Although some hunters consider large antlers to be trophies, other hunters know venison is the real prize. True, some people consider deer meat “gamey,” but most know it offers great eating. Let’s look at several venison cuts and discuss how to prepare them.
Not all deer parts are equal. Some cuts are tender, some tough. Some areas are sinewy, others lean, and still others fatty. As such, different cuts must be prepared differently. Throwing a backstrap into a grinder for burger is sacrilegious to a foodie. You should prepare each cut to maximize its flavor, texture and tenderness.
Let’s start with the hindquarters, which hold most of a deer’s meat. The hindquarters consist of several cuts, including the sirloin, shanks, top round, bottom round, and eye of round. Except for the shank (the leg’s sinewy lower section), all these cuts are lean and meaty. You can cut them into steaks, make them into roasts, slice them for jerky, or cube them into kabobs. Of course, you could also grind these large cuts to quickly pile up pounds of ground venison for sausage or hamburger, but a chef would look down on you.
The shank is the black sheep of every hindquarter because it’s tough and laced with silver skin. Many bowhunters throw this tough meat into the grinder or use it for stews. But hold on a minute. Have you ever heard of osso buco? Osso what? Osso buco (Italian for “bone with a hole”) is a delicacy and a great way to use this oft-ridiculed cut of meat. Cut the steaks crossways with a bone saw, and then brown and braise them. Click here for a great venison osso buco recipe.
The deer’s front quarters aren’t as meaty as the hindquarters, and they’re more sinewy, but they still yield plenty of meat. Many hunters grind shoulder meat for burgers or sausage, or they chunk it for stew meat. Others trim away the silver skin and cut it into strips for jerky. Before throwing the works into the sausage pile, consider making a blade roast from the shoulder blade’s meat. Click here for a blade roast recipe.
The neck has lots of meat, but it contains fat and tendons, and connects to neck vertebrae, making a nice, clean roast impossible. One option is to cut off the entire neck, bone and all, and make a bone-in roast. Whittling away the meat is fine for scraps for stew, soup or burger. Slow-cooking is another option, and makes the tough, chewy neck as palatable as a tenderloin. Likewise, pulled venison neck is great for burritos or sandwiches. Click here for a pulled-neck recipe that’s every bit as good as a pulled-pork sandwich.
The flank is a thin, flat area of meat behind the ribs. It’s seldom a prized cut, and too often ends up in the “to-grind” pile. But flank is great for making jerky, tacos, fajitas or thin steaks. Click here for a flank steak recipe that combines ham and stuffing for a mouth-watering treat.
It’s always good to have an ace in the hole. I purposely buried the best cuts to keep you reading. The deer’s backstraps are fan favorites in every hunting camp. These two long, tube-shaped cuts lie along the top of the spine. They’re lean, tender and delicious, but come with two rules: Don’t throw them into the scrap pile, and don’t overcook them! It doesn’t take much to make these cuts taste great. Keep them on the rare side and they’ll turn out fine. Click here for a recipe for grilled backstraps.
The tenderloins are another camp favorite. You can cut the tenderloin out of your deer and eat it the night you killed it, even while the rest of the deer hangs unskinned. That’s possible because this tender cut lies within the body cavity, just below the spine. (Take care not to puncture the stomachs or intestines when field dressing your deer to prevent tainting the tenderloins). Cooking tenderloins can make anyone look like a pro. Rub it with olive oil, add a little garlic, and cook it hot and fast. You’ll be a hero. You almost can’t screw it up, unless you cook it too long. This cut is so delicious that we’re giving you six ways to prepare it.
That covers the deer’s main parts, but don’t forget the odds and ends. Many bowhunters throw the ribs away. They aren’t as meaty or fatty as pork ribs, but discarding them is wasteful and disrespectful to the deer. Properly cooked, those “dry” ribs are delicious. Not convinced? Try this recipe.
For those who strive not to waste anything, don’t forget the organs. Some bowhunters are fanatics about the heart, and carry a plastic bag to salvage it while field dressing. Others also take the liver. If that’s your thing, kudos to you! Never tried heart? Click here for a recipe that ensures appreciation for this delicacy.
To read more about venison cuts and anatomy, visit these sites: