If you are a hunter and you were fortunate enough to get a deer this season, then chances are you probably have a freezer full of deer meat. Even if you are not a hunter and love to eat venison, then look no further because your prayers have been answered to eating some of the best venison you have ever tried.
Smoked deer meat may be one of the best options available to you. You may think that smoking venison will make the meat tough and hard to eat, but as long as you follow a strict regimen of instructions, you will end up with a fantastic end product.
In this article, we will teach you everything you need to know about smoking deer meat and some tips and tricks of the trade to help you along.
About Deer Meat, AKA, Venison
So, what is venison? Well, let’s answer that question with a joke! What do you call a deer with no eyes? “Got no idear”! But seriously, venison is deer meat.
In later years, venison was used to describe any game animal that was hunted, like deer, wild boar, or rabbit. Nowadays, it is used to refer to the meat of elk, deer, and antelope.
When a deer is butchered and processed, it is a very similar process to cows or pigs. There are specific regions of the deer that are portioned out to be eaten, such as the tenderloin, rump, shank, ribs, and shoulder.
The taste is very similar to beef but is a much leaner cut that contains less fat. The deer meat is versatile in an array of dishes if it is appropriately utilized.
Where Do You Get Deer Meat?
Unless you are a hunter and can bag a deer during the season, you may have trouble finding venison in the store. Local supermarkets usually don’t carry venison because it is more of a specialty item like pheasant or quail.
You may be able to find some in a local butcher shop when it is in season. But for the best chances of nailing down, a location will be at a meat locker or meat processor location. Usually, these places will have venison on hand already processed for sale.
Otherwise, you should be able to order it online from various places like Cabela’s or a farm that raises deer for consumption.
What are the Best Cuts of Deer for Smoking?
There are not many different cuts of venison on the deer, but some of the cuts are better than others. Technically you could smoke any of the cuts, but the ones that are the easiest to handle and have the best outcome are slim.
Tenderloin or the backstrap is always one of the best cuts to consider smoking, as some people call it. The meat is tender and comes in a small portion making the smoking timeless.
The shoulder and shank are also good options but will need a much longer time to smoke, and you may run the risk of drying them out in the process if not handled properly. The ribs are also a good choice but may need a little extra love and attentiveness when smoking them.
Is Deer Meat Good for You?
Deer meat is better for you than most meats available to you in the local supermarket. It contains less than 50% of the fat content you find in beef, making it a leaner and healthier option.
The meat is still very high in protein and rich in iron. It also contains many vital vitamins and minerals that our bodies need daily. It also contains low sodium and tends to have fewer carbs and calories than most red meat alternatives like pork and chicken.
What are the Best Spices to Use on Deer Meat?
The top spices are always the best, such as pepper, garlic, kosher salt, and smoked paprika. Just about any spice or seasoning will work with venison. But if you are looking to compliment the meat, there are a few top choices.
For grilling, spices like rosemary, ginger, garlic, salt, coriander, and fennel work very well. If you are roasting or braising, then take a savory approach like rosemary, marjoram, sage, and juniper. When smoking deer meat, you can stick to traditional spices, and seasonings commonly use on beef products.
Final note, season deer meat heavier than you usually would beef. Deer has a stronger taste, and you will need more seasoning to balance it out.
Should I Brine My Deer Meat Before Smoking?
It is best to brine deer meat before cooking it. If it is fresh, you will want to soak the meat for one hour in a solution, like milk, previous to the brine to draw blood out of the meat.
You will want to brine your venison before cooking it to add moisture into the meat to get it ready for smoking. Since venison is such a lean and low-fat meat, it will need extra moisture during the smoking process to keep the meat moist and prevent it from drying out.
When you place your venison in a brine, it will also help eliminate the “gamey” taste that often resides in deer meat.
Smoked Deer Meat Tenderloin(aka Venison Backstrap)
The tenderloin or backstrap is what most people consider the most valuable piece of meat of a deer. The flavor is the reason why most people regard this cut so highly. This cut is lean, and you should use care not over to cook it, or it will become tough.
- 1 whole venison tenderloin (backstrap)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp. Ground clove
- 2 tsp. Fennel seed
- ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp. Kosher salt
- 2 tsp. Black pepper
- If preferred, and as suggested, brine the venison tenderloin in a saltwater solution for at least 6 hours before prepping. Make sure to wash the brine off the meat afterward and dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, mix all the herbs, spices, and seasoning well. Rub the olive oil all over the tenderloin to cover. Once covered in oil, rub the spice mixture all over the tenderloin until used up and completely covered.
- Turn the smoker on and preheat to 225 degrees. Make sure the hopper is full of wood pellets. Once the smoker is up to temperature, place the venison tenderloin in the smoker and close the lid. Keep the vents half-closed and smoke the loin for 2 hours.
- The tenderloin needs to be 140 degrees to reach a medium temperature, so either remove it from the grill or continue to smoke until it reaches the desired temperature.
- Once the tenderloin has been removed from the grill, allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Smoked Deer Jerky
There is no more classic use for deer meat other than jerky. You can add any seasoning you like and in heavy amounts because of the strong, gamey flavor of deer. The Recipe below adds complex flavors that will complement your deer meat. If you want your jerky to be shelf-stable, change to a tablespoon of salt and completely dry your jerky before vacuum sealing.
- 2 pounds venison shoulder
- 1 tbsp. Maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. Honey
- 2 tbsp. Red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. Black pepper
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 2 tsp. Garlic powder
- 1 tsp. Onion powder
- 2 tbsp. Brown sugar
- Cut the shoulder roast into long strips against the grain about ¼ inch thick. If they are not cut against the grain, they will be tough and stringy. In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Place the venison strips into a large Ziplock bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Seal the bag and mix everything well. Place in the fridge and allow to rest for at least 12 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the smoker to 200 degrees and fill the hopper with wood pellets. Remove the meat from the bag and drain the liquid off but don’t rinse them. Lay the strips on sheet pans and place them in the smoker.
- Allow the venison strips to smoke for about 2-2 ½ hours or until they are dried to your liking. Smaller pieces may get done before larger pieces, so remove them at will as they become dry.
- Remove the jerky from the smoker and allow it to rest and cool down completely before storing it in bags or placing it in the freezer to store away.
Tips and Tricks
- Try not to overcook or leave your deer meat in the smoker too long. Otherwise, the deer meat will lose moisture and become tough.
- Soaking deer meat in milk for one hour before seasoning, marinating, or brining will remove some of the gamey taste.
- Make sure to brine your deer meat before smoking it to remove the gamey taste and add moisture to the meat.
- You don’t need to cook the meat all the way through to be well done. Deer meat is best when it is cooked to medium or 140 degrees.
- When cutting deer meat for jerky, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Freezing will firm up your piece of deer meat, making it easy to get uniform slices.
So, as you can see, smoking deer meat is not all that difficult once you get down to it. I mean, it’s not like smoking tilapia or smoking salmon, but it is pretty similar to some of the other red meats out there. Just remember not to let it scare you away from trying something new.
Does deer meat taste gamey?
Deer meat tends to taste gamey or dirty, as some describe it. But you can eliminate that taste by preparing it properly. One method is a short soak in milk, about an hour, before seasoning. A robust dry seasoning blend or placing it in a brine solution is a great option to counter the gamey taste.
What is the best wood for smoking deer meat?
Strong and bold flavored woods like hickory and mesquite will work well for smoking deer meat. Because of the strong flavor of deer meat, these choices will work well together, and after a long cook will have married completely.
Can you use deer meat to make sausage?
Even though venison is a very lean meat, it is an excellent choice for sausages. You may want to mix it with fatty meat like beef or pork to supplement the fat content. Many people save beef fat trimmings in the freezer to add to their deer meat sausage.