There’s nothing better than firing up the grill and gathering family and friends to give thanks for what nature has provided. The “cook-out” tradition is one that 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.
• Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing.
• Keep a fire extinguisher close.
• Keep children and pets a safe distance away.
• 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.
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 resting 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.
Uncle Ted’s Gonzo Venison Diehard deer hunter and veteran rocker Ted Nugent swears by this easy recipe, which he says is a longtime family favorite.
Venison steaks, sliced thin (or to your liking)
Vernor’s Ginger-Ale (or your favorite)
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of paprika, oregano and garlic salt
Garlic pepper to taste
After careful butchering and slicing off all of the silver skin, fat and membrane, lay thinly sliced medallions of venison in a glass dish deep enough so that a can of Vernor’s and a cup or so of quality olive oil, or oil of your choice, can cover the slabs. Sprinkle the combined dry seasonings, or your favorite seasonings, over the meat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Then cook in a well- seasoned cast iron skillet or over fire. We like our venison medium rare, so we singe them quickly over hot coals, turning them but once apiece. It takes only a minute or two per side as long as the coals are real hot. Enjoy! — Ted Nugent
Pan Fried Steak Recipe
These are great anytime of the year, but with fresh venison available early it’s always fun to enjoy backstraps to start the season off right!
1-2 lbs. venison steaks, tenderized 1⁄2 onion, diced
2-4 Tbsp. divided butter
1⁄4 cup flour
1⁄2 tsp. seasoning 1⁄4 tsp. garlic salt 1⁄4 tsp. pepper
Dice onion. Heat 1-2 Tbsp. butter in a large cast iron skillet. Sauté onion until translucent and slightly browned. Once sautéed, push onions to the edge of the skillet. Meanwhile, tenderize meat. Sprinkle steaks with seasonings. Place 1⁄4 cup flour on a large plate. Dredge steaks in flour. Add 1-2 Tbsp. butter to the skillet. Lay the steaks in the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip the steaks. Cover skillet with a lid, reduce heat and cook for another 5-7 minutes (or to your liking). Remove skillet from heat, spoon sautéed onions over the tops of the steaks and serve. — www.MyWildKitchen.com