Venison Glaze and Middle Eastern Marinade

By Tom Dickson

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors November-December 2013 issue

A few months ago while eating lunch at a central Montana cafe, I overheard a fellow a few stools down telling the waitress how he prepares venison. “The gamy taste is all in the blood,” he told her. “I soak my venison in milk overnight and there’s almost no gamy taste.”

For most of my life I’ve been hearing that same advice about ridding the so-called “gamy” taste of venison by soaking it in milk, cola, buttermilk, vinegar, salt water, you name it. All to “get the blood out,” because supposedly the blood tastes terrible.

Is the bath necessary? It hasn’t been for the deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and elk many of my friends and I have killed and consumed over the years. We’ve yet to come across a “gamy”-tasting animal. But maybe we’ve been lucky. Or maybe it’s because we generally shoot does and cows rather than rutting males.

I suspect that much of what’s called “gamy” is actually spoiled venison that has sat in the sun or the back of a hot pickup so long that bacteria grew on and in the meat. To prevent this, cool the carcass as soon as possible by keeping it in the shade or removing the skin. With an elk, cut open the hip to the bone and break open the upper spine from the inside with a hatchet.

Another source of bad taste can be the fat and silverskin. Unlike domestic livestock, the fat of deer, elk, and pronghorn tastes terrible. That’s the source of the yucky flavor that turns so many people off. When cooked, venison fat tastes like burned leather.

Venison blood actually tastes sweet. But it turns bitter and takes on a “liver” taste when overcooked. That’s why most chefs serve venison medium rare, as they do liver.

All this is just the opinion of one amateur hunter-cook. But I’ve read a lot on the topic, talked to many chefs and butchers, and cooked tons of venison.

I generally prefer my venison steaks unadorned except for seasoning with salt and pepper, but occasionally I enjoy some added flavors. Here are a glaze and a marinade that friends and family have enjoyed. No milk required.Bear bullet

Tom Dickson is editor of Montana Outdoors.

This is a combination of several recipes gleaned from various cookbooks over the years.

3 T. maple syrup
1 T. chili powder
1 T. black pepper
1 t. cumin
½ t. coriander
¼ t. ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 T. olive oil
2 venison steaks

Mix glaze ingredients in a bowl. On high flame, grill steaks 3 minutes on each side. Rub paste on each side of steaks, grill each side 2 more minutes, and remove. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Middle Eastern Kebab Marinade
This recipe most closely matches my memory of street vendor kebabs I ate in Turkey and Greece many years ago.

⅓ C. olive oil
1 T. white vinegar
1 t. cumin
½ t. coriander
½ t. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
½ t. salt
1 pound venison, cut into 1.5-inch chunks

Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place in a Ziploc bag, add venison, and seal tightly. Marinate for 4 to 8 hours. Remove venison, thread on skewers, and grill.
Serve with warm pita bread, chopped
tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce:

8 oz. Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded,
diced, with liquid squeezed
out in a towel
1 T. olive oil
1 t. lemon juice
2 T. minced or crushed garlic
½ t. dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and process in a food processor or blender until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour
before serving.