Exploring the Art of Venison

This deer meat is a tasty alternative to beef that can be a fun challenge for chefs to cook.

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December 9, 2016 4 min read

A truly well-rounded chef knows how to cook just about any dish. That means not only having the desire to stretch those creative muscles, but doing so in a way that appeals to diners. While beef, fish and pork are all popular options for meat, they’re not the only meals that customers might seek out.

“Venison is any edible part of the deer.”

One popular meat is venison, which is the meat from a deer. Specifically, venison is any deer part that’s edible, and can even refer to internal organs and skin. It might not be as common as some other choices, but venison is a tasty delight that can be equally as enjoyable to cook.

If you want to continually improve as a culinary student, then take the time to master the art of venison:

The origins of venison
It’s important to recognize that there are certain sales restrictions in regards to venison. According to the Wall Street Journal, upwards of 85 percent of venison sold in the U.S. originally comes from New Zealand. That’s because American hunters can’t sell their meat to restaurants and other providers.

However, in recent years, there have been some moves to commercialize hunting and allow people to sell venison directly. This comes as the U.S. deer population has skyrocketed to as many as 45 million animals in all. As a chef, it’s essential that you’re aware of where venison is coming from to ensure the best quality possible.

Know your many cuts
According to First Light Farm, venison comes in a few different cuts, each of which are better suited for their own individual cooking style. Steaks and medallions are especially popular, and are generally barbecued or pan-fried. Diced or roast venison can both be seared, but be sure to stick to more moderate temperatures. Stir fry venison, meanwhile, is going to come out best when cooked in a wok or other hot pan. No matter the method, it’s important to keep in mind the cooking time, thickness and weight of each cut to avoid charred meat.

“Shank meat is better cooked medium, while loins are tastiest when prepared rare.”

Don’t forget the doneness
GameAndGarden.com has extensive experience in cooking all sorts of wild game. When offering tips for newbies, the site explained that it’s important to make sure you’re considering the doneness of your venison while cooking. That’s because venison can be especially sensitive, and you have to be sure to cook meat carefully. Shank and neck, for instance, are better served medium, while loins and tenderloin are often at their tastiest when prepared rare. According to Clover’s Meadow, use the same rule for doneness as with other meats: the finger test.

Tenderize accordingly 
If you’ve never cooked with wild game, then you might not be aware that many cuts will need to to be tenderized. Certain pieces, including the tenderloin, are naturally soft and malleable, while the shanks and hindquarters are especially tough. If you’re working with thinner cuts (chops and steaks), grab a mechanical tenderizer, like a crank or anything with really fine blades. Of course, you could go another way and use marinades to tenderize the meat. However, just keep in mind that you want something with enzymes and not acids. The latter will actually toughen the meat up.

Make the right cuts 
As mentioned above, venison can bE sensitive, which is why you have to take care when cutting and preparing the meat. While fat is a favorite part of beef, it’s decidedly un-tasty on venison, so be sure to trim it all away. Always exercise similar caution when you’re slicing the meat before cooking. Too thin, and you run the risk of overcooking given how quickly venison tends to finish. As a last essential tidbit, never use salt, as this will only dry the meat out and mess with the moisture content.

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