Michigan deer: We raise, harvest and eat them

Cook your venison so that it is safe and has the best taste possible. Using a thermometer is essential in making sure venison is safe to eat, yet not overcooked and dry.

Providing venison and wild game for our families to enjoy is part of Michigan’s hunting heritage. In order to enjoy deer meat to its fullest you need to know about cooking venison, so that it is not only safe to eat but nutritious and delicious.

Anyone who has cooked much venison knows that it is very lean and overcooking it will dry out the meat and cause it to be tough. Michigan State University Extension has some cooking tips for you so that you end up with a great tasting product.

  • Have a food thermometer ready to use. Venison should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure harmful bacteria are killed. The color of the meat is not a reliable indicator of when the venison is fully cooked.
  • Don’t add salt to the meat before cooking because it will draw out the meat juices.
  • Preheat your oven, grill or pan before cooking.
  • Brush venison with oil or wrap it with bacon to seal in flavor and prevent the meat from drying out.
  • Add quick-cooking oatmeal to ground venison to retain its flavor and moisture.
  • Use mild acid – containing marinades to tenderize venison.
  • Moist heat methods tend to give the most desirable product. Always use moist-heat methods of cooking for less tender cuts such as bottom round or shoulder roasts.
  • Dry-heat roasting can be used on cuts that are naturally tender, such as top round, sirloin and rump roasts, if the deer is very young.

Older bucks generally have the gamiest flavor. Try the following if your venison has an objectionable, strong “gamey” taste:

  • Trim all visible fat from the meat: Fat is a major source of the wild flavor.
  • Soak the meat in salted water, milk, buttermilk or vinegar to remove blood from the flesh.
  • Soak the meat in marinades containing vinegar, tomato juice or fruit juice; marinate in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours or the meat will become mushy.
  • Use strong flavors such as garlic or soy sauce in the preparation.

Home canning, freezing or drying are great ways to preserve venison. Always use recommended research based recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, United States Department of Agriculture, So Easy to Preserve or an updated version of the Ball Blue Book. Happy hunting and safe cooking!

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