Cuts of Venison Explained (Every Cut)

There are numerous cuts of venison on a deer, each with its own best uses and methods for cutting.


Cuts of Venison Explained

Venison neck is probably the best cut for roast and can be left with the bone in or boneless.


Venison’s neck runs from just below the skull to just before the backstrap. 

Some people end the neck cut a couple of inches before the backstrap, and count that piece as part of the chuck.

The neck and chuck are very similar in texture and cooking methods, so either way of cutting are fine.


The neck is best removed after you have removed the backstrap. 

There are two approaches to removing the neck, one is with the bone in, and the other is to remove the meat from the bone.

If you are removing the meat from the bone, place your knife beside the spine and gradually work the meat away.

Most people using this method will be grinding the meat, so you don’t need to be so careful.

I prefer to leave the meat on the bone. To do this, find the neck joint and work your knife in to separate the knife from the bone.

This is easier said than done, but with a little practice, you will get the hang of it.

Best Uses

Bone in venison is tough and chewy if not cooked properly. 

However, when done properly, it is an extremely flavorful cut of venison. 

The majority of the time, I will use venison neck for a roast or stew. I will do this in a slow cooker for 6 hours plus to ensure the meat is nice and tender.

An alternative method is to cook it in a pressure cooker or slow-cook it on the grill.


Cuts of Venison Explained

When you hear the word brisket, you may be thinking of a nice big juicy slab of meat that has been slow cooking on the grill for several hours.

Sadly that’s not venison brisket.

Venison brisket is more similar to venison flank; it’s thin and not very meaty.


The brisket is the chest of the deer. Sometimes people will cut it off along with the meat that covers the ribs.


The brisket is easily removed and has no bones or joints connecting to it. 

As I said above, this can be cut off with or without the outer rib meat.

If not taking the rib meat with the brisket, cut the meat from the inner cavity only.

If taking the rib meat also, start at the ribs and pull the outer layer of meat with your hands. Use a sharp knife to gently cut the connecting fascia.

Best Uses

Even though venison brisket is nothing like the big juicy beef brisket, it still has plenty of flavor.


Cuts of Venison Explained

Venison’s shoulder is made up of a few different muscle groups; it is also sometimes known as the chuck.

Most of this meat usually ends up in the ground pile.


The Venison shoulder is the upper muscle group of the front legs. There are a few different muscles in this group, but the shoulder is rarely divided into separate cuts.


The majority of venison shoulder meat is ground for sausages, burgers, etc.

The shoulder has no joint holding it to the body and is easily separated from the animal.

Once you have the shoulder separated, you can begin removing the meat. 

The only bone is the shoulder blade; I like to keep this bone for stock.

On the back side of the shoulder blade, you will find the flat iron, which I will talk more about below.

Best Uses

Given that most of the shoulder is mostly tough meat, I like to grind most of it up.

You can also cut up into pieces for stew or goulash.

Flat Iron

Cuts of Venison Explained

The flat iron is one of my favorite cuts of venison. Not many people know of this cut, and even fewer get to utilize it.


The flat iron is located on the shoulder blade. When you look at a deer’s shoulder blade, there is a meaty side and a concave-looking side; the flat iron is the meaty side of the blade.


Removing the flat iron is a little more challenging than some other cuts, but with some patience and time, you can easily manage this.

The first thing you will need is a good knife, some people like to use a filleting knife, and others get by fine with a good boning knife.

I’ve used both types of knives, and both work fine; it’s a matter of personal preference.

I mostly use a Victorinox Fibrox boning knife.

When you look at the shoulder blade, you will see a ridged edge. Take your knife and place it against this edge and make a cut to the flat part of the shoulder blade.

Start working the knife under the meat, keeping it pressed against the shoulder blade.

Once you have the meat separated from the bone, you need to remove the silver skin.

The silver skin is actually through the center of the meat.

Using a sharp knife, start at the corner and cut as close to the silver skin as you can.

This is a bit like filing a fish. When you cut off the top side of the meat, you need to do the same again to remove the silver skin from the bottom.

Best Uses

The flat iron works well for a wide variety of dishes. I like to use it most like a steak.

It has more flavor than a tenderloin or backstrap and is almost equally as tender as a backstrap.

It’s a fantastic cut for pan frying or grilling. If you are looking for something different, it can be used anywhere that calls for thinly sliced meat, such as venison teriyaki or stroganoff.


Cuts of Venison Explained

Venison ribs don’t get much love, at least not as much as they should.

Ye I hear ya, there is not meat on the ribs, etc.

Yet the same guys are saying this will trim out the meat from the ribs for grinding.

It’s just as easy to throw them on the grill as grinding them.


The ribs make up the main part of the carcass of the animal, with 13 ribs on each side, making a total of 26 ribs for a whitetail deer.


Removing the ribs is simple but will require some sort of saw for cutting.

You can use a bone saw or hacksaw, but using a sawzall has saved me so much time.

First, you need to cut the whole rack from the deer. To do this, use your saw to cut just below the spine.

Once you have the whole rack of ribs, you can decide what type of cut you want on the ribs.

Venison ribs don’t have as much meat as beef or pork ribs, so I usually just make spare ribs, but you can also make other variations.

You can cut them into St. Louis-style ribs, baby back, or country-style.

Another thing I like to do is make a full rack. This requires leaving the backstrap in and roasting the full rack of ribs with the backstrap, which makes for a tasty roast.

You can also slice between the ribs here to make a venison tomahawk steak.

If you don’t want to cook the ribs, you can easily extract the meat by running your knife flat against the bone between each rib.

If using the whole rack, you will need to remove the membrane. Admittedly I find this a bit tedious, but you do not need to remove all the membrane.

The easiest and fastest way is to slide your knife under the membrane to make an edge.

Using some paper towel to grab the edge, pull the membrane, and it will begin to peel.

It does break easily; just repeat the process.

Best Uses

I firmly believe that venison ribs are worth the extra effort to utilize for more than ground meat.

They do have a lot of membranes that is tough to remove entirely, so I like to char them on the grill or slow-cook them.


Cuts of Venison Explained

The backstrap is one of the most popular cuts of venison, along with the tenderloin.

There are two reasons for this, 1. it’s a tender boneless cut, and 2. it’s extremely versatile.


The backstrap, sometimes called the loin, is the big large muscles running each side of a deer’s spine.


Removing the backstrap is relatively easy. The main thing to watch out for is that you are not leaving too much meat on the bone.

First, make a cut at either end of the backstrap, depending on which way your deer is hung.

Next, place your knife at the spine and start working down the spine while simultaneously working under the backstrap.

The backstrap will begin to fall away, so you may need to hold it with one hand.

Best Uses

The backstrap is another versatile cut of venison due to its tenderness and size.

Bacstraps are 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.


Cuts of Venison Explained

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.

Best Uses

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.


Cuts of Venison Explained

The rump is an often forgotten about cut, although it has many uses. It can be ground, roasted, stewed, or even made into steak.


The rump is part of the hind quarter that covers the pelvis. It is located between the backstrap and the hind quarter.


You can remove the rump before removing the hind quarter or leave it attached to the hind quarter before removing.

Once you remove the backstrap, there will be some meat left on the upper side of the hind quarter that attaches the pelvis and hind quarter.

This is the rump. It doesn’t have the same defined structure as other muscle groups.

To remove, first split the pelvis in half.

Then you can use a hand saw or a sawzall to cut the pelvis from the hind quarter.

Once this is removed, use your boning knife to cut the meat from the pelvis bone.

Best Uses

The rump can be used in many dishes, but much of this depends on the size of the cut.

Some of the most popular dishes are rump roast or rump steak.

If you are making rump steak, you will need to cut the meat into steaks.  

Top Round

Cuts of Venison Explained

The top round is a large cut of meat with many great uses. 


The top round is one of the largest muscles of the hind quarter. 

It is on the inside of the hind leg.


The top round is easily removed from the hind quarter once the shank and femur are removed. Often you will find that you don’t need a knife as it is mostly connected by fascia. 

Although a knife comes in handy from nicking the fascia.

To remove the femur, place your knife flat against the bone and follow the curvature of the bone on each side.

I like to leave a little meat on the bone to make stock later on.

Best Uses

The top round is the most tender cut on the hind quarter. Not as tender as some of the prime cuts but may be worth keeping out of the ground pile.

I like to slice it up for stir fry or use it for roast.

Bottom Round

Cuts of Venison Explained

The bottom round is another large cut from the hind quarter. Not as tender as the top round, but still a versatile cut.


The bottom round is located on the outside of the hind leg, opposite the top round.


To remove the bottom round, follow the seams of the muscle group with your knife.

Best Uses

I like to use the bottom round for my jerky. It’s not very tender but has a distinct grain.

Eye of Round

Cuts of Venison Explained

The eye of the round is a long slim cut that almost looks like a tenderloin.


The eye of the round sits between the bottom round and the top round.


Removing the eye of round is easy and doesn’t even require a knife.

Once the top round is removed, you can easily break apart the fascia with your finger or knife.

Best Uses

This is a cut that I like to add to the ground pile as it’s not very tender.


Cuts of Venison Explained

The sirloin in a deer is three different cuts. You have the sirloin tip, the tri-tip, and the sirloin, but.


All these cuts are located on the hind leg.


Once you have the top and bottom round, shank, and eye of round removed from the hind quarter, you will be left with these three cuts.

It’s best to break these cuts down further. Each cut is easily removed by cutting along the seams of each muscle group.

Best Uses

Sirloin tip – best for stewing or roasting

Tri Tip – best for grinding

Sirloin But – best for hot and fast cooking, such as stir fry


Cuts of Venison Explained

The flank is a thin cut of meat that you can incorporate into many dishes.


Venison’s flank runs from just inside the hind leg to the last rib.


Removing the flank couldn’t be easier. Start your cut on the inside of the hind leg and cut all the way down to the rib cage. 

Best Uses

I like to use the flank for thin cuts, given that it is naturally thin.

Many people prefer to grind the flank because although it is thin, it’s not very tender.

I think this is a bit of a shame as there are many ways to tenderize the meat. One of my favorite ways of tenderizing venison flank is by using the velveting technique.

I will then use the flank in many Asian dishes. It is also a great cut for making jerky.


Cuts of Venison Explained

Venison shanks are another one of my favorite cuts. Sadly, these are another cut that many people don’t fully utilize. 


The shank is located just below the shoulder on the front legs and below the hind quarter on the hind legs.

There are four shanks in total on a deer.


The shanks are easily removed but do take a little bit of practice. 

Each shank can be separated at the joints. They will also follow the line of the other muscles.

Move the shank to see where it connects to the larger muscle group. When you see or feel where it moves, this is where you make your first cut.

Work your knife into the joint to cut through the sinew. Continue to cut along the muscle line.

Many of the muscle groups will separate without cutting; you may only need to cut the fascia holding them together.

Best Uses

The shank is one of the toughest cuts of meat, which is why most people don’t know what to do with it.

It also happens to be one of the most flavorful cuts from a deer.

Before doing anything with the shank, I recommend charring it quickly on the grill or on a cast iron pan.

Charring the shank will crisp up all the silver skin and membrane and give a nice deep smokey flavor.

From there, you can stew it in a slow cooker or make the classic oso bucco.

One of my favorite things to do with venison shank is to make pulled venison tacos.


Venison’s heart is a hit or miss. Some people find it a delicacy, while others find it too strong.


The heart is located in the deer’s cavity, and every hunter should know where it is located.


Removing the heart is easy, although depending on the shot’s accuracy, there may or may not be considerable damage to the heart.

You can remove the heart almost entirely by hand. Although, the heart sits in a sack that may require a small nick with your knife.

Best Uses

Many hunters like to eat the heart right in the field; some even go as far as eating it raw, like an apple.

I find the heart is best when pan-fried or used for tacos.


Venison liver is stronger than beef liver, but with the right recipe makes great food.


The liver sits towards the back of the deer’s cavity.


The liver is easily removed and usually comes out when you are gutting the deer.

Best Uses

I think the single best use for deer liver is simply pan-fried liver.

If you are looking for a little more from venison liver, I think terrines or pates are a fantastic use of this cut.


The kidneys are often left to the scavengers in the field as most hunters find them too strong of a taste.


The kidneys are also located in the cavity and will be removed when gutting the deer.


The kidneys are usually surrounded by a lot of fat, so they may need trimming to remove.

Best Uses

As I mentioned above, most hunters find the kidneys too strong.

I find if you marinate them in buttermilk or salt water overnight, they become more palatable.

One of my favorite things to do with venison kidneys is steak and kidney pie.

Kidneys also work well pan-fried.


The tongue is another cut that doesn’t get utilized all that often.


The best way to remove the tongue is after you have removed the head from the animal.

Use your knife and enter from the base of the skull where the neck joins. From here, it is easier to make a cut at the back of the tongue rather than going through the mouth.

Best Uses

There are many dishes you can make with the tongue; some of my favorites are tacos, braised tongue, or just pan fried.

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