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Jan 10, 2012 06:28 PM

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.

        16 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. re: Spot

              Ok you guys are getting one thing wrong backstrap is not tenderloin , backstrap is the deer meat from outside the ribcage area and tenderloin is from the inside heres. "There are tenderloins inside the ribcage near the pelvis. The backstraps are outside the ribcage straddling the spine from the front shoulder to 3/4's back approximately. The backstraps are huge. The tenderloins... not so huge." thats the best way to describe it. Also deer meat is not like beef for instance the fat on beef helps make it softer but deer fat is gross make sure to cut it all off and the more you cook deer the harder it gets thats why you either got to wrap it in bacon or marinade it or cover it in butter you choose your own method but I just wanted to state some facts!!! :) Happy Cooking!!!

              1. re: miklo1904

                Backstrap = Loin up along spine, top of animal,think loin chops boned out

                Tenderloin= Inside cavity, towards pelvis, removed after gutting and hanging, eaten day after kill. Boneless by design.

                  1. re: Raffles

                    In Minnesota, for whatever reason, the tenderloins is referred to as the backstrap. I don't know why.

              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.