There’s nothing better than firing up the grill and gathering family and friends to give thanks for what nature has provided. The cookout tradition lends itself well to celebrations and making life-long memories with those who mean the most to us, so why not take advantage of that as much as possible?
Baking or frying meat cooks away a lot of its nutrients and often adds an unhealthy dose of fat.The higher temperatures and faster cooking times needed for grilling allow meat to retain more of its natural moisture, nutrients and vitamins.
Grilling can also cut back on energy costs. This is especially true during summer, when turning on the oven to bake a venison roast forces your air conditioner to work harder, while at the same time driving up your utility bill.
Because you deserve to eat the best tasting meat possible, it’s extremely important to use the correct grilling techniques when preparing venison. This might mean changing up your routine, depending on what’s for dinner.
How Does a Grill Work?
Some grills, such as electric barbecue grills and pellet or water smokers, slow cook meat using steam and smoke. However, the vast majority of grills in use today are either standard gas models or charcoal grills.
In the case of charcoal grills, the distribution of the coals on the charcoal grate determines the intensity of the heat. With gas grills, burners create heat and a system captures it and disperses it to the food. This can be inverted V-shaped metal panels, lava rocks or ceramic briquets. However, the burners are what control the level of the heat.
Grills impart a unique flavor by adding smoke from the open flame. Also, when fats and juices from the food drip down to the hot coals or heating medium, they sizzle and smoke imparts even more flavor to the food.
Aside from a gas or charcoal grill and its fuel source, we recommend three items to have on hand: long- handled tongs, a digital thermometer and a timer. A few other important items include:
• An apron to protect your clothes from sauce and grease.
• Oven mitts for handling hot metal items.
• A charcoal chimney if you are using a charcoal grill.
• A long-handled lighter if you are using charcoal or a gas grill without an igniter.
• A brass bristle brush for cleaning the grill grates.
Grilling is an excellent way to prepare all kinds of foods. But because of the heat and flame, a few safety precautions must be followed at all times.
• Always follow the owner’s manual instructions on safely light- ing and operating the grill.
• Never use a grill indoors.
• Place the grill at least 10 feet from any structure or flammable material such as wood or yard waste.
• Always be sure the grill is on a stable surface.
• Never add lighter fluid to a lit fire.
• Never leave a lit grill unattended.
One of the biggest advantages of grilling venison is that it is easy to do. It’s also fun.
The first step is deciding if your cut of meat warrants direct or indirect heat. Direct cooking means placing the meat directly over the heat source. It is used for steaks, chops and kabobs and is the most common method for cooking venison. The high heat sears the meat, creating color and flavor, and sealing the meat’s juices inside.
Indirect cooking means placing the meat off to the side of the heat source. This method is for cuts that require more than 20 minutes of cooking, such as roasts. It also requires a cover on the grill — one that should stay in place the entire time.
For direct cooking on a charcoal grill, spread the coals evenly across the charcoal grate after they develop a gray ash coating. Place the meat on the cooking grate directly over the coals. Place a lid on the grill and remove it only to turn the meat or at the end of the recommended cooking time.
When using a gas grill, preheat the grill with the burners turned on high. Then adjust the burners to your desired temperature after you place the venison on the grate. Close the lid and lift it only to turn food or to test for doneness.
For indirect heat on a charcoal grill, light your charcoal and heat the grill with the charcoal in the center. Then use your tongs to arrange the charcoal into equal piles off to each side of the required cooking area. On a gas grill, simply turn off any burners that are directly below the meat, or place it as far off to the side as possible.
Meat Resting Period
After the desired cooking temperature is reached, remove the meat from the heat source and let it stand 10 to 15 minutes before carving. The amount of time required for rest- ing varies with the size of the cut of the meat.
During this resting time, the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 20 degrees after it is removed from the heat source) and the juices redistribute. This is the key to juicy, sumptuous grilled venison.
Venison doneness (or gradations such as rare, medium rare, etc.) is a touchy subject. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees for beef, veal, lamb steaks and roasts in order to prevent food borne illness. However, being a very lean meat, venison is at its juiciest and most flavorful when it is not overly cooked.
Because venison steaks are so lean, it’s especially easy to overcook them on the grill. Grill thin steaks quickly over a hot flame. Thicker steaks can be done more slowly, but begin with high heat to sear in flavor and juices.
If your summer plans don’t include venison steaks on the barbie, you’re missing out on one of the finest dining experiences venison can provide.
Here’s a great recipe from Weston Supply for Blueberry Venison Burgers. Take advantage of the bounty of blueberries available right now and make these tasty burgers!
Blueberry Venison Burgers
3 lbs venison, ground
1 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1 pint whole blueberries
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon fennel
1 tablespoon anise
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
Grind venison with a Weston Meat Grinder.
Marinade the ground meat in red wine and bay leaves.
Mix together the remaining ingredients. Place a sheet of patty paper on the burger press. Adjust the press to 1/2″ and place a ball of ground meat onto the press, and press the patty. Once you have pressed your patties, you can either stack them and seal them with a Weston Vacuum Sealer for storage or throw them on the grill.
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