As it is for many rural Kentuckians, deer hunting is perhaps my favorite pastime. And, since I strive to eat as healthy as I can (you can read more about that here) and as well as I can (if a great deal of our lives are spent eating it might as well be enjoyable!), I make use of the venison that my hunting pursuits afford me. Perhaps my favorite way to eat venison is grilled. Below I explain the process that I go through to make my grilled venison steaks as mouth-watering as possible.
Step 1: Vacuum Sealing and Wet-Aging
My vacuum sealer is one of my most used kitchen appliances. It keeps my meat fresh longer and saves me a ton of space in the freezer. They’re a little pricey, but mine has been well worth the investment. Growing up, my family would either wrap meats in freezer wrap or freeze them in water. Needless to say, you can only hold so much meat in your freezer when close to half of the space is taken up by the frozen water in which your meat is stored. Along with keeping meat fresh and saving space, I also use my vacuum sealer as a way of wet-aging my meat. Ideally, I would age my deer by hanging it either in a cooler or in a barn, but since I don’t have access to a walk-in cooler and Kentucky weather is not consistent enough to hang meat over a period of a day or two, I wet age my meat by vacuum sealing it and allowing it to set for several days in the refrigerator. This past year I let my vacuumed-sealed meat age in the refrigerator for seven days before freezing. Aging meat in this way allows the connective tissues to break down and results in more tender cuts.
Step 2: Cutting and Marinating
Following the aging and freezing process, it’s time to cut and marinade. I like to cut my pieces about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Depending upon the shape of the chunk, I usually cut my deer steaks into medallions or longer strips. In the picture above, the medallions were cut from a piece of backstrap (the cut of meat that runs alongside a deer’s spine) and the longer pieces were cut from an inner loin. I also like to marinade my steaks for a couple of hours before cooking. Truth be told, venison steaks are good enough not to require a marinade but this is the general process that I undertake to prepare my steaks. I make my marinade from the ingredients above. For every 1 part of lemon juice, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, I use 3 parts olive oil. For me, that usually comes out to 6 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons each of the lemon juice, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. When I mix the ingredients together in that amount, I add a heaping teaspoon of black pepper as well.
Step 3: Preparing the Grill
After I’ve thawed, cut, and marinated my steaks, it is time to prepare the grill. I try to get my coals as hot as possible and have a place for direct as well as indirect heat. How hot is as hot as possible? To be honest, I am not exactly sure since I don’t have a thermometer on my grill. However, I let my coals get good and hot, leave my vents wide open, and place my lid over the top of my coals and grill plate for about 15 minutes before I put on my steaks.
Step 4: Grill the Meat!
After the grill is good and hot, it’s finally time to put on the meat and close the lid. First, I grill the steaks over direct heat until each side gets a good char and has visible grill marks. After each side has grill marks, I transfer the steaks to the indirect heat making sure that the whatever side was facing down when it was over direct heat is still facing down when the meat is moved. Throughout the process, I only want to turn the steaks one time. Once the steaks are over indirect heat, I allow them to cook until they are medium-rare to medium. As far as time goes, I usually grill the steaks for around 2 minutes 15 seconds per side over direct heat and then an additional minute over indirect heat. However long it takes your venison steaks to cook will obviously be determined by how thick your cuts are and how hot you have your grill . The most important thing to remember when grilling venison steaks, along with most wild meats, is never to cook the steaks past medium. In fact, the closer to rare your steaks are the better they will be.
As his image bearers, God has placed us in charge of a wonderful world (Ps. 8). The resourcefulness, wisdom, and creativity that it takes to hunt, clean, process, prepare, cook, and enjoy venison is one of the many good gifts from God that gives me pleasure. I most want to reflect his image in the way that I treat my neighbor. However, rural activities such as hunting and cooking can mirror God’s goodness as well when done in thanksgiving. And, when it comes to these things, not much tastes as sweet as venison steak!
If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.