Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cooking tips

With Christmas approaching, folks who were fortunate enough to put venison in their freezers will be looking to put some of it on the table, either on Christmas Day or sometime over the holidays.

One of my favorites is venison meat pie. But, there's also venison stew, which we had the other day. Or, even grilled venison steaks. Yes, I know it's pretty cold to be outdoors standing over the grill, but I have done it and will do so again. We have some 30-degree days coming up and that's plenty warm enough to go out and fire up the grill.

So, this is a good time to offer some tips for getting the most out of your venison. One of the most common complaints I get is that the meat tastes too gamey. Another is that it's too tough. I have solutions to both of these problems.

The first will take a little extra time, but it's well worth it. No matter who butchers your deer, there will be silver skin, fat and gristle on the meat. The gamey flavor resides here, so take it all off. It may seem like a time-consuming task, but you won't believe the difference it will make in the taste of your venison. Without this stuff, the meat tastes very mild and even has a little sweetness. I use a fillet knife to do the job. The rule of thumb is this: If it's not red, cut it off.

To prevent toughness, there are two options -- slow cooking in a crock pot or using a meat tenderizer. I bought one a couple of years ago that is fantastic. It is spring loaded and has 48 small blades that pierce the meat. I go over each piece of meat three times, then cook it. The end result is a piece of meat so tender you can cut it with a butter knife.

Here's one last tip: Do NOT overcook your venison. The rule for me is to have it either pink or red in the middle. Also, it usually requires less time on the grill than beef. If you see juice running out of your steaks after you take them off the grill and put them on a platter, you're in business.

Bon appetit and Merry Christmas!

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