So, I know I’ve been posting about venison a lot lately, but well, we’ve been eating a lot of that. I have found an excellent method for cooking these lean cuts (mostly through trial and error and eating some pretty tough cuts!). Here are my suggestions:
First of all, lets talk about what cut of meat you’re using. This will determine how you can cook it and for how long.
The above is an official depiction of deer meat and what the cuts look like 😉 Similar to a cow or buffalo, the deer will have cuts of meat named the same, which works great for simplicity. The age of the deer, the gender of the deer and they area of the animal that the meat comes from determines how tender the cut is and how you need to cook it. For instance, veal is very tender and soft because it comes from baby cows that don’t move around, therefore the muscle has no chance of becoming hardened, as it would in older animals. Think about your muscles before you did CrossFit and then feel them now after you’ve been doing CrossFit for at least a few months. Hard, right? Same thing with animal meat. The more the muscle gets used, the harder it becomes and the less tender. That’s not to say that harder cuts can’t be cooked well and softened.
As a rule, the most tender cuts of the animal will come from the loin (also called sirloin) and the rib and/or brisket. These are the areas of the animal that are used the least, muscularly speaking. The other areas, such as the rump and shoulder are used very often when walking, running, bounding, leaping and whatever else deer do. These muscles will be more developed and therefore tougher. These cuts generally don’t do well in dry heat cooking methods such as baking or broiling. They are best in slow cookers or braised. The softer cuts like sirloins and fillets can be cooked moist or dry, but I find the best method is a little moisture in the form of fat.
Now, if you’re a die hard ‘steak well done’ type of person, venison may not be the best meat for you because when its well done, its tough. Even the sirloins and fillets can get dried out pretty quick when well done. The best way to cook the meat is to about medium, then pull it off the cooking surface and eat it right away before it can cook too much more internally. This will have some pink in the middle, but OMG the meat is so tender like this. And yes, it is fully cooked through. Out of habit (call it 5-6 years of dietetics school) I always temp my meats before serving to make sure they’ve reached the minimum safe internal temperature to kill microorganisms. The venison sirloins I cook to medium are around 150-155F internally when I pull them off the skillet (145F is considered the minimum internal cooking temp for cuts of full muscle meat).
How do you keep the meat soft and tasty?
Before it starts to cook too much, I stab it with the tip of a knife about 6-7 times on each steak and then I put a little slice of butter on top of each steak. Add whatever seasonings you like. Garlic powder and onion powder combined with a little sea salt and pepper are just about perfect. Cover the skillet or pan you’re using and cook on medium and turn the steaks after about 5-6 minutes. Sometimes if you have a thin cut, if you go to temp it, you may need to run your thermometer through more than one steak to get an accurate temperature.
On a side note, Matt K. asked for the jerky recipe. I don’t have one officially written down because I change it up a little differently each time. Here’s where I would start for a good basic jerky:
1 lb backstrap or other tougher meat
1-2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1. Cut the meat into strips about 1/8 inch thick (this is hard, and most likely your strips will be closer to 1/6 or 1/4 inch thick). The thicker the strips are, the longer it will take for them to dehydrate.
2. Combine the spice mixture in a baggy or small plastic dish.
3. Toss the strips of meat one at a time in the spice and salt mixture and lay evenly on the rack of your dehydrator.
4. Should dehydrate on the highest setting (usually 160F) for about 4 hours. Check the meat after about 3 hours to see how its coming along, especially if you were able to cut it pretty thin.
Optional: seal it in a vacuum sealed bag if you have a sealer, but you can generally keep these in the freezer for months and thaw and eat them within about a week after thawing. I have not really done experiments to see how long they keep at room temperature. The more salt you add the better they are preserved, but then you’ve just added lots of sodium, which can defeat the purpose of paleo, technically.
Here’s where backstrap cuts come from:
j/k, have a great weekend everyone!