Venison is such a versatile meat for cooking, there’s no end to the recipes a creative cook can come up with, and ground venison adds even more options to the list of delicious meals that can be sourced from our favorite hunting pastime. Just remember, cooking ground venison is different than cooking ground beef.
Fat doesn’t just make meat juicy; it also makes ground beef or pork stick together nicely in a patty or meatloaf. Not to worry. Here’s how to adapt your cooking techniques to the lower fat content of ground venison.
Burgers on the grill: Pack your patties tightly. Grill them on a hot flame to sear in the juices. Turn them gently and infrequently—ideally, only once. Be careful to not overcook them.
Burgers in a pan: Again, pack patties tightly and turn them gently and infrequently. And instead of adding fat to your burgers, fry them in a few tablespoons of oil. Olive oil has an especially nice flavor; just be careful to not let it get too hot. If you’d rather not worry about olive oil’s low smoking point, use regular cooking oil.
Taco meat or sloppy joes (also known as “sloppy does”): First, oil the pan very lightly so your ground venison won’t stick when you’re browning it. Then brown the meat as usual. When you’re done you won’t need to pour off extra grease the way you would with ground beef. Instead, pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Then add seasonings and stir.
Meatloaf: Use your usual recipe but shorten your cooking time slightly. You may want to add slightly more moisture in the form of ketchup or barbecue sauce. You can also add more ingredients like diced onions and green peppers; they’ll introduce additional moisture as they break down during cooking. If you like, add more egg and breadcrumbs to stretch your recipe; because venison is so lean, your meatloaf will still be plenty meaty.
Spaghetti, lasagna and other dishes that use ground meat as an ingredient: Use your usual recipe with no modification. You’ll just end up with a slightly leaner, tastier version. The flavor of venison holds up well in spicy dishes that would overwhelm the flavor of ground beef.
For more outstanding step-by-step tips on cleaning, processing and preparing your own venison just like these, check out Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. by Eric Fromm and Al Cambronne, available now at ShopDeerHunting.com.