A lot of mystery surrounds venison, is it safe? How to cook venison? And my favorite, can you eat venison rare?
Let me state, that eating venison rare is the best way to eat it, provided it has been handled and prepared correctly.
Drawbacks of Rare Venison
While for the most part, rare venison is perfectly fine to eat, much of this depends on the preparation and handling of the meat.
Venison can sometimes harbor bacteria, parasites, and even Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
However, there is little evidence that any of these are harmful to humans.
I’ve often found worms in venison and after sending it to the lab the results are pretty much what I expected.
The worms are harmless muscle roundworms, and although they may be offputting they are no harm to humans.
Similarly, CWD is not known to affect humans, however, the NHS does not recommend consuming deer that you suspect has CWD, regardless of the degree of cook.
Myths and Misconceptions about Venison
There are quite a few myths circling about eating rare venison.
One common misconception is that all game meat, including venison, must be cooked well done to kill off any potential parasites or pathogens.
While it’s true that undercooked meat can pose a risk, this is largely mitigated by responsible sourcing and proper handling and preparation.
Another prevalent myth is the fear of “gamey” flavor. Some folks believe that rare venison has an overpowering wild taste that can be off-putting.
While the opposite is actually true. Venison that is overcooked becomes chewy and develops a liver-like flavor which some people misconstrue as gamey.
While venison does have a distinct flavor compared to beef or chicken, describing it as “gamey” often does a disservice to its unique, complex taste.
Cooking venison to rare or medium-rare can actually bring out its delicate, earthy flavors rather than intensifying any undesirable taste.
Finally, some people express concern over Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a condition found in deer populations that can make the meat unsafe to consume.
It’s essential to note that cases of CWD transmission to humans are extremely rare.
Although as mentioned earlier, any deer suspected of CWD should be reported and handed over to your local wildlife agency.
Cuts of Venison
When it comes to cooking rare venison, choosing the right cut is paramount.
The backstrap and tenderloin are the most suitable cuts of venison for cooking rare.
These cuts are not only the most tender but are the mildest flavor of all cuts which makes them the perfect candidates for introducing someone to rare venison.
The flat iron is another cut of venison that can be served rare and still be tender enough but it has a more robust flavor than the tenderloin or backstrap.
For some people familiar with venison they prefer the stronger flavor of the flat iron, but it can be a little overwhelming to others.
Cuts from the hind quarter are a little on the tougher side and can do with a longer cook, with the exception of the eye of round, which makes a great medium rare pastrami.
Cooking Rare Venison
Most people think cooking meat rare is easy, but with venison, the opposite is actually true.
Venison is unlike beef, it lacks the fat marbling, and as a much leaner meat, it cooks fast and is quick to dry out.
With that being said there are still multiple ways to cook venison rare.
This method of cooking venison is probably one of the most popular and is best suited to venison steak.
There are two options when pan frying venison steak, you can cook the muscle as a whole and slice after, or you can slice into steaks and cook.
If you are not familiar with cooking venison, cooking the muscle as a whole is a little easier.
Cooking venison steaks individually can cause the meat to overcook if not monitored carefeully, whereas the whole muscle takes longer to cook so is less likely to overcook.
However, there is also a drawback of cooking the whole muscle. If you are looking for a nice charred steak all over, you can’t have that with the whole muscle whereas you can with individual steaks.
Steps for Rare Pan Fried Venison Steak:
- Remove the steak from the refrigerator, liberally cover it in oil, and rub in salt and pepper.
- Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat
- Place the steak on the pan and allow it to sear, rotate the steak as necessary to sear both sides and get an even cook
- Using the palm of your hand as a guide or preferably a meat thermometer remove the steak when rear. If using your palm, it’s index finger to thumb, if using a meat thermometer it’s 125F
- Rest the steak on a wooden block for about 5 minutes
Grilled steak is much the same as cooking on the pan except using a different cooking medium.
However, one benefit of grilling instead of pan frying is getting a better sear.
The higher heat of the grill makes it easier to sear the steak. Using the grill also allows for larger cuts to be cooked, such as a rack of venison.
Oven baking venison is another great cooking method for rare venison.
This method allows more time and control over the cook allowing you to choose the exact temperature you want your venison to be.
One of the most famous rare venison dishes from the oven is venison wellington.
Steps to cooking venison in the oven:
- Marinade or season the venison and rest on the counter
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Place the backstrap or tenderloin in the oven whole
- Bake until the internal temperature is about 115F
- Rest the meat on a wooden block for about 5 minutes and lightly cover with foil
- Heat a cast iron pan over high heat and pour on some high temperature oil
- Place the venison in the pan and sear all over
- Remove the venison to a wooden block, slice, and serve.
- The same can also be done with individual steaks
Smoking venison is a method of cooking over extremely low heat for long periods of time.
This is a great approach to making rare venison and about the only method that is worth cooking some of the tougher muscle groups to rare.
The reason you can serve tougher muscle groups rare is because of the brining before smoking.
Brining the venison breaks down the proteins leaving the meat tender.
Steps for Smoking Venison:
- Place the venison in brine and set it in the refrigerator for 3.5 days per pound
- Set the smoker to between 180-200F
- Pat the venison dry and rub it with spices
- Place in smoker and smoke until approximately 130F
- Remove from smoker and slice for sandwiches