People are often put off when they see a rare steak or some pink in their red meat. This is especially true for wild game such as venison.
However, not only is venison safe to eat when slightly pink, I will argue it is the best way to eat specific cuts of venison.
Can Venison be Eaten When Pink?
Venison can be eaten when pink, and in my opinion, it is one of the best ways to eat it.
However, I wouldn’t recommend eating every cut of venison when pink with some cuts like shanks or ground meat; eating them when pink wouldn’t be practical or safe in some cases.
For the premium cuts like the backstrap or tenderloin, I find cooking them beyond pink worsens the quality of the meat.
We need to remember that the number one thing these cuts have going for them is their natural tenderness.
Cooking the tenderloin or backstrap beyond medium will reduce the tenderness of the meat and it will get tougher the more you cook it.
Not only will the meat become tougher, but the taste becomes gamier, akin to liver.
Other cuts of venison, like stewing meat or ground meat, aren’t really suitable for eating when pink.
You will find most of the stewing cuts are too tough to eat rare. Ground meat is usually mixed with other fats, which is why it’s safer to cook this beyond pink, except tartar.
However, as I mentioned above, pink venison should be reserved for the premium cuts, which you should use to make venison tartar.
Also, I should point out that while people commonly ground tartar, a far better method is to dice it finely. So the statement of not eating ground venison rare still stands true.
Venison Internal Temperature
Understanding the internal temperature of venison when cooking will give you a better idea of how pink you want your meat to be.
Typically there are five degrees of cook on red meat.
- Rare: 125-130F
- Medium Rare: 130-135F
- Medium: 135-140F
- Medium Well: 145-150F
- Well: 155-160F
For venison, three of these will give you some degree of pink; the other two will give you a grey color.
Rare venison will give you a red center with a pink halo. The very center will be cool to the touch.
Medium rare is one of the most common methods of serving any steak, including venison.
This will give you the true pink color most people are familiar with.
Medium venison will have a slightly faded pink. This is a good introduction for people who are apprehensive about eating pink venison.
Dangers With Pink Venison
People have been eating venison in various degrees of pink for as long as humans have been hunting.
Unlike wild boars or bears, deer are very unlikely to carry trichinosis. This parasite causes us to cook boar and bear meat beyond pink and usually to almost well.
Deer are herbivores for the most part and rarely eat meat. However, deer are not free from all parasites and diseases.
One concern with eating pink venison is the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the toxoplasma gondi parasite. Humans can contract this disease after consuming rare or undercooked venison.
However, cases have been extremely rare.
Best Way to Serve Venison
Given all the information above, many hunters still opt to eat venison rare, or even raw.
I should point out that toxoplasmosis is not limited to deer and can be contacted by any raw meat, including beef. You can also contract this parasite from cats.
So with this information in mind, I am like most hunters and eat my premium cuts of venison rare or with some degree of pink.
As I explained above, going beyond medium with venison will not only make the meat tougher but also alter the flavor.
Why Eat Venison Pink
As I mentioned in this article, not only can you eat venison when it is pink in the middle, but there are a few reasons why it is superior to well-cooked venison.
One of the first reasons for eating pink venison is its flavor. After all, the flavor is the basis on which we choose all our food choices.
Rare venison has a sweet and nutty flavor. While much of the venison flavor depends on what the deer were eating, most venison I have consumed had this slightly sweet, nutty flavor.
The longer you cook venison, the more it loses this flavor. Cooking alters food flavor; for venison backstraps or tenderloin, hot and fast is the least intrusive option.
During my time in culinary school, one thing was drilled into us over and over-You eat with your eyes first.
This is very important to consider. Most people may not know this, but your sight and smell control much of your appetite.
If we translate this to venison, a nice cut of pink steak looks appealing, whereas a greyish-looking piece of venison steak not so much.
This is a big one. Tenderloins and backstraps are sought-after cuts of meat because of how tender they are.
Tender meat is so important in the world of cuisine that there are teams of people in Japan pampering and massaging cows to make the world’s most tender yet most expensive beef.
The last thing you want to do is overcook your venison, making it stiff and stringy.
It would be best to remember that venison has very little fat while cooking it. Unlike beef with beautiful marbling of fat, venison has almost none throughout the choice cuts.
This is not bad, as venison fat isn’t as palatable as beef fat.
However, what this means is that venison can quickly dry out. This is why I recommend high heat and fast cooking for venison to keep it moist.
This will give you a nice charred outside and a tender pink inside.
For the most part, there are minimal health risks with pink venison.
Eating pink venison should be reserved for only the very best cuts. I recommend eating your venison steak with some degree of pink, at the very least medium.
Rusty enjoys connecting food and nature and has done so since a child. He was fortunate enough to explore cuisine worldwide and work at great European restaurants. He now enjoys thinking up new recipes that he can find around him in nature in North America.