Fall colors are hitting their peak in a good portion of the country, so deer season is in full swing for most of you. Whether you hunt mostly for sport, for a supplemental food source, or for a majority of your animal protein, few can argue that when prepared correctly, venison is fantastic. For most beginners, just harvesting their few deer is three-fourths of the battle, let alone tracking, field dressing, and processing the meat. Long story short, ending up with a big bunch of venison can be a pretty labor-intensive ordeal for the green and inexperienced.
With that in mind, we’re here to help you the rest of the way. Once you’ve hunted, harvested, dressed, and processed your venison, you still need to figure out exactly what to do with it. After all, you don’t want to go through all of that work just to end up with a truckload of nothing but deer jerky, do you? Here are three tried-and-true recipes to get you started. Quick disclaimer—refer to the above statement about preparing the venison “correctly.” These recipes will take a little time and preparation, but are simple once you’re ready.
The Perfect Deer Steak
First things first—if your venison steak is frozen, you’re going to want to thaw it in the refrigerator for a good 8-12 hours (Tip: Do so about two hours before bedtime). It’s a good idea to put it in a colander on the second-to-lowest rack with a large bowl beneath it on the bottom rack. This will allow the blood to drain off of the meat and lessen the gamey taste sometimes associated with ill-prepared venison. After it’s thawed (if you followed the aforementioned tip, you should do this when you wake up), soak the steak(s) in a generous amount of buttermilk for 6-8 hours.
Once the soaking process is over (sometime that afternoon), season and grill the steak just as if it were a beef steak. Because personal preferences vary greatly when it comes to steaks in terms of seasoning, doneness, etc., the rest is largely up to you. If you’re a slave to the bullet-point recipe format however, here is our recommendation:
1lb venison steak
2-3 cans of buttermilk (depending on size of bowl and thickness of steaks)
Oregano, garlic, rosemary to taste
Salt, pepper, honey to taste
After your venison is thawed and soaked in buttermilk, season with the salt, pepper, and honey. Toss the steaks on the grill and add the oregano, garlic, and rosemary shortly thereafter. Be sure to season both sides, and cook slowly over a low-medium fire until the steak has reached your desired doneness. Services vary based on size of deer steaks.
Campfire Roasted Deer Leg
If you’re looking to get extra primal and summon your inner (modern) caveman, this recipe is definitely one to do. It’s super simple and delicious. Plus, it’ll score you huge points on your man card.
1 whole hind deer leg (seriously)
Salt and pepper to taste
1lb of butter (again, seriously)
3-4 large garlic cloves
2 large white onions, quartered
For this, you’re obviously going to need a campfire. However, it’s not the fire you’re after but rather the coals. Being as how this needs to be roasted for a minimum of 8hrs under those coals, it is a time-consuming (but again—simple) process. But who’s really going to complain about having an excuse to stand around a hot fire pit all day? It’s a great excuse to have some brews and catch up with pals.
Once your coals are ready, season the leg with salt and pepper, and wrap all ingredients in aluminum foil. Be sure to wrap it well (at least 4-5 times) to prevent scorching and promote even-cooking. Once it’s all wrapped up, simply cover it completely with the hot coals and let it roast for a minimum of eight hours. As aforementioned, you’ll want to stay close by. You’ll need to make sure your coals are staying hot throughout the entire process. Hint: Build a second fire to maintain a constant source of hot coals. This goes great with fire-roasted potatoes and veggies, which coincidentally are also done by seasoning them with the very same ingredients, wrapping them in foil, and placing them in hot coals—albeit for a much shorter length of time (think 45 minutes to an hour at most). Depending on portion sizes (and caveman appetites), this will feed 6-8 people.
Like the previous two recipes, this is incredibly easy once the prep work is finished. Unlike the last two, there really isn’t a ton of prep work to be done! There is no marinating or roasting involved. If the deer burger you’re using is frozen, follows the same steps as the steak recipe above—thaw by putting the meat in a colander in the refrigerator with a large bowl beneath it to catch the drained blood. As for the ingredients, you’ll need:
1lb ground venison
2 14.5oz cans of tomato sauce (or substitute one can for a 14.5oz can of whole or chopped tomatoes)
2 6oz cans of tomato paste
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can red chili beans
1 whole green pepper
1 medium white or yellow onion
3-4 celery stalks, chopped small
1-2 small/medium jalapenos
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Crushed Red Pepper (to taste)
Granted, that sounds like way too many ingredients for a “simple” recipe. In all reality, the only work involved is browning the meat, chopping the veggies, opening cans, and dumping all of it into a pot. The step-by-step instructions are as follows:
Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown the deer burger, adding salt and pepper to the meat as you see fit. In the meantime, chop all vegetables into small chunks, open and drain all the cans of beans, and then put all of the veggies, beans, tomato sauce and tomato paste into a large pot over medium heat. Continue browning the venison while occasionally stirring the mixture to keep it from bubbling and causing hot tomato lava to explode all over your kitchen. Once the meat is browned, drain off the grease and butter and add it to the mixture.
Mix all ingredients well and decrease the heat to a simmer. Add desired spices (the spices listed above are suggestions, but the chili powder and cinnamon are an absolute must—and equal parts of the two will produce a surprisingly tasty result), and continue to stir occasionally. Once the chili is hot, it’s ready to eat!
Hint: Chili is meant to be tinkered with. Play with the recipe and find your perfect fit. Feel free to add some fresh corn, okra, garbanzo beans, or even (gasp) noodles. For those who aren’t fans of spicy foods, omit the jalapenos and cut down on the chili powder. The bounds really are limitless. Either way, take our advice—equal parts chili powder and cinnamon. Do it.