How To Cook Deer Meat: Helpful Guidelines

If there is a deer hunter in your family, it is important for someone in the household to learn how to cook deer meat in ways that the whole family will enjoy. Many people think that deer meat, which is often called venison, is “gamey” tasting; and it can be just that. However, by applying the right techniques and using properly selected ingredients, deer can provide the protein component for a tremendous variety of delicious dishes. Cooking deer meat properly differs from cooking beef, for example, even though cuts such as venison steaks, roasts, and ground meat, seem very similar.

What You Should Know About How To Cook Deer Meat

Deer Should Be Field Dressed

The quality of deer meat depends on proper and timely handling of the carcass. The deer should be gutted and field dressed as soon as possible to curb the formation of bacteria. Also, the longer the meat is left on the carcass, the tougher it may become. A professional or highly experienced butcher should take care of the important steps of skinning, cutting and wrapping the meat, as well as ensuring it is refrigerated promptly.

Venison Should Be Aged

Venison, which is a term that can be used to refer to all deer meat including ground meat and sausage, should be aged for 10 to 14 days. This reduces the moisture in the meat, tames the gaminess and makes the meat more palatable. Professional processing of the deer is a valuable service that is well worth the expense unless you know a highly experienced amateur who knows these steps well. Investing in professional processing is the best way to ensure you will get well-cut steaks and roasts as well as ground venison and sausage. Further, a qualified butcher will minimize waste.

Trim The Fat

Fat should be trimmed from deer meat before other preparation is done. Deer fat doesn’t enhance the flavor of the meat like beef and pork fat does. In fact, it can taint or even spoil the flavor of the meat if a substantial amount is used when cooking it. Even after processing by a butcher, there may be membranes on some pieces, similar to those on beef tenderloins, that should be removed by using a sharp knife to lift these sheer sheets of tissue and pull them off the meat.

Deer Meat Is A Healthy Source Of Protein

Deer meat is lean yet rich in protein, low in fat, and low in cholesterol. It also contains healthy doses of B vitamins, iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Venison has many of the substantial, satisfying qualities of other red meat varieties while also being a heart-healthy and diet-friendly choice. Again, deer fat should be trimmed away, but some fat will be required for the cooking process.

A variety of options include using bacon fat, butter, lard, olive oil, or another type of vegetable oil. Your choice will depend on your family’s personal taste preferences and dietary considerations.

Some Deer Are Naturally Gamier Than Others

Deer are not raised in controlled environments where they are fed certain foods, of course, so the flavor and gaminess of venison can vary quite a bit from deer to deer. People have different attitudes toward that gamey taste, and there are numerous good ways to mask or minimize that flavor. Some study and trial and error will help you learn techniques that will appeal to your family members’ palates.

Technique And Temperature Are Important

Venison steaks and roasts are done to medium rare when they reach an internal temperature of 130 to 140 degrees F., and overcooking them results in a tough eating experience. Venison steaks are also naturally tougher than beef steaks and thus benefit from being tenderized with a marinade. The meat can be marinated in a bag or other type of container overnight in the refrigerator.

For large steaks and roasts, brining is another frequently suggested pre-cooking technique. Braising venison with preserved pork fat or a comparable substitute is another good way to produce a tender result.

How To Cook Deer Meat That The Whole Family Will Love

Simply understanding that cooking venison is different than cooking other meats is an important starting point. Simply treating deer meat like beef will not usually give you an optimal result. It is leaner than beef and must be handled accordingly through the use of such techniques as marinating, dry or wet rubbing the meat with spices, brining, and braising.

Adventuresome cooks will find a freezer full of venison an exciting challenge. More reluctant cooks may feel a bit overwhelmed when facing a big quantity of unfamiliar fare that must ultimately be brought to the table.

Learning how to cook deer meat is a project worth entering into wholeheartedly. Hunters who rely on others for cooking will welcome appreciation for their her efforts. A good-sized, properly butchered deer provides a significant amount of food. Regarding this as an asset instead of a burden will help assure that you produce delicious, appetizing meals that will please your family.

Start Simply

If you are not an experienced venison cook, don’t start out with complicated recipes or host a dinner party to try out your earliest efforts. Ground venison is a lean alternative to ground beef and works well in many familiar recipes that call for ground beef. Venison sausage is excellent served for Sunday breakfast, as a snack with crackers and cheese, or for a weeknight supper. Many deer processors have their own special recipes for sausage.

People who prefer simple preparations may opt to have much of their venison packaged as ground meat and sausage. If you aren’t interested in tracking down recipes for stews and other dishes, this may be a good option for your family. Working with your first deer will be an educational experience, and by year two, you should definitely have a much better idea of what your family likes and how you want your meat prepared and packaged.

Use All Available Resources

Hunters and their families often like to share their cooking successes with friends. This is an excellent starting point for the beginner to learn how to cook deer meat from experienced cooks. Cookbooks focused on wild game-based dishes, along with a wealth of internet resources, offer numerous recipes. Once you have mastered basic techniques, it should be fun to search out new ideas.

Many resources offer reliable information on cooking times, temperatures and basic ingredients to teach you how to cook deer meat successfully. Knowing the other kinds of food, spices, and accompaniments your family likes to eat will be a guide to choosing new recipes to try.

You already know what your family likes. They might not know they like deer until you introduce them to it in interesting, delicious ways that expand their taste horizons while incorporating flavors you are confident they will like. Ground venison and venison sausage make excellent pizza toppings. Some dishes like meatballs and meatloaf can be adapted for venison by using ingredients that add moisture and some fat to these dishes.

Tender Is Better

Because deer meat isn’t marbled like high-quality beef, cooking a perfect venison steak may take some practice and experimentation. A marinade is one way to achieve some tenderness. When you take your deer in for butchering and processing, remember that thick steaks will be harder to tenderize,, so you may want to have thinner steaks cut and use thicker portions of the venison for roasting.

Bottled Italian dressing can be used as a very simple marinade, or you can prepare something similar with your own recipe of oil, vinegar, and herbs. The meat and marinade can be placed in an airtight bag or container and then into the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The marinade will only penetrate about 1/8 of an inch into the meat which, again, makes having thinner steaks a good idea when you’re first learning how to cook deer.

Another interesting technique involves a rub that includes ginger and coffee. Other herbs, salt, and pepper can be combined with those two ingredients, but it is their enzyme action that will help tenderize a steak. When it’s time to cook the venison steak, grilling, oven broiling or pan searing and finishing in the oven are all suitable techniques. It is essential to keep close tabs on the meat’s internal temperature because deer meat is easy to overcook. If you are cooking alone, it will be a good idea to have simple side dishes already prepared and ready to serve so you can give the meat your full attention.


Learning how to cook deer meat that your whole family will love is a worthy, ambitious goal. Being part of a family for which hunting season takes on special meaning in part because deer meat is enjoyed by all can create treasured memories. The extra effort the cook takes to learn how to cook deer meat that is flavorful and tender is a loving part of this whole process.

You may not impress all of your family with every meal, but your commitment to learning how to cook deer meat well will make a difference in your home. The first year you have a freezer filled with venison may seem a bit daunting. But by the time hunting season rolls around again, you will be a pro, and your family will be looking forward to helping you decide what cuts of meat to order and what recipes they want you to try. They may even want you to teach them how to cook deer meat for themselves!

Helen Harris

Helen’s your eternally cheerful, next-door suburban mom that genuinely enjoys sharing with the whole neighborhood her latest fresh-from-the-oven culinary creations. She’s also a treasure trove of kitchen hacks and DIY advice if you have the patience to listen to her life story on repeat and the latest news on her son, Marv, and on how great he’s doing on the college football team. Fortunately, she agreed to leave her kitchen wisdom in writing as well when one of our editors with saintlike patience asked her to.

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