Far too often, people grind the entire deer without knowing what they’re missing out on.
Sadly, they are missing out on some of the best cuts of venison, my top 3 being flat iron, tenderloin, and shank.
However, there are so many more cuts that are excellent and can be used to make fantastic dishes. Below are a few of my favorite cuts of venison.
Top 5 Venison Cuts
These are a few of my favorite cuts of venison, each for their own reasons.
You may see some cuts here that will surprise you, but trust me, when you use them in the right recipes; you will see why they made the list.
I have made multiple dishes with each of these cuts.
The flat iron is an extremely tender cut from the shoulder of the deer.
Not everyone gets to enjoy the flat iron due to the size and the effort required to butcher this cut.
On smaller deer, the flat iron is too small to warrant proper butchering.
If you are fortunate enough to have a larger deer or even elk, then the flat iron is a cut you don’t want to be missing out on.
To cut the flat iron, you locate the scapula and place your boning knife against the inside bone.
I like to use a filleting knife as it’s easier to work under the meat.
Work your way from the bottom to the top of the bone and remove the cut. That was the easy part.
Now you have to remove the silver skin in the center of the cut; otherwise, the meat would be extremely chewy.
To do this, lay the meat flat on the cutting board and fillet as you would a fish.
Place one hand on top of the meat to keep it in place while you gradually work your way across the top of the silver skin.
You are now left with two flat iron steaks and only need to remove the silver skin from the second.
The meat is extremely tender, so does well with fast cooking dishes. It also works well with marinades due to its thinness.
The backstrap, sometimes known as a venison loin, is one of the most popular cuts of venison.
The is a large cut of tender meat that lies along the spine of the deer.
Butchering the backstrap is a simple procedure given its location and size.
After making an initial cut at the bottom of the backstrap, I like to place my boning knife right beside the spine and push it into the spine.
You don’t need any special knife for this I use a cheap Victorinox Fibrox from Amazon and it works exceptionally well.
All you have to make sure is that your knife doesn’t have too much bend like a fileting knife, or isn’t too stiff like a chopping knife. The victorinox is the perfect boning knife in my opinion.
Work the knife down the spine, keeping it kissing the spine all the time.
Now why you need a little flex is because the next step is to gently work the knife under the backstrap while pushing into the spine.
The reason for keeping pressed against the spine is to recover as much meat as possible.
The backstrap is very tender, and you could easily leave meat on the bone, which in some cases is good, if you plan on making stock or ramen from the bones.
Once you work your way down the backstrap make a final cut at the top of the backstrap, and that is your meat removed.
There is minimal trimming needed to remove some silver skin.
The backstrap is another versatile cut of venison due to its tenderness and size.
The backstrap is most commonly used for butterflied backstrap steaks. It can also be cooked in the oven and sliced after.
I’ve used venison backstrap in many Asian dishes like Mongolian venison.
It also is an excellent cut for making venison jerky, but there are lesser quality cuts for jerky.
Some people would call the tenderloin the star of the show and they wouldn’t be wrong.
It’s by far the most tender cut on a deer and its equivalent in beef would be one of the most expensive cuts.
The tenderloin is probably the easiest cut to butcher, and I’ve often done this without using a knife.
The tenderloin lies on the underside of the spine, below the backstrap. The most accessible access is through the cavity.
Once you locate the tenderloin, gently push your fingers behind it, and it will begin to separate. Be careful here as it’s easy to tear this cut.
You may need to use a knife to ensure clean removal at the ends.
The tenderloin has another piece that easily separates from the main cut.
This extra piece is not as tender as the tenderloin and is best reserved for other dishes, or added to the ground meat pile.
Once you have the cut removed, minimal trimming is required, again remembering to be careful as this cut is extremely tender.
The tenderloin, like the backstrap is also best known for steak. In the culinary world, this would be known as the filet mignon.
You can cook the tenderloin in a pan or in the oven; you can cook it whole or sliced.
Venison tenderloin needs very little cooking and should be done with care as it’s very easy to overcook.
Other great uses for tenderloin are delicate dishes like carpaccio or tartare.
Venison neck is one of the cuts that often ends up misplaced in the ground meat pile.
Sadly people who grind the neck are missing out.
Venison neck begins where the backstrap stops. Once removed it needs very little trimming because of the cooking methods it’s best used for.
You can cook the neck with the bone in or deboned, this will mostly depend on your recipe and cooking method.
While grinding the neck up is certainly one use, there are many alternative options.
I like to use venison neck for roasts and stews. I find the best use of a venison neck is with the bone in and cooked in the slow cooker.
Another excellent option for the neck is slow-cooked on the grill.
All of the above cuts are selected for their tenderness, the neck may not be tender, but it makes up for it in taste.
Often you will find with venison that the tougher cuts pack more flavor than the tender cuts.
This one is a hot topic for me. You wouldn’t believe the number of people I have met that discard the shanks.
Venison shanks are, without a doubt, one of the best cuts of venison. If you don’t believe me try this shank taco recipe.
The shanks are easily removed, you can do so by cutting at the joint or using a bone saw.
Once removed, the shanks are difficult to butcher into any clean cuts. For this reason, I remove only the top membrane and minimal silver skin.
Venison shanks work best with pressure cooking or slow cooking. These two cooking methods turn an otherwise tough cut of meat into extremely tender meat.
One thing I like to do before pressure cooking or slow cooking venison shanks is to sear over high heat.
The searing crisps up the outside of the shank and chars the silver skin. When searing your shanks, you should use a grill, stainless or cast iron pan.
You are then left with quite a few options, you can make stew, soup, tacos, etc.
I recently made an excellent Indian dish from venison shanks.