fit to eat, other than Yourself. From the moment any animal is killed, it begins decaying- the meat begins to decompose. Be sure that your meat is kept clean and free from debris, waste or contaminants. Keep your meat chilled as much as practically possible from the moment it is taken from the animal to the moment preparation begins. If you are unsure about the quality of your meat at any time, dispose of it. Foodborne illness is no laughing matter.
If you meat is frozen, thaw it in your refrigerator– not in the sink, on the counter, or in the microwave. This will break down the meat, and the Game flavors contained in the fat will permeate the flesh if you thaw it quickly. Also- this accelerates the decomposition process, as stated above. I ultimately recommend thawing your meat WITH your prepared marinade in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.
If you don’t like gamey flavors, think about trimming your meats before you cook them. The fat and sinews tend to hold a lot of gamey flavor, as well as the meat near the bone. Unfortunately, if you want a juicy cut of meat, you’ve got to keep the fat on. You could also marinate your trimmed meats to keep them tender and juicy. But with a lack of fat and bone AND a marinade, then you might as well buy beef. That’s okay if you’re using Venison in recipes that call for beef, or having a meal with those who aren’t keen on venison.
I have found that an acidic marinade helps cut the overly gamey flavor if you keep the fat-on and bone-in. My favorite at the moment utilizes a raspberry vinaigrette and minced garlic. Teriyaki is another good marinate for venison, but be sparing with Teriyaki as it is such a familiar and distinct flavor. I wouldn’t recommend any kind of rub as it doesn’t quite penetrate the meat. Another bold marinade you can try is Jack Daniels Whiskey and Apple Juice, the woody quality of the whiskey works well with smoked meats of any kind, and the Apple juice is both sweet and slightly acidic.
When you go to put your meat on the grill, you have to decide how you like your steak. We prefer to play it safe with our Wild meats, and cook them thoroughly on our Traeger smoker. We set the smoker to HIGH to sear the outside of the meats- keeping the juices in and a tender steak all-around. After 10-15 of searing, change the setting to MEDIUM to allow the smoke to penetrate the meat and cook thoroughly. In general with all meats on the grill –Traeger or Not- the less you handle it, the juicier it will be. So place your cuts on the grill and leave them alone! Don’t jab or poke them, and only flip when absolutely necessary. Since Venison has less fat than most store-bought meats, it can cook faster than you expect. Be sure to keep an eye on it.
When your meat is done, you need to decide what you want to have for sides. I prefer vegetables with a soft mouthfeel to complement the meaty flavors and juices of a steak. Mashed potatoes with a light sprinkling of butter and pepper seem to work well. I also prefer steamed vegetables such as asparagus, carrots or green beans. I would suggest staying away from sides with excessive chewing or strong flavor- such as corn, yams or stuffing. These sides would take away from the delicious simplicity of the Venison- not to mention chewing of corn and chewing of meat will make for a tired mouth!
If you’re a wine drinker, I recommend a simple red wine with a bit of tannins. An old vine Zinfandel, peppery Shiraz or big Merlot would work well for this. I recommend staying away from a Cabernet (too big for a meat with so little fat) Pinot Noir (not enough tannins) or a young Zinfandel (too fruity). I also would recommend a brown beer such as a Newcastle or Moose Drool, something without much hops or wheat. Lagers or Pilsners are too sharp and will dilute the flavor of the meat- Venison doesn’t have much fat, so you don’t quite consume it like a Beef steak.