Growing up in the Southwest the adage of anything tastes good with enough chile is true but if you are looking for something a little different or maybe looking for a spin on your grandmothers’ famous recipe it is very easy to get caught up in the noise of the internet. People have made a career advocating for the preparations of venison in ways that are complicated and time-consuming. Venison is one of the best core ingredients you can acquire so don’t mask or add to the flavor by using your standard beef, chicken, or pork recipes. Venison is different from anything inspected by the government so don’t treat it like a USDA-approved product.
The most important thing in preparing a venison meal, other than proper meat care, is ensuring you take advantage of the meat’s intrinsic qualities and unique cuts. Don’t expect to have perfect a Tomahawk Ribeye or a NY Strip, game animals have a completely different anatomy. Cook meat with the same fat content and connective tissue using the same techniques. If you cook neck meat with a lot of connective tissue with a backstrap, you will be disappointed. As a rule, the leaner meat should be cubed or steaked and cook at higher temperatures for a short period. If you are cooking something with more connective tissue like a neck roast, slow and long is the best way to cook the meat to ensure that the connective tissue is broken down and is tender.
Tips for cooking lean cuts of venison:
- Don’t be shy about adding real butter to add a little fat to your dish
- Try topping your steaks or cubed meat with a Sunnyside up egg, you will be surprised how well they complement each other
- Avocados also complement lean cuts of meat and can be added to give your meat a little twist
Tips for cooking cuts of meat that have more connective tissue:
- Braise your venison before placing it in a crockpot, it will be much more tender
- If you cook the meat at high temperatures the meat will be tough
- Don’t force the cooking time with these cuts, take your time and slow cook for at least 4 hours
- A Crockpot is your friend; make stews
Venison Fajitas are my quick go-to when I am cooking lean venison. Don’t over-complicate the ingredients or proportions, add and remove as you see fit.
- Lean Venison Cut into bitesize pieces
- Garlic, Salt, Pepper
- Sour Cream
- Salsa or Pico De Gallo
My first experience with cooking a neck roast wasn’t good, I cut the meat into small strips and prepared it like I would cook a lean piece of meat. What I ended up with was meat that was tough and barely palatable. It took years before I tried making anything other than ground jerky with meat that had a significant amount of connective tissue. At the time, I was working against the nature of the meat, once I figured out that neck roasts need to be cooked at lower temperatures or a long time my meals were much better. My new favorite meal has become Venison Tacos. You will need to prepare the stewed meat in advance, but you can cook it overnight or during the day.
Again, use the proportions you like or use what you have on hand. My basis for my stew taco meat consists of:
- Bite-size pieces of Neck Meat
- Garlic, Salt, and Pepper
Once the meat has cooked in the crockpot for 4-5 hours it should fall apart and can easily be separated by hand if it isn’t falling apart cook it for a couple of more hours. Once the meat has cooled, wrap it in a toasted corn tortilla shell with a little cheese and chile, and enjoy.
Cooking venison can be tricky but if you work with the properties of the meat, you will be successful. Every cut of venison will not make a perfect steak, you need to look at what you are cooking and work with what you are given. Above all, when it doubt, grind, and make tacos.