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How to cook venison; part 1

How to cook venison; part 1

Oddly enough, considering its abundance in Britain, we are still not entirely sure about this whole venison eating business. Whether we have an ill-informed aversion to the gamey flesh or are simply unsure of that which we are not familiar, the fact remains that venison does not appear on our table as often as it could. ‘What’s for tea mum? Venison, dear’ just isn’t part of our vocabulary; although it could be worth it on pun value alone.

But here’s the thing. Venison is just another meat. We don’t mean to belittle the majesty of the deer, or undermine the value of its flesh, but the point is that there is nothing strange about it. We happily pluck lamb from the shelf or pick up a couple of beef steaks on the way home; but, venison?

Let’s bust a few myths before we look at how to cook venison.

Venison does not have to hang until it is high

We hang our venison, on the bone, for about a week. Just enough to tenderise the flesh and bring the flavour to the fore. If you have encountered the strong stuff it has probably been hung long enough to scare a fox.

Venison does not have to taste like a rugby player’s locker room

Venison can be very; male. It can taste strong and masculine, like flesh that is flooded with male hormones. Our venison comes from both male and female deer, depending on season, but it will never taste overly musky. Why? Because all of our wild Ayrshire venison is from roe deer and has tender delicate flesh. Much of the venison you will encounter elsewhere comes from the robust red deer.

So, you have your delicate wild Ayrshire venison. It may not be strong, or musky, but it is also very definitely venison. Akin to young beef, but with all the nuances of the Scottish countryside, the key to cooking venison is the same as any other meat; to enhance the natural flavour.

How to cook venison

Venison is very, very lean with very finely textured muscle fibres and little external fat. This means two things; it can dry out easily and it goes cold quickly. No matter, you just need to know how to handle it. And, like all other meat, different cuts need different methods of cooking; hot and fast or low and slow.

This article looks at hot, fast methods such as grilling, pan frying and roasting. Part 2 will cover the low and slow, as well as what to do with mince.  We will also cover what to serve with venison and which flavours to add during cooking.

The venison steak

The main steak cuts of venison are loin fillet and haunch. Always –

                Bring the steaks to room temperature before cooking.

                Cook venison steaks in a fry or grill pan; best case is cast-iron, worst case is non-stick.

                Oil the meat not the pan; salt the pan not the meat.

                Cook venison steaks to rare or medium; never well done.

                Make sure the pan is smoking hot; a splash of water will sizzle wildly.

                Don’t overcrowd the pan; give them enough space or you will lose heat.

                Let the venison steaks rest for 5 minutes after cooking; tented with foil.

Cooking times for venison haunch steaks, based on a 1-inch thickness, are –

                3 minutes each side = rare

                3.5 minutes each side = medium

Venison loin fillet medallions will need less cooking time; just 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

The venison roast

The main roasting joints of venison are haunch and saddle. Bone in will always cook better than boned and rolled, but a boneless joint makes for easy cooking and carving; boneless haunch and loin fillets. Here’s what you need to know –

                Deer do not come in uniform shapes and sizes so cooking times vary.

                Add plenty of fat to the roasting tin; beef dripping or goose fat is good.

                Allow 20 to 30 minutes’ rest before serving; tent with foil to conserve heat.

                Roast venison saddle with the bones pointing downwards.

                Roast all venison joints at 200C for the entire cooking time.

Cooking times for roast venison are –

The rule of thumb is 20 to 25 minutes for rare and 30 to 35 minutes for medium. The size of a joint is as important as its weight. A long thin loin fillet will take less time to cook than a big fat haunch. If unsure, either use a meat thermometer or stick a skewer in and judge how bloody the juices are. Once you get the hang of roasting venison, in fact all meat, you won’t need that skewer any more. It is as much about confidence and experience as anything else.

So that completes this initial look at how to cook venison. Join us for part 2 next week, and some tips on flavours that match the delicate wild flavour of our Ayrshire wild venison.

As ever, we are here to answer any queries you might have, so get in touch or leave a comment.

Take a look at some of our venison recipes. If you are new to venison cookery, then the venison steak with pink peppercorn sauce is an excellent place to start.

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