Game cooking

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Venison is the generic term for meat from a large group of related grazing animals. It includes caribou, reindeer, deer, moose and elk.

For all practical purposes it also includes musk oxen, antelope and buffalo [bison]. The recipes are generally interchangeable. Musk oxen and buffalo cuts tend to be more tender as these animals are more sedentary by nature.

You can do anything with venison that you would beef. Just remember that it is drier- less fat, so steaks should be marinaded/tenderized/pounded and cooked just to medium, not over-done.

It is important to realize that wild meat can vary in quality and toughness, whereas commercial beef is a pretty uniform product.

Venison factors are:

~1- Age and sex of animal. Meat can be as tender and mild as veal in a young doe. (And you always get steer meat in a store never bull.

Castration does make a difference.) ~2-Clean kill. If a deer is stalked while it is peacefully grazing and dropped dead in its tracks, it will taste far better than an animal that has been chased by hounds, then gut shot, then it runs a few more miles before collapsing. The blood is full of adrenaline and the acidic by-products of exercise and exertion and the flesh is tainted by the torn up organs.

~3- Aging and butchering. When I was a kid growing up in Eastern Ontario, we went deer hunting in the fall, when it was cool and deer were hung to age and tenderize, then butchered at a local abattoir that handled beef and pork professionally. We received nicely wrapped, properly cut and trimmed frozen packages. It was generally pretty good. Up here caribou is shot all year long and traditionally butchered immediately [before it spoils in the summer or freezes solid in the winter] And some hunters are more skilled at butchering than others... I have been made "gifts" of quarters of caribou that have been field frozen with the fur on and wrapped in green garbage bags and stored in somebody's back yard for a month or two! I have also received superb sausages made by a man who apprenticed as a sausage-maker in Germany.

If you know where your meat came from, you will know whether it should tenderized or just cooked.

If your steaks are coming from a commercial game farm, they will be from a young animal, carefully slaughtered and aged. I would treat them the same as any prime beef T-bone. Probably charcoal BBQ'd or gas grilled to just medium rare and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper AFTER it has been cooked... nothing fancy, no marinades and no strong BBQ sauces. That way you will be able to truly taste the venison.

For wild meat you may want to marinade first, if it's tough.

Submitted By JIM WELLER On 09-21-95

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