Deer heart, when properly prepared, is one of the best meats. Deer are grazing animals that forage their natural habitat for the best food possible.
Those nutrients that deer consume are stored in their bodies which makes deer a very healthy option for a protein diet. A deer’s heart is pure muscle and can be quite a delicacy when properly prepared.
Is Deer Heart Safe to Consume?
Unless the deer is obviously diseased, deer hearts should be perfectly safe to eat. Deer are susceptible to parasites and disease.
Currently, many states are experiencing chronic wasting disease (CWD) in their local deer populations. Deer can also be infested with screwworm and other parasites.
If your deer appears healthy and robust, there is very little to fear about eating the deer’s heart or the meat.
As with any game animal, you should take the proper precautions to keep yourself safe. On the whole, a deer’s heart is usually one of the healthiest parts of the deer.
What are the Benefits of Eating Deer Heart?
You can benefit yourself by eating deer hearts. The muscle of the deer heart is very high in CoQ10. This substance is one of the best antioxidants you can get from a natural source.
Our bodies need CoQ10 to convert food into energy. Antioxidants are known to help reduce the effects of free radicals in your body and reduce cell damage.
Other Benefits of Deer Heart in your Diet
The muscle fibers of the deer heart also are an abundant source of other minerals that we need for a healthy body. As a source of natural minerals, the deer heart is considered one of the best options for these minerals.
Your body uses selenium to reproduce DNA, for healthy thyroid gland function and helps fight infections. Selenium is also important in protecting the cells of your body from the damage caused by free radicals.
Zinc is important for a healthy immune system. The cells in our body are constantly reproducing themselves and zinc is vital to proper cell division.
Zinc helps wounds heal quickly and is used in the digestive system to facilitate carbohydrate breakdown.
Without iron, your body cannot produce blood cells or transport oxygen around your circulatory system.
Deer heart is an excellent source of dietary iron to help replenish your body’s supply of this vital element.
Without adequate folate supplies, your body cannot properly break down and use proteins. There are many other uses of folate in your body, including the proper growth and maturity of cells as they divide.
A healthy deer heart can help promote a healthy heart in you. Deer hearts have an abundant supply of Vitamin B, which is essential to protect you from heart disease.
Don’t Worry About Cholesterol
You need not worry about cholesterol when eating deer heart. The heart muscle, especially in deer, is a very lean muscle, rich in minerals, but with very low levels of dietary cholesterol.
If you are on a cholesterol-restricted diet, deer heart may be one of your best bets for keeping meet on your plate.
Can you Eat Deer Heart Raw?
For centuries, many Indigenous people considered the heart of an animal the repository of all its good traits. The belief that eating freshly killed animals’ hearts would transfer these qualities to the hunter was strong, especially among native people.
Many modern hunters once considered eating the freshly harvested heart a right of passage for novice hunters. However, this practice has mostly gone out of fashion due to a better understanding of the dangers of consuming raw meat from any source.
Deer can carry parasites that are easily transferred if the meat is eaten uncooked or partially cooked. You can contract a parasite infection or a viral infection.
I recommend that any wild game meat, including deer heart, is properly prepared and fully cooked before being eaten.
How Should Deer Heart be Processed and Handled?
Speed is the critical element when harvesting fresh organs from deer. The quicker you can remove these parts and get them chilled, the better they will taste when they are prepared.
To properly handle deer organ meat such as heart, liver, and tongues, there are some very basic tips to follow.
Cold is the Key
Getting the heart out of the deer carcass and on ice is the critical part of proper handling. I always carry a small cooler filled with ice and a supply of heavy-duty freezer bags.
Once the entrails have been removed and discarded, I place the heart in a plastic bag and get it into the ice as quickly as possible. I do the same with the tongue and liver if I am saving them.
Getting the organs cooled as quickly as possible will help prevent your deer meat from having a strong gamey taste after it is prepared.
Clean the Heart Properly
If you plan on freezing the heart for later use, it is imperative that you clean and prepare the heart before it is frozen. I usually cut the heart in half.
You should remove any membrane from the outside of the heart. Remove the top portion of the heart where the veins enter, as these can be tough after they are cooked.
Trim away any visible fat and remove any surface blood vessels from the inside and outside of the heart muscles. Rinse the heart thoroughly after it is cleaned.
Dry the meat with paper towels before storing it in a clean plastic freezer bag in your freezer.
How to Cook Deer Heart
There are many ways to cook deer hearts, but in my opinion, only two are worth mentioning. The only way I prepare deer hearts these days is by grilling or frying.
I’m not saying other methods such as stewing or boiling are bad; I’m just saying that grilling and frying are better.
As mentioned above, most of the work to make a deer heart enjoyably edible is the preparation you do before cooking.
Cooking should be the least of your worries.
When cooking the heart, it’s best to do so over high heat. If on the pan, use a cast iron or stainless steel pan with a high-temperature oil like avocado or grapeseed.
Add the cold heart to the pan and fry on each side for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size. Take the heart of the heat when it is a little underdone to allow it to continue cooking while at rest.
Grilling the heart is the same. Put it over high heat and flip it only once. When the internal temperature reaches approximately 130F remove it from the heat
A Meal Fit for A King
In Europe, venison was reserved for royalty and aristocrats. Deer heart was highly prized, and only the highest-ranking members of society were privileged to enjoy this delicacy.
I recommend that anyone who regularly hunts, and harvests deer, keep the heart for some of the best venison eating you can enjoy.
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.