Savory Venison Shoulder is Easy to Prepare, Great on the Table

One thing about deer hunters is there’s no lack of diversity when it comes to using all or part of a deer after a successful hunt.

Some hunters are “backstrap and hindquarter” guys, taking the best cuts and discarding the rest. They never learned about neck roasts, shoulders, ribs or shanks, or don’t want to fool with them. Others take everything possible and use it for roasts, jerky or other dishes. Some even enjoy the liver and heart, although I, personally, haven’t seen but a few do this. Not that I don’t plan to try it this season, though.

By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor

If you don't have venison shoulders, test your cooking skills with pork shoulders and be ready for deer season. (Photo: Kraft)

If you don’t have venison shoulders, test your skills with pork shoulders and be ready for deer season. (Photo: Kraft)


Longtime wild game chef Scott Leysath of California says there’s no reason to toss out the shoulders from a white-tailed deer. Yes, he knows they have a lot of connective tissue, or tendons, and yes, he knows trying to remove the meat from those tissues is a big pain in the patootie.

So, he doesn’t remove it. He cooks the entire shoulder.

“What most people do with shoulder roast, if they do anything with it at all, is they try to bone it out or they leave it with their processor to bone it out and it’s a mess,” said Leysath, author of the The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook. “You may get about 50 percent yield, if you’re lucky, by doing that. And with neck roasts,  many people just throw those away.”

Leysath hates to hear about that, though. As a chef he knows it’s easier than it sounds to turn those shoulder or neck roasts into something tasty. As a conservation-minded hunter, he knows it’s a good idea not to be disrespectful by wasting game we’ve hunted.

Who wants a pulled-venison sandwich?

“Take either the shoulder or neck, or both of them, and put a good rub on them with a little extra virgin olive oil and whatever herbs or rub you want,” Leysath said. “Wrap the entire thing (shoulder or neck) in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for about 12 hours.”

What that does, of course, is let the herbs and/or rub get what chefs call “married with the meat.” They do that little tango, with the savory flavors getting into the meat without drying out.


“After you’ve had it in the fridge overnight, take it out and remove the plastic wrap, brown it evenly on an oven or grill and then throw it in a pan you’re not too attached to,” Leysath said. An inexpensive aluminum pan like you get at the grocery store to cook a turkey in for Thanksgiving works well.

“In that pan with the meat, put in a can of beer, some onions, carrots and celery, and then cover with foil or tight-fitting lid,” he said. “Put that in the oven or on your grill at about 325 degrees and it’s going to take about eight hours for the shoulder or neck meat to get right.”

I’ve had this before and it’s great. Leysath usually does this with shoulder roasts because two can be put in a pan and covered pretty easily, and two pans usually can fit in an oven. So you can do four shoulders for a party or football game or the weekend at deer camp.


The shoulder bone, when it’s done, should slide out without any effort and all that connective tissue will be soft, gelatinous and can be picked out or chopped up with the meat.

“You get these beautiful hunks of meat that just fall right apart,” Leysath said. “The cool thing is you don’t have to even pick up a knife other than to chop a few veggies to put in there. The oven does all the work.  Same thing with the neck roast. If you check either the neck or shoulder after six or seven hours and it doesn’t fall off the bone – if the bones don’t slide out easily – then it’s just not ready yet. Eventually the bone will come out clean and ou get beautiful meat.”

Leysath has made shredded meat tacos and enchiladas, soups, stews and barbecue sandwiches “with a little spicy slaw on top. It’s great. It’s like a pig pickin’ but with venison.”

Don’t toss your shoulders and necks this year. Keep ’em, clean ’em and give this a try.

Leysath Better Venison CookbookSure you do, because Scott Leysath’s latest book — The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook — is chock full of outstanding recipes and instructional tips on preparation. You’ll get recipes on soups, chili, burgers, stews, roasts, tips for the oven and grill, and much more.

It’s a great book packed with Leysath’s years of experience as a chef and hunter. He knows what he’s talking about because he’s hunted it or caught it in the field and then not only cleaned it, but also prepared it in the kitchen.  BUY IT


One thought on “Savory Venison Shoulder is Easy to Prepare, Great on the Table

  1. Big Horse

    covering the roast with a Quart of tomato juice not only adds flavor but the acid in the tomato juice helps break down And tenderIze the meat. I like to combine it with a can of beef broth.

Comments are closed.