What Is Venison?
Everything you need to know about the red meat alternative and how to prepare it.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
If hunting game is part of your culture, then you’re probably familiar with venison. Or maybe you’ve noticed venison jerky joining the ranks of beef jerky on grocery store shelves. But what is venison? Here, we answer all your venison questions, from what it tastes like to how to prepare it.
What Kind of Meat Is Venison?
Although venison is most commonly meat from deer, the term technically refers to the meat from any game animal including elk, caribou or antelope. In fact, the word “venison” is derived from the Latin word venari, which means to hunt or pursue. Venison can be portioned into similar cuts as beef, including steaks, roasts, ground meat and stew meat.
Is Venison Healthier than Beef?
Venison contains 50% less fat than beef, and while it’s slightly higher in cholesterol, it’s lower in saturated fats, making it a healthy red meat alternative. It is also slightly higher in protein and contains higher levels of Vitamins B6 and B12, Omega 3 fatty acids, riboflavin and niacin. It contains high levels of iron and is an abundant source of selenium, a powerful mineral and antioxidant.
Does Venison Taste Like Beef?
Venison may come in similar cuts as beef, but the flavor isn’t comparable. Venison has a distinct earthy, almost rich flavor, owing to a deer’s diet of grasses, leaves, twigs, berries and fruit. Venison may have other flavor characteristics influenced by diet, including herbaceous notes from herbs or nuttiness from acorns. It has a firm, smooth texture, but since it’s much leaner than beef, it tends to not be as juicy.
How to Cook Venison Steak
Using a pan-sear to oven method (much like you’d sear a beef steak) is a straight-forward and delicious way to prepare venison, which often comes from the deer’s hindquarters.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Generously season venison steaks with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.
Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Using tongs, place venison in the pan and sear steaks until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn the steaks over, place pan in oven, and roast until a thermometer inserted reads 135 degrees F for medium rare, 4 to 5 minutes for 8-ounce venison steaks.
Venison is a versatile protein that can factor into dishes you’d typically prepare with beef. You can grill it as you would steak or burgers, but because venison is a lean cut of meat, it benefits from incorporating additional fat, such as chopped bacon or ground pork in burger patties or wrapping a tenderloin with bacon. Its natural earthiness makes it a good match for fruit-based sauces, such as the sauce in Venison Tenderloin with Berry Sauce and Creamy Potatoes. Venison also plays well in low and slow preparations such as Venison Chili or pot roast. It can be mixed with other proteins to make sausage or dehydrated to make jerky.
Here are some of our favorite venison recipes.
Venison Chili from the Land (Pictured Above)
Nancy Fuller makes venison the star of this smoky, sublime chili by cooking stew meat in rendered bacon fat and letting it simmer low and slow with dark beer, fire-roasted tomatoes and a medley of peppers and spices.
In this healthy, flavor-forward sliders recipe, Robert Irvine combines ground venison with pork and a duo of chopped mushrooms and apples. The mixture is formed into mini patties, then grilled until medium and finished with blue cheese crumbles and served on potato rolls.
Bone-in venison loin steaks step in for beef tenderloin steaks with a classic accompaniment of onions and peppers. Marinating the steaks tenderizes the meat and helps ensure that they stay juicy while cooking, and the rosemary-infused marinade is a natural match for venison’s earthy flavor profile.
For your next party trick, try Robert Irvine’s riff on surf-and-turf by mixing ground venison and pork to make a stuffing for whole shrimp. Wrap the lot in bacon, secure with toothpicks, and broil. Voila! These are the kind of party bites that’ll have everyone asking for the recipe.