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The Most Common Question at Sports Shows: How to Cook Deer Steak

The most common question asked at seminars and game cooking classes is; “How do I cook those deer round steaks that I’ve got in my freezer”? Over the years I’ve learned to say more using less words and my answer has been whittled down to one phrase, “cut them into stew meat or grind for sausage”. I then respond and explain that I have too much material to cover how to cook deer steak in a 45-minute seminar but if anyone wants to stick around after the seminar we can further discuss this topic. I am always amazed at how many people stick around, so many people that sometimes we have to end the conversation so I can clean up before the next presenter starts.

Misconceptions About How to Cook Deer Steak

Most hunters start the conversation around how to cook deer steak stating that those round steaks are tough, chewy, and taste gamey. They say that they have tried everything to make those round steaks taste good but nothing works. Many hunters try marinating the round steaks in Italian dressing thinking that will tenderize and mask the gamey flavor. This process does not really work – the meat is still chewy, tastes gamey, and contorts out of shape when cooking. The next thing you know; no one in your family wants to eat any venison because of the unfavorable experience they had with those round steaks. This results in hunters giving away their meat or eating it by themselves or leaving it in the freezer until it is freezer burnt and then throwing the meat away or feeding it to the dog. If you must give your game meat away or if you harvest more than you can eat, please donate before the meat goes bad. Check out your state “Hunters Feeding The Hungry Program”, you can find this information at the NRA website, it lists all state and local programs.

Why Stews Or Grinding is Best

Here’s why I make the stew or grinding recommendation. Round steaks are good for beef but not for members of the deer family. The term venison represents all members of the deer family. Beef round steaks are from a young farm raised animal that has been constantly standing around and eating all day. All members of the deer family are always on the move grazing from feeding area to bedding areas. They are much more active, have a lot less fat making them leaner. To top it off, we don’t always harvest a young animal. Because these muscles are worked more they are tougher. 

Round steaks consist of three muscles, the top round, also known as the inside round. The bottom round also known as the outside round. And the eye of the round, sometimes known as the mock tenderloin because it looks like a tenderloin. All three of these muscles are wrapped in that sticky tacky thin membrane known as fascia along with some silverskin. In the middle of these muscles are a big wade of fat and gland which also alters the flavor of the meat. This fascia is what makes the meat chewy, taste gamey, and makes the muscle contort out of shape when it cooks. The result of trying to cook these muscles as one steak is a tough, chewy, gamey, piece of meat. Most butchers fabricate the hind leg into round steaks because that’s what they do with beef, it’s fast and productive, they too have to make a living because time is money. The hind leg on larger animals such as elk, moose, and caribou, should be fabricated into the individual muscles due to the size of the muscles. If you decide to cook the entire hind leg then it should be brined to inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms and to alter the flavor to mask that gamey taste.

From Field to Table Can Help

The Elk Chart on the From Field to Table website provides photos and locations of these muscles along with best cooking methods suited for each muscle. For exact location and how to butcher and fabricate the hind leg into these muscles check out our videos. For tools and equipment needed to process your game meat check out our Made with Meat sponsors. Their equipment is top of the line and most reasonably priced. Remember “quality in equals quality out”. That’s my favorite saying for meat as well as equipment.

The next time you are in the supermarket go to the meat counter and check out top round steaks, bottom round roasts, eye of the round roasts, and round steaks. You will be pleasantly surprised at your meat identification skills. 

We all have our favorite cooking methods, special techniques, and recipes. If you enjoy and like the outcome please continue to do so, but if your family members and friends don’t like the outcome we need to change it up some whether it be in the field, at the butcher block, or in the pan.

Here are two recipes for cooking elk bottom round. Because the bottom round is considered less than tender it can be slow cooked as a pot roast or with dry cooking methods such as grilling and serving the meat rare with the exception of bear and boar.

Good Cooking and we’ll see you on the trail,

Chef Wutsch

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