By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Wild game, and deer in particular, often gets a bad rap when it comes to table fare but, prepared correctly, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be some of the best meat you’ve ever tasted.
Once the deer is out of the field, dressed, skinned, butchered and frozen, the opportunity to create wholesome, healthy dishes lies at your fingertips. Here are three things to consider the next time you have an opportunity to put venison on the menu.
Most if not all of the red-meat recipes we’re generally familiar with are tuned for beef, and modern beef is marbled with fat. Fat carries flavor and, while cooking, keeps the cut of meat moist. It also provides a built-in margin of error. A fair to poor job by a grill chef can still yield a very edible beef steak.
Venison, on the other hand, is very lean. Deer can be well fed or even fat, but their muscles still won’t be marbled with it. Their genetics don’t work that way. This has to be taken into account before the method of cooking is selected.
Deer backstrap, a cut similar to filet mignon from a cow, is wonderful grilled, but only if it’s going to be served rare or medium rare. If the meat’s end user likes their steak cooked medium well or beyond, you need to do something else altogether, because venison grilled to that state is going to be tougher than a hundred-pound fullback.
Cut it thin to win
For occasions when large venison cuts other than the backstrap will be served completely done, such as in a roast, a stew or any similar preparation, it should be sliced thin and across the grain, and thin means thin.
Slice it just as thin as your knife skills will allow. Cut this way, the meat will be tender by default and evenly seasoned.
Backstrap is the common term for the loin cut of venison that runs the length of the deer’s back on either side of the spine. This is one large muscle that can be cut into thick slices, cooked completely done and still be expected to be tender, provided a few steps are observed along the way.
Whether you’re frying or roasting, it’s important to be aware of the meat’s moisture level. It also doesn’t hurt to tenderize the meat a bit before cooking. If you don’t have a meat hammer, the edge of a regular sized dinner plate can serve just as well.
Grind it out
Whether you plan to use a professional processor or put away the deer yourself, err on the side of more ground meat than you’d guess. Other than the backstrap, there are few end uses for steak cuts that ground meat can’t serve just as well, but it’s hard to make spaghetti or tacos with a flank steak.