Fat. Venison doesn’t have much. That causes one of the main challenges to cooking it. Go too far and it will just be dry and tough.
Many times, cooks (or processors) will add fat to venison. Has anyone ever told you about their amazing backstrap recipe, where they wrapped everything in bacon? Well, I would argue that is more of an amazing bacon recipe, and the steak was probably overcooked. Same thing for sausages and hot dogs. I’ve heard people tell me time and again how great venison hot dogs are. What I don’t think they know is that their “venison” dog is probably at least 50% ground pork. Same goes for any venison sausage.
I have been a fan of corning venison for years. I love the flavor, and I love the options braising it and smoking it. Another reason to corn venison is if you have some gamey meat. If you shot a buck that had a little funk, there is no better way to remove gaminess. And believe me, I’ve tried pretty much every way imaginable.
I’ve been making venison jerky for 15 years, and to be honest, I screwed it up a lot. Jerky is so easy to make, how did I keep messing it up? It was never the recipe. That was truly the easy part. My problem was in over cooking it.
The key to good jerky is the right moisture content. To get it right, it’s just one of those things you have to try a few times.
My doneness test itself is actually pretty basic: fold a piece of jerky in half, tear it a little at the fold, and squeeze that tear with your fingers.
Fold: When you fold it, it should bend without breaking. If it breaks, it’s over done. Game over.
Tear and squeeze: When you tear the jerky, you are exposing it’s interior. When you squeeze it at the tear, if there is excess moisture left, little droplets will come out meaning it needs more time.
My struggle was recognizing the perfect balance. The first few times I got frustrated, so I switched to using ground meat through a jerky gun. Because the meat was ground, it was much more forgiving if it was over dried. Nothing wrong with going the ground meat route, I just feel there is some kind of purity to biting off a piece of jerky that is obviously a slice of meat, something more cowboy, or caveman about it. I do still use the jerky gun, but usually just on trimmed left over meat, or for making dog treats with leftovers that weren’t good enough for me to eat (i.e. there’s no way my wife would eat). My dog never complains about any venison snacks..
For jerky, you want a cut of meat that doesn’t have any connective tissue in it, and that you can cut cross grain to get large enough slices for a decent piece of jerky. I will almost always use either the top round or bottom round. You could use the sirloin tip (it would make an awesome jerky circle! might need to try that!), but I like to save them for corning.
If you use a cut that has connective tissue, try to get as much out as possible. It’s not that it will taste bad, it’s just that it will be very difficult to chew. Native americans made bow strings out of dried connective tissue after all..
2-3 lbs of sliced venison
1/2 cup of Southern Comfort
3/4 cup of Soy Sauce
1 cup of Teriyaki Sauce
1/4 cup of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon of Crushed Red Pepper
1 tablespoon of Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon of Liquid Smoke (unless you plan to smoke it)
I’ll usually start by dissolving the sodium nitrite in just a little bit of water. This way I know it’s all dissolved (when you mix in the garlic powder and pepper later, you would wonder if you hadn’t). Then put everything else in (except the meat) and whisk thoroughly.
Slice the meat in thin even strips. I use my food slicer to ensure consistency. It works best if the meat is partially frozen, whether you use a knife or a slicer.
Put the meat in the marinade in a covered container or a zip-lock bag and marinate in the fridge for 48 hours. Swirl/stir it a few times to ensure even coverage.
Pull the strips out letting the marinade drain off a little, and arrange evenly on your dehydrator trays.
Dehydrate for 4-6 hours on the meat setting (usually 150-160), using the doneness test above to determine completion.
Because dehydrators can’t guarantee you got the meat to a proper temperature to kill off pathogens, finish in a pre-heated oven set to 275 for 10 minutes.
Let the jerky cool and then package for storage. This recipe is probably shelf stable, but I store it in the fridge in a plastic storage bag. It’s gone within a few days, so I can’t speak to how long it would last in the fridge.
If you make this and plan to share it, you better make a lot if you want to have any for yourself!
Venison roasts. Venison steaks. Ground venison. I just want a sandwich already! Now, while I’ve made some damn delicious venison steak sandwiches, I like options. If you are ready to try a new recipe, make some smoked venison pastrami!
I think a lot of hunters are intimidated when they get into to realm of cured meats, but in the end, the process isn’t complicated. It just takes some time. And a little practice. Start with smaller roasts till you learn to get the flavor you like – 2 lbs of lunch meat that came out too salty goes WAY faster than 6 lbs..
Pastrami starts with a brining process, commonly called corning, which I’ve covered here. Once you’ve corned the roast, you have the option to braise/boil it, or smoke it into a pastrami.
If you smoke the brined result directly, it’s too salty for my tastes. To determine if it’s to your preferred salt level, slice off a thin piece and fry it up. If it’s too salty, soak it in water. I find that if you soak it for two hours, changing the water once about halfway through, it’s just about perfect. Again, if in doubt, slice and fry another piece for a taste test.
The next thing to do is to apply a rub. Here’s the rub I use:
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons of coriander seed
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of peppercorns
2 tablespoons of mustard seed
1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
2 heads of garlic, minced
Put the peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds in a spice grinder, and do a coarse grind. Then mix everything thoroughly together in a bowl.
Rub it thoroughly over the roast, getting a nice coating.
Throw the roast in a smoker and smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 160°. If your smoker doesn’t have a food temperature probe built in, I strongly recommend getting a one for it. It saves you from having to open the smoker to check the temperature.
When it’s up to temp, let it cool, then slice up for sandwiches. While it is quite tasty cold, it is AMAZING heated up a little. Throw it in a pan with some swiss cheese on top, just till the cheese get’s melty. OR, use a panini press. It heats the meat/filling up while grilling the bread at the same time.
So you have corned the beast. Now we need to cook it to turn it into a corned venison meal.
Because venison is so lean, you have to be careful at this step. If you do a standard boil, and you boil it a bit too long, you’ll end up with some shredded, dry meat when you go to cut it. It will still taste good, but you’ll need to add some gravy or serious mayo/mustard on your sandwiches.
My favorite cooking method is braising. You can use a crockpot (and I do on occasion), but I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I do a majority of my slow cooking in. The beauty of it is that you can simmer it on the stove, or in the oven. Here’s how I cook the beast:
2 bottles of a decent beer. I usually use an amber of some type – not too heavy, not too light
Put the onions, garlic, and spices in the dutch oven. If you will add vegetables later, use a spice bag, otherwise you will be getting a lot of flavor bursts later. Add the roast. Add the liquids. I like the roast to be at least half submerged, but am usually somewhere between half to three quarters covered, so add more liquids if you have a big roast. Throw it in the oven at 250 for about 6 hours. Flip it once or twice during that timeframe.
If you want a standard corned beef meal, throw your vegetables of choice (cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc) in for the last hour or so. For a twist, leave the potatoes out – and instead mash them. Having the corned venison, cabbage, and carrots on a bed of mashed potatoes is our preferred route – the mashed potatoes add a creaminess to the mix and a nice balance to the saltiness of the roast.
If you want it for sandwiches, put the whole dutch oven in the fridge overnight (roast is still in the liquids). Pull it out the next day and slice it up, and hide it, because it goes quick when people find it!
One day, I was doing some random searching on wild game meals. I came across a recipe for corned venison. Venison corned beef? Mind. Blown. You can CORN venison?! I LOVE corned beef, so I had to try it out.
I’ve corned a good half dozen or so venison roasts, and learned a few things along the way. Once you corn it (soak it in a brine solution for a few days to a few weeks), there are two main ways to can prepare it. Boil/braise it and you have your classic corned “beef”. Coat it with various seasonings and throw it in a smoker, and you have pastrami. Yup, they are the same thing up till you get to the cooking part.
Here I’ll cover the basic brining, and I’ll cover the magical transformation to the end pastrami/corned beast in other posts. This may seem like a lot of work to some people, but in the end, there’s about 15 minutes of prep time, then a lot of letting time do it’s thing.
The Cut You can corn ANY cut of venison, however, it may be considered a crime if your corn the loins/tenderloins. Corning is brining. Brining is taking a tough cut of meat, chemically assaulting it, and turning it into something tasty that you can actually chew. You’ve heard of corned beef brisket. You have NOT heard of beef brisket steak. Hopefully. Now, the final cooking method will have just as much to do with the tenderness, this is the starting point. Venison brisket is just too small. Same for shoulder roasts – I want to be able to slice the end product thin and make a sandwich. So, hind quarters it is.
I like to use the sirloin tip or the combination of the rump roast muscles: top round, bottom round, eye of round (all 3 kept together). The sirloin tip is a nice small football shape, and will not have any connective tissue in it – great for clean looking sandwich slicing. The rump roast is bigger in comparison, so even bigger slices of meat can be had. It also has a bit of grizzle in it, but nothing that is a deal breaker. It does NOT taste gamy – the fibers are just chewy. I’ll usually just pull out any obnoxious chunks when I actually make my sandwich.
An up to 5 lb venison roast. Double the recipe for larger cuts.
1 head of garlic chopped. If it’s small, go with 2
Process: Put everything except the venison in a pot. Bring it to a boil to get the sugar and salt to dissolve.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. I like to stick it in the fridge because I’m impatient.
Once it’s cool, find a container that can hold the roast and enough brine to keep it submerged. I like to use the Briner Jr. You want something plastic or enameled, not metallic.
Put the roast in with the brine, make sure it’s covered, and put it in the fridge. Now the tricky part: timing.
Small roasts will need less time, large roasts more time. In my experience, you can’t go too long. A 5 lb roast will take about a week. A 2 lb roast may only need a few days. I kept a 7 lb roast in for 2 weeks. You need to keep it in the brine long enough for the salt/sodium nitrite to permeate the whole roast. If you take it out too soon, it’s not a problem – the flavor just may not be as strong, and you may end up with some brown sections in the middle when you cook it. The sodium nitrate keeps the meat a nice pink color. Where it doesn’t get to will just be the natural brown of cooked venison.
Swirl or stir the container everyday it’s in the fridge to ensure good spice/salt concentrations. Take it out and rinse it thoroughly after the appropriate number of days. Don’t leave any spices on. Discard the brine – do not reuse it.