HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Best way to cook venison backstrap?

My hunter friend gave me a venison backstrap that is thawing right now. If I understand correctly, this is the NY Strip equivalent on a deer. If it was a beef NY Strip, I'd grill or roast it to rare. However, this thing is so skinny that I'm afraid it won't brown before it's fully cooked in the middle.

Any recommendations on an effective technique to cook this thing? Flavor affinities?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It is the equilalent to a tenderloin.

    I like to grill them over hot coals seasoned with a dry rub. Serve rare, sliced diagonally.

    If one end is much thinner than the other end, I will cut in ~half, and cook the smaller piece with less time/heat.

    If it doesn't brown then the heat was too low (a little sugar in the dry rub will encourage browning, as will teriyaki in a wet soak). I would rather have rare/unbrowned, than well/brown.

    1. During the post-hunt card games at the camp in PA, we slice the backstraps into medallions and flash fry them, 30 seconds per side, in a tad of oil, Worchestershire, and cracked pepper, and keep serving them up as appetizers. We call them "speedies".
      Backstraps are so lean, be careful if you cook it whole so as not to dry it out.

      1. Venison backstrap is NOT the "tenderloin" it is the animal's loin. Think pork loin vs. pork tenderloin. When the animal is processed (cut in two) it creates two "backs straps"...two pieces of loin...The most popular cooking method is sliced and cooked quickly over high heat...on the stove or grill.. with emphasis not to over cook! HTH



        9 Replies
        1. re: Uncle Bob

          I agree that it is not tenderloin. Can you confirm that it is equivalent to shell/strip/NY Strip?

          A few votes for frying medallions/slices so far. Why is that preferable to cooking whole? It seems like cooking it whole would preserve moisture and prevent overcooking.

          What internal temp should I aim for?

          1. re: jeremyn

            A backstrap is a tenderloin, period. Cylindrical, about a foot long, nothing but lean. There is perilously little moisture to preserve, and no fat. Think of a cross section as an archery target with 3 concentric circles. To cook the center through, you will toast the outer ring, which is 55% of your meat.
            A good argument for slicing.

            1. re: huckfinn

              Not true.... period!!! Two different things! A animal (beef, hog, deer, goat etc) has ONE loin (until sawed in two) and TWO tenderloins next to the backbone in the area of the kidneys......HTH


              1. re: Uncle Bob

                You are correct Uncle Bob. It is technically not the equivialant of the tenderloin from a cow. It is the same as the loin from the saddle of deer or rabbit. The true tenderloin in a deer is very small. But in cooking I would treat it as I would a tenderloin.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I agree..my recommended cooking methods would be the same for both the loin and tenderloin on a deer. Also agree, that technically (or otherwise) that the loin (backstrap) on a deer is not the equivalent of the tenderloin on the deer.


                2. re: Uncle Bob

                  As I said. Two backstraps = two tenderloins per deer. I carve them out all the time.

                  1. re: huckfinn

                    One is not the same as the other...If however where you come from you (erroneously) call a loin (from any animal) a tenderloin and do not differentiate between the two I understand your confusion ~~~ It's late, it's been fun, have a good evening.


                  2. re: Uncle Bob

                    Uncle Bob, you have posted the link to the graphic of primal cuts several times now, but the graphic is pointing to the loin, not the backstrap. The backstrap IS the equivalent to the tenderloin. It is not located on the back of the animal, but inside the carcass next to the spine. Think of a porterhouse steak where the loin is on one side and the tenderloin is on the other side. It's the same thing with deer. The backstrap needs to be removed when the deer is field-dressed or it will dry out quickly if you hang the deer for more than a day. The backstrap is pretty small on yearling deer but is great eating when taken from a two year old deer and older.

                3. re: jeremyn

                  The venison loin is tender/tasty if not over cooked. Venison is a very lean meat with little or no intramuscular fat..When using dry cooking methods great care must be taken not to over cook/dry out the meat. Slicing and quickly pan searing or cooking over very hot coals is popular/preferable to cooking whole for that reason...If you choose roasting I would recommend a very hot oven.(450*) and cooking only to rare (125*-130*) or medium rare (130*-135*) ...Remove the meat when it is 5* less than desired...Allow 10 minutes or so for resting....HTH


              2. The general approach here in South Texas is to fry it. Slice it up, dredge it through some flour mixed with a little cornmeal, let it fry up, and watch how people snatch it up the second they become cool enough to handle.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ailine

                  This is the same way we do it in Central/West Arkansas (with the exception that we marinate in buttermilk/salt/cracked black pepper overnight), roll in a 3:1 mixture of flour:cornmeal and cut into 1/2"-5/8" medallions. Cook in 450+ degree peanut oil for literally about 90 seconds a side. Juggle from hand to hand and blow until cool enough to eat. Repeat until gorged. Sleep until finished sleeping. Go kill another deer and start over. I usually keep the backstrap and about 10 lbs of deerburger/chili meat from a kill and give the rest away. I think of it as the same cut as pork tenderloin because they are both long cylindrical muscles on either side of the spine...big difference being that a smallish pork tenderloin is about the same diameter as my forearm/bicep and a venison tenderloin/backstrap (my colloquial terminology, don't really care if it's "correct") is smaller than my wrist, by far the nicest cut of venison. Anyone that cooks one of these until well done is a fool. Bright red/bloody in the center is the only way.

                  1/2" blanched sliced okra dipped in buttermilk and rolled in the same mixture will cook in this same skillet in 3-4 minutes so the timing works out well and venison and okra go very well together (perhaps because I was always fed the two together as a child).

                2. If your hunter friend gave you the backstrap, s/he is a true friend. This is a NICE piece of meat.

                  As everyone else says, the key is to cook it hot and fast. Since we prefer it very rare, we like to cook it whole. It's easier that way to get the outside brown and keep the inside very rare. You really don't want it "fully cooked" in the middle -- it'll be dry that way. Pretty red in the middle is perfect. Brush it in oil and cook in an extremely hot pan or broil it (or over a fire). Don't expect it to brown or sizzle the way beef will. It will cook faster than beef.

                  Make sure the piece of meat is at room temp before you cook it!

                  Though I agree that the cut of beef it most resembles is a filet, the cuts really aren't directly comparable, and trying to cook venison the way you cook beef won't yield the best results. Hope you enjoy it!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: visciole

                    Indeed, when I say fully cooked, I mean rare to medium rare. I consider a 120 degree steak fully cooked.

                    Why do you say it won't brown like beef? Just because there's less fat?

                    1. re: jeremyn

                      Exactly, because there is so little fat in the meat you will not get the cooking sounds you're used to with beef. I never use a thermometer so I can't comment on the temp you mentioned, but I will just stress: the stuff cooks fast. Better to take it off the grill and cut into it to check than risk over-cooking it.

                      A piece of properly butchered wild deer should not have the bacteria risk of a store-bought steak (IMHO -- I'm sure some will disagree), so it can be safely eaten very rare.

                      Please let us know how you liked it!

                  2. In case you still have it...backstraps last less than 48 hours in my house...

                    Do NOT chop into medallions before you cook it. As with a super lean piece of meat, think about cooking in fat. Cook it whole and on high heat like pork tenderloins. Rest the meat before serving to retain what little moisture will be in there.

                    Here is my quick solution: fry in bacon grease to rare/medium rare. Create a savory sauce beforehand featuring cherries and juniper, with veal stock.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                      I make a sauce with cherries, pinot noir and a little bit of rosemary, and it's fantastic. Ditto those who say to cook it whole, rest and slice.

                      You have been given a great gift indeed.

                      1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                        I ended up ignoring the advice to cook it in medallions and cooked it whole, as you just suggested. I made a simple sauce from clarified, reduced duck stock. No fruit flavoring in mine, though cherry and juniper sounds nice.

                      2. I've always thoroughly cooked venison, because I was unsure how safe rare deer meat is. I googled it, and most deer farms recommend medium-rare, but I couldn't find much information beyond that.

                        So: is very-rare (whole-cut, not ground) venison safe? No wormies in deer? Sorry to ask a gross question, but I'd really love to try this without worrying about getting sick.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: WhatThePho

                          What is your source of the meat? The way you'd get sick would be from bacterial contamination of the meat, just like with any other meat. If it's been properly handled and processed it is safe to eat rare.

                          Some wild deer, especially in the mid-west, are subject to a chronic wasting disease similar to BSE. However, this is generally only a worry if one cuts through the spine, or into the brain, of a wild-caught deer during processing.

                          1. re: visciole

                            I see. My sources are always wild-caught, and professionally processed. We do live in the midwest, but presumably the lockers in our area know which precautions to take? Your input is so very helpful, thank you!!

                            1. re: WhatThePho

                              here's some info from the CDC on chronic wasting. I couldn't find an answer to your rare question by scanning, but I'm under the impression that prions are not killed by heat, so you might as well eat it rare. (beyond med rare it will be inedible, if you must have it well done, you should make "beef" bourguinon or something.)


                              And , to comment on the loin v. tenderloin debate above...I think the "loin" or "backstrap" is the longissimum dorsi and the "tenderloin" is the psoas. I could totally be wrong though. 1 of each on either side of the spine.

                              1. re: danna

                                Beautiful. Looking forward to my first rare venison steak, thanks!

                        2. Its been a while since I cooked it, but when my children were little - venison and elk were the ONLY meat that graced our table (we lived in the country and could not afford beef). Thicker backstrap medalions were "butterflied" and quick fried, seasoned with a little season salt or just salt and pepper. This gave a larger piece of meat and less cook time. They were always delicious.

                          1. I slice the backstrap into 1 1/2" thick slices,cut a little pouch into the center, and stuff it with blue cheese (I like Cashel Blue). Then I wrap it with a par-fried bacon slice. Next, crush peppercorns and press them on all sides of the steak including the bacon. Salt. Heat a heavy skillet with a little oil until the oil shimmers. Add steaks, browning all sides of the bacon first, then a couple-few minutes on each side of the venison. Remove from pan to rest. Deglaze pan with a little port. Add a little chicken stock if you like more sauce, throw in a fresh rosemary spring or a few crushed juniper berries. Reduce and finish sauce with a pat of butter. Return steaks to pan, flip in sauce, remove to plate and pour any extra sauce into a bowl to pass.

                            1. Can you cook venison back straps be cooked in a slow cooker?

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: nacada

                                I would not cook this cut of venison in a slow cooker. There is basically zero fat and this venison should be cooked to medium rare at the highest temperature. It is really tender (well, it is tenderloin) and I would just saute it in butter or a bit of olive oil.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  Sliced into medallions, with a little oil and Worcestershire sauce, they fry up in less than a minute.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    The backstraps almost never make it out of deer camp. Maybe I should bring some Worcestershire sauce up there. We just put in new cupboards and a new range. Now, we'll actually have a working oven. (The apple pie I attempted to bake on the gas grill really didn't work out too well.)

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      Do the speedie thing with a backstrap and you'll be appointed camp cook for life!

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        My older brother and I split the duties. He cooks breakfast and I cook supper.

                                2. re: nacada

                                  It would be a travesty. Like throwing filet mignon in a slow cooker. Save the slow cooker for the lesser cuts.

                                3. How thick should the medallions be? What is the approx. cooking time for that thickness?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ARenko

                                    1/4 to 1/2 inch, depending on taste. Just a quick pan sear with minimal seasonings (I used a light touch of Lawry's season salt) and you should be good to go.

                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                      Thanks. I cut it 1/2" thick, salt and peppered, and seared in olive oil/ butter for 1 min each side. It was very good.