Regardless if the temperature and weather forecast agree or not, this Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to summer, and grilling venison is one of our favorite ways to celebrate the summer outdoors. There are a few tricks to remember, though, when tossing venison onto the grill – gas, charcoal or wood – to get the most awesome flavors from that hard-earned deer meat.
Here are a few excellent tips for grilling venison from the book Gut It, Cut It, Cook It, by Eric Fromm and Al Cambronne. Cook it slow or cook it fast — don’t overcook it. That, in a nutshell, is the secret to perfect steaks and roasts. Slow and moist recipes work great, quick grilling or searing on high heat works great, and anything in between is probably going to be, well, less great.
Again, because venison is so lean it cooks faster than other meats. If you overcook it, it’s going to be dry. For the same reason, venison also cools faster than other meats. We suggest you pre-warm your plates and save your salad course for later.
Marinades can be a big help for cuts that are less tender. You can buy them by the bottle or invent your own. Try using beer, buttermilk, wine, Worchester sauce, or grandma’s secret recipe.
Sprinkle-on meat tenderizers are also worth a try; for venison, I’ve generally found the bromelain-based brands work better than papain-based brands. You can also tenderize venison with a meat mallet or various pointy gadgets. Or, save those cuts for stew.
Because venison steaks are so lean, it’s especially easy to overcook them on the grill. Give them your full attention. This will only take a moment; you can visit more with your guests later.
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. To avoid losing those juices, use tongs rather than a fork.
Remove steaks from the grill when they’re medium-rare; then serve them immediately. You may want to suggest that your guests save their salads for later. Then again, they may have already decided that for themselves.
For maximum moisture and tenderness, we like to marinade most steaks before grilling them. It’s probably not necessary, however, for backstraps. In general, the most prime, tender cuts are probably the ones best suited to grilling.
Jacked-Up Grilling Venison Steak Recipe
From Benjamin Black, of Pennsylvannia
- 2 pounds venison steaks
- 1/4 cup chopped/sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/8 cup dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 to 5 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 onion
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Finely chop the onion and press the garlic.
Mix the Jack Daniel’s, mustard, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, green onions, soy sauce, onion, garlic, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl.
Be careful with the cayenne pepper. I prefer a little kick so I usually add more than a quarter teaspoon, but that is a good place to start until you are familiar with how it affects the marinade.
Place the steaks into a 1 gallon plastic bag and carefully dump the contents of the bowl into the bag on top of the steak. Make sure that the steaks are thoroughly covered with the marinade. Let the marinade sit in the fridge for no less than 2 hours.
Fire up the grill and throw the steaks on. Make sure that both sides receive equal attention from the flames. Check regularly to ensure that the meat is done, but not over-cooked. Enjoy!
Recipe: Stuffed Venison Meatloaf
There’s just something satisfying about knowing you’ve done it all yourself—from pulling the trigger to washing up the dishes. Even better is the fact that you didn’t have to pay someone else to do it for you! Gut It • Cut It • Cook It guides you every step of the way from the field to the table. No detail is left out—from proper field dressing and butchering to storing and preparing your venison.