Venison backstrap is one of the prime cuts of venison that has many uses in multiple recipes.
Given that most people will only have two backstraps to work with if you harvested your own, it’s worth it to cook them properly.
Venison backstraps are lean cuts that can easily overcook, but I’m going to share four foolproof ways to cook venison backstraps.
Preparing Venison Backstrap for Cooking
The first thing you need to do with venison backstraps is to prep them for cooking.
This involves trimming, marinating, or seasoning, and cutting into desired cuts.
If you got your meat back from a processor or received the backstraps as a gift, it’s likely they will already be trimmed, and you can skip this step.
For everyone else, you will need to trim the backstrap to make them edible.
As I mentioned earlier, venison backstraps are very lean cuts of venison, so there will not be much fat to trim off.
Whatever fat is there we will trim off regardless, because venison fat does not have the same taste as pork or beef fat and is rather unpalatable.
Once the fat is removed, you will need to remove the silverskin. Venison backstraps usually have a good amount of silverskin.
To remove the silverskin, slide a butcher knife underneath it and make a little cut to free a flap of the silverskin at the corner.
Next, gently tug the silverskin while you work your knife underneath to remove it.
Removing the silverskin will also remove most of the membrane, but whatever is left will also need to be removed.
Using some kitchen paper to grab the membrane you can remove it the same way as you did the silverskin.
Now that the backstrap is cleaned up and you are left with a nice red meat it’s time to start thinking about flavoring.
Venison backstraps are naturally tender so marinating it is merely a means to add more flavor.
While this cut is naturally tender it lacks the flavor profile of some of the other cuts like flat iron, or ribs.
To improve on the flavor it’s best to marinade backstraps with deep complex ingredients.
Normally a marinade is made up of a few key ingredients, a salt for denaturing and balancing, an acid for denaturing and tenderizing, and an oil as a carrier.
Even though venison backstraps are naturally tender I still use these three key ingredients.
Common ingredients in backstrap marinades may include strong flavors like garlic and herbs, acidic ingredients like wine and fruit, and balancing ingredients like salt and sugar.
If you are not planning on marinating your venison backstraps, seasoning them is another great way to impart flavor.
Typically I will season backstraps that will be grilled or pan-fried, this gives a better maillard reaction than if I were to marinade them.
Backstraps could have a seasoning as simple as salt and pepper, but I usually like to add a little more.
My favorite seasoning for venison backstrap is one I made for a rack of venison.
This seasoning consisted of garlic, wild garlic, onion powder, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Because I used herbs in this seasoning the rack needed to be reverse seared, an important point to remember when seasoning your backstrap.
Salt is a key component in most seasonings but must be used carefully to get the most from your backstrap.
Salt extracts moisture from meat through the process of osmosis. This is why it is best to use salt just before cooking the backstrap.
There is an alternative option that will make the backstrap even more juicy.
If you salt the backstrap hours before cooking, the salt will extract the moisture, but if the backstrap remains put, it will eventually reabsorb most of this moisture.
This leads to a much more flavorful and tender backstrap.
Cooking Venison Backstrap
There are many ways to cook venison backstrap, but below I will share the most popular ways.
Each method has its pros and cons, but all methods are tried and tested by me, and produce great backstraps.
Before explaining the cooking methods, I first want to briefly explain resting.
When cooking backstrap, especially venison backstrap it’s essential to let it rest.
Resting should be used in all of the cooking methods below.
Because venison backstrap is very lean, and a large muscle, it will contract when heat is applied.
Resting the meat allows these muscles to decontract often releasing some juices which you can see on your chopping block.
If you don’t rest the meat these juices will end up on your plate and the backstrap will be tough and chewy.
A rule of thumb for resting is to let the meat rest for half of the time it was cooking for.
It’s also a good idea to cover the meat loosely with some foil, to stop it from cooling rapidly.
Do not wrap it tight, or you may end up steaming the backstrap and overcook it.
Resting (at least for all my recipes) is considered part of the cooking process.
As the meat rests it will continue to cook a little more.
For this reason, you should pull your backstrap about five degrees fahrenheit below your desired temperature, and allow the resting period to finish the cook.
For all the methods of cooking venison backstrap, you will need to sear the backstrap.
Searing is the process of cooking meat over high heat to create a maillard reaction.
There are two methods of searing, reverse searing, and searing.
Reverse sear is the process of searing the meat after it has been cooked at a lower temperature.
Reverse searing works particularly well for venison because it generally gives a more even cook.
Pan Fried Venison Backstrap
One of the most classic tried and tested methods for cooking venison backstrap is pan frying it.
This method works by heating a medium which will sear the backstrap, and slowly penetrate deeper.
What we are looking for in a pan-fried backstrap is a nice browning on the outside yet tender and juicy on the inside.
To achieve this you will need high heat, the right material for cooking on, and some fat.
The high heat will come in the form of a gas cooker, induction hob, or open fire.
Other types of cookers will struggle to reach the temperature needed to fry backstrap.
Next, you will need a material that is capable of searing the backstrap and creating a maillard reaction.
This material will be either cast iron or carbon steel. You can also use stainless steel but this is much harder to use.
Cast iron is very common, easy to use, and holds heat well.
The fat needs to be high temp tolerant. I usually use avocado oil or grapeseed oil.
Once you have all of this ready, preheat the pan over high heat, and liberally coat the backstrap in oil, and the seasoning of your choice.
Place the backstrap onto the pan and let it brown. The backstrap may stick at the start, but don’t worry this is normal.
The meat will release naturally after a couple of minutes, at which point you can turn it to brown the other sides.
Once the meat has been seared all over you can reduce the heat and cook the backstrap to your desired doneness, or temperature.
At this stage, some people like to add aromatics and butter.
If you are not used to cooking lean cuts of meat on the pan you may want to use a meat thermometer to monitor your backstrap.
Remove the backstrap from the pan about 5F below your desired temperature, and rest on a wooden block for about half of the time you were cooking.
Oven Roasted Venison Backstrap
Oven roasting backstrap is a great method for cooking backstraps that have been marinated.
By oven-roasting backstraps, you get to infuse so many flavors and create an incredibly juicy backstrap.
You can either sear or reverse sear the backstrap, but as mentioned above, reverse searing generally gives a more even cook, and the method I prefer for venison
I like to oven roast backstraps at around 375F, I find any higher than this is likely to dry out the venison.
The cooking time will depend on your desired doneness, but I wouldn’t go more than medium or the backstrap will start to tasty liverish.
Grilled Venison Backstrap
Grilling venison backstrap is probably my favorite way of cooking it.
What I love about grilling backstrap is the flavor it infuses from the charcoal.
Also as I mentioned earlier cooking backstrap works best over high heat to get a sear or Maillard reaction.
There is no better way for getting a sear on backstrap than over a charcoal grill.
Grilling venison backstrap is similar to pan frying except you are using a different medium for cooking, much of the process remains the same though.
Fire up your grill and get it to about 450-500F, I like to get closer to the hotter side.
With the backstrap seasoned or marinated, oil it well and place it on the grill.
You will have two options here, you can either cook it regularly or reverse sear.
A reverse sear typically creates a more even cook, but the main reason I use a reverse sear is if I am using herbs in my seasoning.
By reverse searing the backstrap I am allowing the herbs to cook into the meat, whereas if I put them over such high heat directly the will likely burn.
To reverse sear you will need to set your grill up for dual-zone cooking.
Cook the backstrap over indirect heat until it is about 10F below your desired temperature.
Then move the backstrap to direct heat and get a nice sear, before removing from the grill to rest.
For normal grilling, you can do the opposite of a reverse sear and similar to pan frying.
Place the backstrap over direct heat and get a nice sear then move to indirect heat to cook until 5f below your target temperature.
Sliced Venison Backstrap
Sliced venison backstrap might not come to mind when you think of how to cook a venison backstrap, but it’s one of my favorite methods of cooking venison backstrap.
What I mean by sliced backstrap, is thin slices of backstrap that are typically found in other dishes such as stir fry.
What I love about this method of cooking backstrap is how flavorful it is.
As I mentioned earlier backstrap has a mild flavor, and you can season it or marinate it to improve flavor.
Well by slicing the backstrap thinly and velveting, or marinating you will 10x the flavor.
I mostly use this method for Asian dishes like stirfry or Mongolian venison, but it also works well for classic dishes like stroganoff or venison and noodles.
The venison is cooked in a similar way to the methods above. First, brown the backstrap over high heat, then remove it to let it rest.
During this period you can continue making other components of the dish, before returning the venison near the end of the cooking process.
- rack of venison
- 1 sprig rosmary chopped
- 1 tsp thyme fresh or dried
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup high temp oil
- 1/2 tsp dried wild garlic
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- Add all the ingredients, minus the venison, to a mortar and work with teh pestle until you get almost a paste like consistency.
- Rub the mixture all of the rack of venison. Place the rack into a ziploc bag and set in the refrigerator.
- Set up your grill for dual zone heating, and heat to about 200-250F
- Remove the venison rack from the refrigerator and place onto the cooler side of the grill. Close th grill and cook for about 10 minutes, turning halfway
- Monitor the temperature of the rack. About 10 minutes should get you to around 115-120F
- Next move the rack to the hot side of the grill for the final sear, this should take about 5 minutes. See note 1
- Remove the venison rack from the grill and set onto a wooden block. Using some aluminum foil, cover the rack loosely and rest for 7 minutes.
- These are the times I used for a medium rare rack, but your milage may vary according to your grill setup and the size of the venison rack. It's best to use a good meat thermometer.