Growing up in “God’s country,” the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I’ve eaten my fair share of venison. My family didn’t hunt, but I had plenty of friends who shared their scores with me over the years. You’ll find some of the healthiest, largest bodied whitetail deer in the U.P.
In the past, if I tried to grill or roast venison, it always came out gamey, tough, and dry. I resorted to making stews with any cuts I received, even the precious back-strap! *gasp!* Looking back, knowing what I know now, I am ashamed of myself. What a waste of the best cut! It is considered the filet mingnon of deer meat.
We now live in Greensboro, North Carolina, where deer are a plenty! While my husband Dave has little time to hunt, we were gifted some fresh cuts of venison from our friend Lowell last week who knew we were feeling deprived. (THANK YOU, Lowell!) We got some roasts and the back-strap. I was determined to figure out a way to prepare that back-strap with the honor it deserved. I figured a marinade would be the way to go, so I started looking in my favorite wild game cookbook for a recommended marinade. That is when I began reading about the idea of preparing a brine for venison. Let me just say MIND BLOWING.
I’ve brined turkey plenty of times before. You can find my brine recipe for turkey in my Season’s Eatings holiday e-cookbook. But venison? This was a first time for me! And let me say, I will ALWAYS brine my venison from now on if it’s not going into a stew after trying it!
Without a question, preparing a brine for your venison will produce flavorful, tender meat. A brine is essentially a marinade with a high salt content that causes a specific reaction with the meat. You’ll place your meat in a salt water solution for 6-24 hours, long enough for the salt to permeate and actually alter the molecular structure of the meat. The salt breaks down the protein fibers resulting in a juicy, tender, fantastic piece of meat. If you’ve never done a brine before (turkey, venison, chicken, even beef), you’ll just have to trust me and try it.
Note that my venison brine recipe does use sugar (molasses) simply because I wanted to flavor my venison with the dark rich flavor of molasses. If you are strictly eating the Advanced Plan, you can easily eliminate the sugar from the recipe and still get a great result. Sugar added to a brine does not affect the tenderizing reaction. Sugar is added to a brine simply to flavor the meat and aid in the caramelization of the meat when cooked. No sweat to cut it out.
By far, this was the best venison I have ever had. We will be making this again! We just need our buddy Lowell to get himself another deer! :)
- 1/2 cup Himalayan sea salt
- 1/2 cup Coconut Secret coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup unsweetened Worchestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp crushed dry bay leaves
- 2 Tbsp fresh black pepper
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 1.) Combine all brine ingredients in a storage container of your choice. I like to use a large stainless steel bowl. Glass would also be ideal. Stir with a whisk to combine and completely dissolve the sea salt.
- 2.) Rinse and pat dry the back-strap. I like to slice mine into 1 inch steaks, but you can choose to leave whole. Drop the venison into the bowl and make sure it is completely covered by the brine. Cover with a towel (or plastic wrap/foil if you use) and let stand in fridge for 6-24 hours.
- 3.) 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook, remove the brine from the fridge and let come to room temperature. Place a cast iron or stainless steel skillet into the oven. Set the oven for 450 degrees F.
- 4.) Remove the steaks from the brine and set onto a paper towel to blot and drips. Season both sides with pepper and a sprinkle of garlic powder.
- 5.) Turn a stovetop burner onto Medium-High heat. Carefully remove the hot skillet from oven and place on the burner. Drop in a teaspoon of coconut oil or ghee. Place the steaks in the skillet and sear on one side for one minute (that's it, no longer!). Flip each steak, turn off burner, then return skillet to the 450 degree F oven.
- 6.) Cook steaks for 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total) for a medium finish. Flip each steak after the first 3 minutes. (I would cook no longer than 8 minutes total, otherwise your meat will dry out and become tough.)
- 7.) Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the steak to a platter. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes before serving to let the juices reabsorb.
- Do not let brine sit longer than 24 hours as it can make for mushy meat.
- You can use vegetable stock or white/red wine to deglaze the hot skillet and make a quick and easy pan sauce.