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Safety Tips for Preparing Venison
Plus an easy and amazing deer slider recipe.
by Torrie Smith
Growing up on a cattle farm in West Stone County, I was not raised eating deer meat. Read as I overcome my disdain for venison while sharing some safety tips for handling wild game. Also enjoy a really great recipe for Deer Sliders with Caramelized Onions and Greek Yogurt Aioli.
Being raised on a cattle farm, I’ve always had beef at my disposal. So, when I married a hunter, the art of cooking deer meat was an unknown territory that I was reluctant to face. As someone who was not raised eating ground deer meat, I could immediately tell the difference when Michael would try to pass it off as my beloved beef. In my opinion, deer meat has a distinctive taste and, to add even more to my disliking, a distinctive smell!
We recently moved 72 miles away from my parents, so having access to beef at my fingertips has become harder to do. Also, Michael’s new job has been less demanding and stressful so when we did get to visit the farm during hunting season, he had more time to participate in his favorite pastime, hunting. He killed two deer within two weeks filling my freezer with my arch nemesis, deer meat, forcing me to use it.
A few obstacles I had to overcome were the smell, the taste, and my predisposition to not want/like to eat deer meat. I spoke with colleagues, I summoned friends, and I meditated on what recipe I could cook that would make me want to prepare such a protein. Many said they use deer meat in place of ground beef, but if a recipe calls for ground beef, I would rather find a way to make ground burger travel the 72 miles from my mother’s freezer to my own. I wanted a recipe that would highlight the deer meat without pretending to be a cow but would also elevate it to where I wouldn’t mind cooking it on a regular basis.
But before I can begin my journey, I must first tell you my tips for handling and cooking SAFELY with deer meat.
Cool the deer as quickly as possible. Dress the deer in the field as soon as possible after it is killed to ensure the rapid loss of body heat. The key is to cool the carcass as quickly as possible to ensure its safety. You can help this by propping the chest cavity open with a stick to allow air flow. Hanging the carcass up also helps. If it is warm, you can put bags of ice inside the body cavity.
Wear gloves while processing the deer. We all know someone who knows someone, who heard of some guy, who has a grandma, who has a cousin that was bitten by a tick and developed one of the many diseases ticks are known for carrying while skinning or field dressing a deer. Well I haven’t just heard of someone; I personally know someone who developed the alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) from a tick bite he received while skinning his deer. Alpha-gal syndrome causes someone to have an allergic reaction to red meat. Another reason to wear gloves during field dressing, is to significantly reduce your exposure to diseases wild animals can carry.
Practice safe cooking habits in the kitchen. While cooking with deer or other wild game, you should follow the same safe practice that you follow while preparing any other raw meat. Keep separate from ready-to-eat foods, wash equipment exposed to raw meat often, cook to the proper internal temperature, and wash your hands after handling raw meat.
Cooking temperature for different cuts of venison
- Whole cuts (steaks or roasts) – 145 F (medium rare)
- Ground venison – 160 F
- Soups, stews, casseroles, and leftovers – 165 F
After weeks of research and recipe development, my friends, I bring you a recipe that I have found I am willing to add to my repertoire and one that has not left me longing for my family’s cherished beef. Please enjoy!
Deer Sliders with Caramelized Onions and Greek Yogurt Aioli
1 pound deer meat
¼ cup Teriyaki Sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oil; vegetable or canola
Greek Yogurt Aioli
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Juice of half a lemon
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry dill
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Brioche slider buns
Pat deer meat dry. In a medium size bowl, add teriyaki, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and optional red pepper flakes to the deer meat. Combine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Using a hand blender or food processor blend garlic, coarse salt, juice of half a lemon, and half of the Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth, then add the rest of the yogurt, mayonnaise, and dill. Blend until combined.
Evenly slice three large onions and set to the side. After the meat has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, evenly divide meat and pat out small slider size patties. Place patties back in fridge for additional 15-20 minutes. Heat skillet and 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium high heat. Add onions and salt. After onions begin to become see through, 3-5 minutes, add brown sugar. Continue to cook onions until dark brown.
While onions are cooking, heat cast iron skillet and 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Cook patties, about 3 minutes on each side, until they reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Assemble sliders with bun, 1 tablespoon aioli, patty, and top with onions.
Makes 10 Sliders| Serving Size: 1 Slider
Calories 270 | Total Fat 8 grams, Saturated Fat 2 grams | Cholesterol 75 milligrams | Sodium 1120 milligrams | Dietary Fiber 2 grams | Sugars 12 grams | Protein 17 grams
Handle, Cook Wild Game Properly – North Dakota State University https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2020/sept-21-2020/handle-cook-wild-game-properly
Hunters, pack you rubber gloves to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease – Michigan State University https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/hunters_pack_your_rubber_gloves_to_prevent_the_spread_of_chronic_wasting_di
Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game and Fish – Penn State Extension https://extension.psu.edu/proper-field-dressing-and-handling-of-wild-game-and-fish
Ticks, Alpha-gal syndrome – Center for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/index.html
Cooking Venison for flavor and safety – University of Minnesota Extension https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/cooking-venison-flavor-and-safety