Have you ever had a bite of venison that made you question whether or not you want to take another? I’m sure the answer is yes for many people, including myself. When venison tastes gamey or flat out bad, there are different factors that can contribute to that flavor, factors that could include how the animal died, how it was taken care of, the way it was butchered and even the way it was cooked.
With that being said, here are three easy steps to better tasting venison.
Remove scent glands before field dressing. There are lots of scent glands on a deer but the important gland to remove is the tarsal gland. This gland is located on the inside of each hind leg. These are important to remove because deer often urinate on them to create scent. They can very easily contaminate your meat by leaving a bad gamey flavor. The best approach to removing them is by keeping a separate knife that won’t touch any meat and a pair of rubber gloves. You’ll want to cut all the way around the gland and discard it. I try to keep a different bag to put the gloves and knife in after use.
Remove all fat and sinew when butchering. Sinew isn’t as important to remove as the fat, but it’s a tough tissue that can cause the meat to be tougher than usual. Therefore, the best bet is to remove as much of the sinew as possible. Fat can make or break good tasting venison. It’s important to understand that venison fat is far from beef fat. When butchering your own venison, be sure to remove ANY fat that is on ANY cut of meat. Venison fat has a very bad and gamey flavor, and if left on the meat, it will cause the meat to also have a bad and gamey flavor. Taking your time and being precise during the butchering process is very important and can make or break your meat.
DO NOT overcook! There are lots of ways to prepare different cuts of venison. A lot of people cook their venison into leather because they are afraid of it, like it’s pork or chicken. However, venison can be cooked very similar to beef. When cooking steaks, I like to cook an entire cut whole rather than slice it into thinner cuts. For example, when cooking backstrap, I’ll cut it into thirds depending on the size of it.
The next step is to season. Prime rib rubs works great. Rub it on every side generously. Then get a hot skillet with butter or oil. My favorite is a combination of both olive oil and butter. The oil keeps the butter from burning. Plop a pinch of minced garlic in the pan and put your backstrap in.
If you like your steak rare, cook it to 120 degrees in the center, then let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. It will continue cooking after you take it out of the hot pan. Cooking it this way will bring out the natural flavor, as well as lock moisture into the meat. No more leather!
It’s never a bad idea to experiment with different recipes and cook it different ways until you figure out what you like best.