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Cooking Lean Game Meat

Source:  Oregon State University

Note:  Compare the fat content of game meat with beef (3 ounces, roasted):   buffalo has 2 fat grams; venison, 3 fat grams; and, chuck, 20 fat grams.   (Center for Health Promotion, Concord Hospital, Concord NH)  These tips for cooking venison apply to buffalo as well.

If your family enjoys the natural flavor of venison, your only cooking problem is making the meat tender. If your animal has a stronger flavor or the folks at home do not prefer the natural venison taste, you may increase their enjoyment of these meats in three ways.

1. Disguise the flavor with spices, herbs, or seasonings. Recipes with barbecue sauce, soy sauce. and marinades will help in this effort.

2. Dilute the flavor by mixing the venison with other meats and vegetables in stews, soups, and hamburger dishes.

3. Overwhelm the family by serving venison in so many ways they learn to like it.

Be Adventurous

Most cooks like to try new recipes now and then ad even make up some of their own. Be reasonable. Expect some limited successes and maybe even a failure or two when "experimenting" with venison. Write some notes to yourself when you hit a combination the family really enjoys. Keep these general rules in mind for successful venison cookery.

1. Don't overcook! Venison, especially deer, has short fibers that toughen quickly. Overcooking or using very high temperature leads to tough meat. Serve venison about medium well, never rare or very well done.

2. Most venison has little fat. Take this into consideration when cooking. Tender cuts like loin or tenderloin can be broiled or cooked on the charcoal grill. Less tender cuts like round are best cooked with moist heat - - stewing or pot roasting.

3. With little fat, venison is a dry meat. Efforts must be made to preserve moisture. Wrapping in foil, using a cooking bag, or covering with bacon strips will help.

4. Remove any venison fat before cooking. This seems like a paradox since the meat is normally low in fat but any game flavor will be most pronounced in the fat. Substitute beef or pork fat if needed.

5. Use acid to tenderize. Vinegar, tomato sauce, and french dressing sauces are good possibilities. Crushed papaya fruit will also do a suitable job of tenderizing. Meat should be marinated in the chosen sauce at least 24 hours. Venison treated this way may be broiled or charcoaled.

6. Venison is generally sweeter than domestic meats. Reduce sugar by one-fourth in sauce recipes originally developed for beef or pork.

Successful cooking may need to start several steps sooner for best results. Those who truly relish good venison invariably cut their own by boning it out. This removes much of the tough connective tissue, leaving straight-grained muscle for steaks and roasts. Cutting at home assures personalized handling and removal of excess fat, dirt, or stray hairs. It also saves additional expense.

The following recipes are based on boned-out meat. If someone else cuts the met, it is a simple task to remove any bone before trying one of these old favorites.

Panfried Venison

One of the oldest and probably still the best way to serve venison is quick frying of thin steaks. Cut thin steaks from the loin, sirloin, or round 1/4 or 3/8 inch thick. Flour or bread lightly. Quick fry in a sizzling hot skillet not over 1-1/2 minutes per side. Season with salt and serve hot. Use cooking oil, butter, bacon grease, or beef suet for shortening. Frying time is critical. Meat should be brown outside and gray or just a hint of pink in the middle. If steak is dry or tough, it was overcooked. Leavings in the skillet make a good pan gravy.

Venison Roast

Another method that preserves moisture is cooking in foil. Lay out a thawed roast on a sheet of foil large enough for double wrapping. Sprinkle with one package of dehydrated vegetable soup mix. Roll the roast in the mix until as much of the dry soup as possible is coating the roast's surface. Wrap tightly in the foil and place in the oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Depending on how well done you like your venison, cook the average 2 to 3 pound roast 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. The dry soup mix provides salt and seasoning and the meat will come out moist and juicy.

Crock Pot Venison

Cut steak-sized portions 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Brown approximately 1-1/2 pounds of these in a skillet and place in the bottom of the average 3 to 4 quart crock pot. Cover with a can of cream of mushroom soup thinned with up to 1/2 cup milk. Top with 2 tablespoons of butter. Peel or scrub well 6 small to medium potatoes and place them on top of the meat and soup. Finish filling the crock pot with uncooked chunks of squash or similar form of vegetable. Set on low and forget for about 8 to 10 hours. If you do this after breakfast in the morning, supper will be ready and waiting with no further effort. The meat will be tender and the soup will have formed a delightful gravy for the potatoes.