Cooking venison steak may appear challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
However, many people still get it wrong without realizing it and then blame the meat for its offputting taste.
While venison steak isn’t complicated to cook, but it does need a different approach than beef due to having a much lower fat percentage and a different makeup.
3 Methods To Cook Venison Steak
There are three main methods for cooking venison steak, regardless of which cut you are using.
These methods are selected for their high heat and ability to sear the meat.
Cooking venison steak in a pan is the most common and easiest method.
To achieve the best results, you should use cast iron, stainless steel, or carbon steel pan.
The reason for these pans is that they are capable of reaching high heat and can get a nice sear on the steak.
Cast iron is the cheapest and most beginner friendly of the three.
- Heat the skillet on high heat; it’s ok to let it smoke.
- Add a small drop of oil to the pan. Make sure to use a high temp oil like avocado or grapeseed oil. Do not use olive oil, as it will burn and turn bitter.
- Season the room-temperature steak
- Place the steak on the pan and cook for approx two minutes per side (This varies according to the cut of steak) or to your desired temperature.
- Remove the steak from the pan and place it on a wooden board to rest for four to six minutes.
While cooking venison steaks on the pan is the easiest and most common, cooking them on the grill is the most favored.
The grill gives the steak an excellent char flavor on the outside full of smokiness, yet allowing the inside to remain rare, juicy and tender.
- Get your grill going and up to about 500-600F
- Season the room-temperature steak
- Place the steak over the hottest part of the grill for about two minutes per side.
- Remove the steak an let it rest
The oven is another great option for cooking venison steak but a little different than the other two methods.
This method is still best if a skillet is used afterwards to sear the steak, although it’s not necessary.
- Preheat your oven to 450F
- Season the steak
- Place the venison steak on a baking tray in the oven
- Cook for approx ten minutes
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest
- Heat a cast iron pan over high heat. Flash the steak on the pan on each side (optional).
Searing the steak gives us that charred flavor that we are familiar with when it comes to steak.
While you don’t have to sear a steak, it makes for a much better taste, texture, and cook.
Contrary to popular belief, searing steak doesn’t help retain moisture. In fact, it does the opposite.
Searing steak evaporates moisture, and this is why you should only briefly sear the steak on each side.
In the case of venison, you need to keep moisture evaporation to a minimum.
To do so, you should get the pan as hot as possible. This will allow you to reduce the searing time, allowing the steak to retain more moisture.
What searing does do is cause a Maillard reaction. This is the browning on the outside of the steak and is a chemical by the sugars and proteins.
There are two methods for searing steak:
Pre-Searing – This is the standard method that everyone knows. To pre-sear a steak, heat a skillet over high heat.
Once the pan reaches 500F flash the seasoned steak on each side.
Keep in mind that the steak will reduce the temperature of the pan.
Reverse searing – Reverse searing a steak is done in the same way as searing but at a different time.
Reverse searing is done after the steak has already been cooked in the oven and rested.
This method makes it easier to maintain an even cook, and I find it helps retain moisture.
I generally only marinate venison steaks if I am cooking them in the oven and reverse searing.
The issue with marinating is the moisture content. While all that extra moisture makes for a tasty steak, it affects the searing, which means you won’t get the nice charred outside.
However, if you are cooking the steak in the oven as a whole backstrap or tenderloin, then marinating makes sense.
You can then reverse sear the meat before slicing it up into steaks.
How do you like your steak? Well, with venison, you get fewer options than you would with beef.
The longer you cook a venison steak, the more it dries out. Venison doesn’t have the fat content of beef to help maintain moisture.
Not only does cooking beyond medium leave you with a dry steak it will also impart a taste often considered to be “”gamey””.
This is a livery kind of taste that is unpleasant to most people.
I recommend cooking venison no more than medium, although medium rare would be better.
The times are for a pan-fried or grilled steak about 1.5 inches thick. The temperatures are for oven baked cuts.
- Rare – 2.5-3 minutes on each side Rest – 5 minutes
- Medium Rare -4 minutes on each side Rest – 6 minutes
- Medium – 5 minutes on each side Rest – 8 minutes
Rare – 14-17 minutes per pound Rest 7 minutes
Medium Rare – 18-20 minutes per pound Rest 9 minutes per pound
Medium – 21-22 minutes per pound Rest 10 minutes
One crucial step when cooking venison steak is to allow the steak to rest.
Many people often overlook this and end up complaining that the steak is tough while navigating a plate of juice.
Resting the steak allows the muscle fibers to relax after the cooking period.
This is crucial in venison steak as it allows it to retain moisture. Most of the moisture would escape if you cut into an unrested venison steak.
And as we already know, venison tends to be on the dryer side of steaks.
The recipe below is for a simple pan-fried or grilled venison steak. This is a simple approach without any fancy ingredients other than the venison steak and a simple herb butter that pairs well with the steak.
With that said, using this recipe will give you a steak as good as any steak house, if not better.
The focus here is the steak and getting the maillard reaction. Sometimes I like to spruce it up a little and will throw some prawns on the pan after the steak to make a surf and turf.
However, if you try this recipe, you will see that sometimes simple is better.
Pan-Fried Venison Steak
- 2 venison steaks approx 1-1.5 inches thick
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- High temperature oil I prefer avocado oil, but other oils like grapeseed are also good
Garlic and Herb Butter
- 3 oz butter I prefer buffalo butter
- 2 clove garlic finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chives chopped finely
- 2 teaspoons parsley chopped finely
- Take the venison steaks out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature (approx 30 minutes)
- Mix the chives, parsley, garlic, and butter together. Wrap the butter and shape. Set it in the fridge.
- Pat the steaks dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper
- Place a cast iron pan on high heat and bring to smoking
- Place a teaspoon of oil in the pan
- Add the steak to the pan and gently press down. Cook the steak to your desired temperature using the information in the article above.
- Remove steak and rest for required time (see article above)
- The butter can be made ahead of time allowing it to set better
- This recipe will also be the same for grilled steaks. Bring the grill to about 500F
- Resting time varies according to the cook on the steak (see article above)