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Venison Tenderloin

Someone has given me a venison tenderloin, which I was very pleased to receive, but I have never prepared one before. I was wondering if any of you could give me your thoughts on the best way to prepare it? Any insights would be most apreciated, the more detailed the better.

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  1. Treat it exactly like you would beef tenderloin.

    1. We usually cook them like filet mignon. Slice the tenderloin about 1-1/2 inches thick, season with salt and pepper and saute in butter. Simple is better. Do not over cook this tender piece of meat, medium rare is as far as you want to go with it. Ours always get cooked in deer camp in a cast iron skillet the evening the deer was shot.

      1. A slight word of caution: what you think is a tenderloin is (probably) actually a loin. Maybe I'm wrong. A venison tenderloin is sort of hanger steak size; a venison loin (backstrap) is closer (though quite a bit smaller and slimmer) than a beef tenderloin. Some folks confuse the two.

        That being said and semantics aside: either roast it whole to 115 or cut it into medallions and saute to rare, make a little pan sauce w/ shallots, (white) wine, your favorite herbs, a knob of butter to finish, maybe a squirt of acid. Finish them off.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Spot

          The venison tenderloin is the backstrap and is removed from the deer shortly after field dressing otherwise it will dry out in a few hours. The loin is on the other side of the spine/ribs. We cook it basically as you suggest minus the sauce. If I started to chop shallots and make a wine sauce in deer camp I think the fellas would revolt, but they would still eat my food.

          1. re: John E.

            Sorry: the tenderloin is always inside the ribcage; the loin is always on top of the ribcage. Let's forget about what a backstrap actually is. Cook it how you like. Not well done.

            1. re: Spot

              I think we're talking about the same thing. The tenderloin is removed from the inside of the ribcage along the underside of the spinal column. It's the same as any mammal. We always referred to it as the backstrap, if that is incorrect, I stand corrected. The loin can only be removed once the deer is skinned and butchered.

              1. re: John E.

                I believe there may be regional differences re terminology. In Montana, my experience is a backstrap is loin; in Michigan (according to my brother) it is tenderloin. I might be wrong. Didn't mean to be a jerk. The point in any event is cooking to rare due to a nearly complete lack of marbling...

                1. re: Spot

                  I've always thought using the term backstrap for the tenderloin is counterintuitive, but that's the term I've learned to use. I too cook mine rate although I have family members who would order it medium because they don't know any better. They get theres on the rare side of medium rare.

                  1. re: John E.

                    As I understand it, its like pork 'loin' vs pork 'tenderloin'.

                    When you butcher a deer there's the backstrap, which is the larger 'loin'. Also there's a much smaller piece of meat (more like the size of a large chicken tender), that I've understood to be the 'tenderloin'. I could be wrong.

                    This tenderloin is definitely less than 1 lb on average deer... much smaller than anything I've been served in a restaurant. In fact, the only venison I've ever seen in a restaurant is the backstrap (loin) or ground venison. The 'tenderloin' is too small to cut into medallions, I like it grilled whole on a skewer; satay style.

                    As for cooking venison 'backstrap' or 'loin'... I like a marinade of mostly red wine, with a little soy sauce, garlic, black pepper then grill very hot for 6-8 minutes til rare or medium rare. Let it rest a few minutes and slice into medallions. The marinade helps you get a nice char, even though it cooks really quickly. Good without sauce, or with balsamic or wine reduction. Buerre rouge is wonderful if you want to add a little fat.

                    1. re: samboca

                      Spot and I worked out the wording of the 'backstrap' and 'tenderloin'. I understood them to be the same because in Minnesota, the backstrap (tenderloin) is removed just after the deer is hung after field-dressing and before skinning. The loin is removed when butchering. I don't know why the interior piece of meat is referred to as the backstrap in Minnesota, but it is. I was always confused by it as well since it is on the inside of the back and not the outside of the ribcage. As I indicated upthread, we don't usually get to fancy with it as we're (me) cooking it in deer camp and the guy who shot the deer sometimes eats the whole thing if it was a smaller deer (and I have some pretty good-sized nephews, college football linemen).

                      1. re: John E.

                        Among hunters I think the term backstrap is fairly universal. I'm way down in Texas, and that's the only term I've ever heard used for it. I think you are probably hunting mule deer in MN? Mostly whitetails here which are smaller, ~65-110 lbs dressed.

                        John, you, Spot, and I know the difference, but putting this into cook's terms for the non-hunters is what I was aiming for. Those who purchase venison would probably never see the term backstrap on a menu or packaging label.

                        Don't you think the backstrap is the loin (not tenderloin)? It doesn't make sense to me that a venison tenderloin would be larger than a pork tenderloin, since pigs are larger. That's mainly why I refer to it as the loin instead of tenderloin. Also, I'm just curious since most of us just learn this stuff from our dads and their friends, there is not clearly understood terminology. I think even many Chowhounds don't know the difference between a pork loin and pork tenderloin.

                        1. re: samboca

                          We don't have any mule deer in Minnesota. I have not even heard of any wandering in from the western Dakotas. The world record (heaviest) whitetail was shot in Minnesota, dressed out at over 400#. As I indicated, in hunting camps in Minnesota, the backstrap is the tenderloin, not the loin. I don't know how this terminology came to be. I don't see much venison in the grocery stores anyway, so I don't think there is much confusion with non-hunters, only hunters with different terminology.

                          1. re: John E.

                            Actually, I see now that the backstrap is different for the two of us. Didn't get that previously. Sorry for the confusion on my part. I'm no expert on North American game, it just sounded like you are used to dealing with larger deer and assumed a different species. I don't kill many mature bucks, so don't see a ton of deer much over 100 lbs dressed.

                            Mainly what I was trying to point out is that what is commonly referred to as tenderloin is actually loin. The backstrap discussion is another issue entirely. Interesting discussion though.

                            1. re: samboca

                              I think generally our deer get bigger in Minnesota than they do in Texas but we seem to be getting yearlings to two year-old deer. There is one large buck around our property, a large 12 or 14 pointer. One of my older brothers first saw it three years ago and the neighbors have photos of it from their trail camera. As far as we know it's still out there.

                          2. re: samboca

                            Surely most Chowhounder's know the difference between a loin and a tenderloin. It drives me crazy how restaurants, especially in the south, call their pork loin they serve for breakfast as "tenderloin"...and even people who generally know the difference betwwen the two use the restaurant's terminology when describing their meal...guess it's just one of those things that I shouldn't let bother me, but it does.

          2. I was given a tenderloin once too (labelled as such and very thin, like a pork tenderloin). I sliced it and made a creamy/ cherry sauce to serve with it. It was an experiment but not bad at all. Think I found the recipe on Epicurious, or this thread.

            1. Treat it more or less like beef. But, as it has so little fat, you'll get the best out of it by cooking it less than you would beef (in fact, I'd suggest not going past medium rare).

              Where I am venison fillet is always an expensive cut, even when locally shot and on sale in the farmers market. I prefer to cut it into medallions and pan fry, rather than roasting the whole thing.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Harters

                Trust me when I say I have no intention of going past medium rare, prob ideally pull it at around 120-125 degrees.

                It appears from the responses, to go with a cast iron skillet approach, with a nice salt/pepper/olive oil coating on the venison, probably use a butter/olive mix for my fat in the pan, and then I imagine I'll deglaze with a light red wine some shallots and garlic...maybe some cracked pepper corns and serve au jux.

                1. re: picklelicious

                  Venison takes kindly to having some sweetness in the sauce. Perhaps stir in some jarred red currant sauce or cranberry sauce. I usually make a version of Cumberland sauce and serve it hot rather than the usual cold.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Ok, we'll take that under advisement.

                    1. re: Harters

                      Exactly... berries, or even just about any jar of jam you've got in the fridge.

                2. the best venison tenderloin i ever had was cooked with wine and thyme and a little rosemary in a reynold's oven bag. it was so moist and tender!

                  and i love cumberland sauce. it is a classic combo!

                  i wouldn't cook it in a skillet unless i had medallions and were frying them.

                  1. My mother used to do a roasted beef tenderloin coated in a dijon mustard mixture to keep it moist. It was usually amazing. I would think that would work nicely with venison as well... And now I'm thinking about slices of slightly mustard flavored venison on a baguette... or with little roasted potatoes... Oh god.

                    1. We have a lot of avid hunters in our circle of friends and backstraps are often served at our gatherings.

                      I don't know if it because it is because the (male) hunters are the ones doing the cooking but the common preparation is grilled whole (rare) and then sliced. One is on the menu for Saturday night and I will pay attention to the preparation and report back.

                      I do remember one occasion where the entire backstrap was wrapped in bacon before being placed on the grill. These guys know game and everything they make is always excellent.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: cleobeach

                        Yes I considered bacon wrap, but I don't generally do beef like that, and I want to get a feel for flavor of venison tenderloin rather than bacon, which can be a little more over powering than the other accompanyments discussed.

                        1. re: picklelicious

                          Claudia Roden's recipe in The Food of Spain is fabulous - marinate in red wine with sliced onions and bay leaves overnight, dry with paper towels, sear, and roast at 400 deg F until done, about 20 mins (nice and rare please). That was our Christmas dinner, with the chestnut purée and pears cooked in red wine she gives recipes for as accompaniments. The leftovers were dynamite cold (there are only the two of us at home). You can see the recipe by searching inside the book for "roast venison" on Amazon.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Sounds really good, might just do that.

                            1. re: picklelicious

                              A family emergency has delayed our dinner and when talking about rescheduling, the venison guy said he needed a day's notice to "start" it. I am guessing he is planning some sort of marinade.

                              I don't remember the bacon wrapped version tasting like bacon. We all stood around the grill and eat the bacon off the meat prior to resting it.

                              buttertart's meal sounds amazing

                      2. How about a Wellington preparation - either pate or mixed mushrooms, the richness will help offset the lean nature of the venison.

                        1. Its extremely lean, so its best wrapped in bacon before roasting to prevent it from drying out. Throw the bacon out once you hit the desired temp (oh who am I kidding, just eat the bacon while you finish preparing your dinner)

                          43 Replies
                          1. re: twyst

                            Or stick it in one of the side dishes... :)

                            1. re: Heatherb

                              Well I'm cooking it tomorrow, was thinking of the iron skillet method, but Buttertart's recipe is making me rethink a bit.

                              1. re: picklelicious

                                You will not regret it, it's one of the best things I've ever cooked.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Well I must admit I was quite surprised to see the tenderloin was pre sliced into inconsistenly thin slices. I didn't actually realize this until after I marinated the product in a bottle of red, some sliced onion and bay leaves.

                                  I simply salt and peppered (heavy), and fried in a cast iron skillet in a butter and olive oil base (mostly butter).

                                  I was pleased with the outcome, some pieces were better than others both from a temperature and textural overview...I just wish the tenderloin or backstrap (whichever is the correct terminology) had been left in it's whole state.

                                  Thanks for all of your tips.

                                  1. re: picklelicious

                                    That's a shame, but some little collops of venison are a nice thing too!

                                    1. re: picklelicious

                                      Next time don't marinate it. Not to knock Buttertart's recipe -- I'm sure it's great -- but it calls for farmed venison which is much fattier and tastes quite different from wild meat. Backstrap is the primo cut, and is delicious on its own. Usually with wild venison the long marination in wine is saved for the less good cuts. Venison is not always very strong-tasting and a light hand with seasonings can reward you.

                                      Of course YMMV.

                                      1. re: visciole

                                        There was not the tiniest scrap of fat on this piece of meat, or in it. It was from Bur Oaks in Iowa. Sweet as a nut. The marinade was scarcely noticeable.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          I looked up Burr Oaks on the map. That Laura Ingalls sure got around, didn't she? I know of 6 historic sites dedicated to her in 5 states.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Interesting. I'm surprised a marinade overnight would not be noticeable. Do you have any idea why?

                                            1. re: visciole

                                              Because the venison has a stronger flavor? I marinade mine for a day or two in cider vinegar and if anything, it takes away any gamy taste.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                It wasn't in the least gamy and was delicious, but you tasted MEAT and not WINE, which I was happy about. The people we buy from are extremely nice and the orders always come with a little something extra thrown in. A very very picky friend ordered from them at my recommendation and was thrilled with what she got.
                                                Iowa newspaper (Bur Oaks is in Fertile, IA) sighting by my northwestern IA-born BIL: "Manly man marries Fertile woman". http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx...

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  Ah so maybe the cider vinegar wasn't needed....but I've been the recipient of some pretty bad wild venison in the past, when they didn't handle it right or whatever. But you don't taste the vinegar at all so I do it no matter what. But just realized yours was farm raised, in that case no pre-treatment would be called for.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    I've had wild in St Lawrence County, NY and it can be stronger, but isn't always.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      I know, I always worry and since I'm always gifted with it I don't know why. Afraid to waste what limited amounts I receive. Just took a roll of chopped venison and some elk sausage out for chili this weekend, my sister has been very generous to me lately. Maybe next steak will try the buttermilk instead.

                                                      The first venison I ever tried to cook, I found a recipe in a hunting magazine and it said put a whole bottle of Jack Daniels in the marinade. I realized later that the marinade must have been for the whole carcass, whoa Nellie!

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        My eyes are watering!!! Love venison hamburger.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          Oh she gave me a few packages of premade venison burgers and elk keilbasa. And some venison pastrami. Her friend has it all professionally butchered, I'm in deer heaven for the time being!

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            I hate you. In a very friendly way, of course! Sounds terrific.

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              If you lived closer, I'd share no problem! the pastrami is gone though.

                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                            re Venison hamburger - me too!! They are the BEST!

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              well good to hear venison hamburger is tasty as well...i was given a few packs of that also. I did incorporate a lb of it in my red chili last weekend...I'll have to try a straight out burger or two with it. What would you suggest for adding fat to it?

                                                              1. re: picklelicious

                                                                Yes, hamburgers made from venison are delicious. Since there is so little fat, they don't hold together very well. You can add fat; but it changes the taste. Lamb fat tends to marry well with venison, if you like lamb... Or you can deal with a crumbly burger the way I do -- hollow out a roll, settle the thing in there, and don't mind making a mess.

                                                                Oh, and put some oil in the pan and don't cook it too long!

                                                                1. re: picklelicious

                                                                  I simply add an egg, some chopped onions, perhaps a dash of worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, perhaps cumin or whatever else I feel like that day. I use a hot cast iron pan with a bit of Olive Oil. At the very end I might add a small touch of truffle butter, sometimes I add a bit of Roquefort cheese. I usually get a nice roll from Trader Joe's. Then whatever fixings one might want to add like a nice sliced pickle or sliced Tomato. We like it! :-)

                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                Was there a Jack Daniel's ad next to the recipe in the magazine? I would never take the chance of ruining venison with that much Jack Daniel's. More importantly, I would never waste that much Jack Daniel's on a hunk of venison. ; )

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  Oh never again but that was maybe 30 years ago. Live and learn! I would have just drunk it anyway.

                                                        2. re: coll

                                                          I marinade some of the cuts at least overnight in Buttermilk and also use most of the Buttermilk then in a roast. Made one yesterday, it came out very tender.

                                                          1. re: RUK

                                                            That sounds like a very good idea.

                                                          2. re: coll

                                                            Properly handled, if it's young, it doesn't taste gamey or even very strongly.

                                                            It seems there's a general perception that venision is gamey and needs to be heavily marinated, etc. to disguise the taste. While I'm sure this can sometimes be the case depending on the animal and how it was handled, a lot of wild venison tastes excellent with no marinade at all. So my feeling is, if you don't get the chance to eat it often, you might want to try it plain.

                                                            That being said, since Buttertart said she could truly taste the meat anyway, I guess it wouldn't matter. I just wanted to try to dispel the notion that venison always tastes gamey and needs to be somehow doctored to make it taste good.

                                                            If in doubt, I would simply trim off a very small piece, throw it in a pan, and taste it. If it's gamey, go ahead and marinate it, and if not, do whatever you feel like.

                                                            1. re: visciole

                                                              Good point. the meat was delicious cold, very thinly sliced. Ask my kitty Fuchsia D., who launched a stealth attack and made away with a slice which she devoured with much snarfling and feline excitement.

                                                              1. re: visciole

                                                                When I was living upstate, I was instructed if I ever hit a deer, to have a buck knife in the car so I could drain the blood while I waited for the DEC to arrive and tag it, otherwise it would taste disgusting. That's the only perception about venison that I have to this day. Since I luckily never hit a deer, I never got to test it out, but was forevermore dubious about what may have happened at the scene of the crime. Hence the marinade, just in case.

                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  Somebody gave you bad information. It all depends on the ambient temperature. If it's 10 above the deer could lay there overnight and the meat would still be ok. If it's 65 degrees you would still have a few hours. It's not crucial to bleed the animal within minutes of its death. Instead of bleeding the animal, it would be more important to gut it out. Take that knife and field dress the deer.

                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                    Thanks for that info, good to know. Now as far as field dressing.......we do have a lot of small deer around here, so maybe I'll investigate! When I go out early in the morning there are often fresh carcasses strewn on the roadside although I think you're not allowed to touch them without DEC? So much to learn, so little time left for it all ;-))

                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                      I too wouldn't mess with the roadkill ; )

                                                                      I've only hit one deer in my life, with a small car two hours after I bought it while driving across Wisconsin.

                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                        My husband hit a deer driving my car (I wasn't with him) it knocked off the mirror and ran away. Actually according to him, the deer hit him. Lucky I guess. Hopefully that was the one and only time.

                                                        3. re: visciole

                                                          Agreed. I would never marinate a loin or tenderloin. No more than I would marinate a tenderloin of beef. It's not changing the flavor that worries me, but mushiy-ing-up the texture.

                                                          Last night i pan seared in a bit of butter medallions of venison tenderloin. By tenderloin, I mean psaos, the very small muscle. It's even more special that the larger loin (which I believe is commonly called backstrap). Anyhow, it was spectaucular. I cooked it medium rare in cast iron, if i'd known is was going to be that tender , I would have gone all the way rare.

                                                          Now, when I get to the stew meat, I'll marinate, again mostly for texture. I like the taste of good venison. If it had an off flavor, I'd throw it out, not try to cover it up.

                                                          1. re: danna

                                                            The tenderloin was in no way mushy after marination.

                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                marinade doesn't go that far into the meat to make it mushy unless you leave it in for days and it's rotting anyway..

                                                                1. re: katz66

                                                                  If there is too much acid the outside of the meat gets mushy. That was my point. As to how far the mushiness would penetrate, I don't know because I would never attempt to personally discover the answer.

                                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                                Sorry, I shouldn't have said "mushy", I'm sure it's wasn't, but I'm not sure how else to describe the slight detriment in texture that I think occurs when you let a good cut of meat sit in liquid .

                                                                1. re: danna

                                                                  never had a problem with a good cut of meat being anything but what it should be I only marinade the deer because I do not like the taste of it. Beef may be rubbed in salt and pepper and airdried in the frig for three days but that makes the flavor more intence. And I only do that to a rib. beef tenderloin is just seasoned and cooked accordingly.

                                                              3. re: danna

                                                                I marinade the deer because I do not care for the taste of the game. And my husband is then happy because I eat it.

                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                            I second that , Buttertart! It was my first foray into venison cooking, and what a great start! I was lucky enough to eat that very dish in Spain, in chestnut country, cooked outside and accompanied by roasted chestnuts and a pan of fresh wild mushrooms. If only I could track down the fiery pink cherry brandy we had afterwards...!

                                                    2. In the deer the only part I eat or cook are the backstrap and the loin. I put red wine brown mustard crushed garlic and tyme along with olive oil and put the deer in it for 24 hours and then grill it medium slice thin and eat.

                                                      1. We are given venison often, by a hunter friend. The last time he gave us what he said was tenderloin. I cooked it the same as every other time. In a crockpot, with the same recipe from Allrecipes that I have used in the past. It was absolutely delicious fall-apart tender...just like always.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: FitMom4Life

                                                          Just to add to the confusion, I cooked a 'canon' also spelled 'cannon' of venison a few days ago. In my sous vide. Out of this world.
                                                          Two non-sous vide recipes for canon

                                                        2. Just for reference. After removing all the silver skin, cut the tenderloin into 3/4" slices across the grain, then pound into flat steaks 1/4" thick and S+P. Slowly caramelized a whole mess of onions, then fast fry the steaks briefly on a very very hot oiled pan. Serve on a toasted buttered kaiser.

                                                          Pure simple deliciousness...

                                                          1. This year we didn't cook the backstrap in deer camp, I brought them home. I invited my father over and cooked them for myself and my dad since nobody else in my household appreciates venison.

                                                            I cut them into 1-1/2 inch medallions and then smashed them down a little. I reduced some beef stock, add some red wine and reduced that and finished the sauce with buter. The venison got a quick sear on both sides and was served with mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and the sauce. It was really good.

                                                            1. wrapped in bacon spiced with appels and cloves