3 Cooking Techniques to Take Your Venison from Tough to Tender

Wild Meat

When you visit the grocery store, you have the luxury of choosing the specific cut of meat you want to cook. But when you harvest your own venison, you must utilize all the different cuts to ensure no meat is wasted.

This can be tricky; some of the cuts will produce tender steaks and roasts, which are delicious if cooked medium-rare with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. However, other cuts – like ribs, shanks, neck meat and  front-shoulder meat – are tougher and might require hardy chewing when prepared improperly. These tough cuts are delicious but must be cooked using special techniques to yield the most tender meat.

Braising, slow-cooking and pressure-cooking will transform wild game from tough to tender. These methods work well with birds and big- and small-game animals. Add these techniques to your cooking repertoire, and you’ll enjoy the best wild-game meals available.

Braising

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Osso buco involves braising shanks – typically veal shanks – with vegetables, seasonings and wine. This recipe is also delicious with venison, and yields beautiful, tender cuts of meat. Photo Credit: Food Network

Braising involves searing and slow-cooking the meat in liquid. It’s the base for the other cooking techniques mentioned in this article. The process is simple and only requires time and patience. Braising takes hours not minutes, leaving you plenty of time to set the table and clean up the kitchen.

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. Next, you’ll need an oven-safe pot like a Dutch oven. First, use the stovetop to sear the meat in the pot. This produces brown bits of flavor that stick to the bottom of your pot. Once your meat is browned, remove it from the stovetop and add a cooking liquid like stock, wine or water. Adding the liquid deglazes the pot and allows you to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. These bits are full of flavor and add nice depth to your cooking liquid. The liquid also keeps the meat moist throughout the long cooking process.

Next, place the pot in the oven, which should now be heated to 325 degrees. The cooking time depends on the size of the meat, but you’ll know it’s ready when it’s fork tender.

Osso buco, or braised shanks, is one of the best braising recipes. The shank is the lower portion of the leg; this cut is often used for ground venison because it has a lot of tendons. What most people don’t know is shanks are one of the most flavorful parts of a deer; they just need to be braised to perfection. You can find an excellent venison osso buco recipe from MeatEater.

Slow-Cooking

Slow cookers are perfect for easy weekday cooking. You can assemble a meal and turn on the slow cooker before work, and come home to a delicious dinner. Slow-cooking is similar to braising. Simply brown the meat and slow-cook it in liquid. There are many great recipes for slow-cooking venison, including those yielding stews, pot roast and pulled barbecue.

Joel Lickliter, The Home Cookin’ Hunter, is dedicated to wild-game recipes. In a recent interview with Bowhunting 360, he described his slow-cooker venison barbecue recipe. “My favorite thing to do with a shoulder is to take garlic, onion, Worcestershire and beef stock, and throw it into a Crock-Pot with a whole shoulder that has been rubbed down with a barbecue rub,” Lickliter said. “Let it slow-cook for eight hours on low, and you’ll have fall-off-the-bone tender venison barbecue.”

Pressure-Cooking

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Pressure-cooking is a quick, easy way to turn tough cuts of meat into tender, delicious morsels ideal for venison stew. Photo Credit: Culinary Physics

Pressure-cooking is a fast way to make tough cuts tender. Instead of a meal taking hours to slow-cook, pressure-cooking speeds up the process to under 30 minutes.

Any recipe involving braising or slow-cooking is an excellent choice for pressure-cooking. The possibilities are endless, from stews and soups to venison ribs and osso buco. Using a pressure cooker is just like braising and slow-cooking. Meat is browned and then cooked in liquid.

The liquid in a pressure cooker is important. This liquid yields steam when heated, which creates the pressure. Pressure cookers come with directions that should be read carefully. Follow the directions for your pressure cooker explicitly, and you’ll see great results.

One of the greatest joys of bowhunting is serving friends and family a wild-game meal. Now you can impress your family and friends with braising, slow-cooking and pressure-cooking recipes.

If wild game is on your grocery list, there’s only one way to get it: You must go out and hunt it yourself. The best way to start is with a visit to a bowhunting retailer for expert advice and tailored equipment. Visit an archery store near you to get started.


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