Field To Table | Tips and Tricks

Venison cuts plus their uses

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Identifying your venison cuts / cuts of deer meat is essential to knowing how to cook the specific cut and the best uses for each cut.

Close up of venison on tacos.Pin
Venison tacos

Every different cut on an animal is best cooked by a few different techniques. There are many cuts that require special preparation or cooking techniques or times. Learning the cuts of deer meat will help you to properly cook each cut.

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Venison, in particular can be tricky, if you aren’t armed with the knowledge. It is so much leaner than pork or beef that many cuts will require some sort of added fat. With all of the right information, you too can create your own culinary masterpieces!

What is venison?

That is rather an interesting question. The definition has changed. The word venison comes from the Latin verb venari, or to hunt. Using this definition, the term historically referred to any cut of meat that was taken by hunting. In other words, any game animal.

The word has changed throughout the centuries and now generally refers to deer, elk, moose, caribou or antelope.

The term venison can also be applied to any cut of the animal, including the internal organs. For this reason it’s critical to learn the different cuts and their uses in a culinary application.

Where is source it

It used to be that if you didn’t hunt wild venison, you didn’t eat it unless you had a good friend who would share.

Now pasture-raised deer are becoming more and more available. Most higher end groceries stores carry at least the loin cuts.

If all else fails, you can purchase farm raised meat on Amazon.

General cooking and cutting tips

  • Since it is so lean, deer meat should not be overcooked or it becomes dry and tough.
  • Always slice meat against the grain for maximum tenderness.
  • Use sharp knives when butchering or slicing finished cuts.
  • Remove as much of the fat, silver skin, sinew and cartilage as you can. The fat of the deer is not tasty like that of pork or beef.
  • Always keep meat as cold as possible when butchering and packaging meat. Store meat in the bottom of your refrigerator where it is the coldest in between steps, to ensure food safety.
  • Allow cooked meat to rest before slicing.
  • Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat.

Main body cuts

Body cuts on white cutting board.Pin
Main body cuts

Certainly the most utilized cuts of the deer, and some of the most delicious cuts, come from the body of the deer.

Tenderloin / Inner loin

Slice chicken fried venison on gray plate.Pin
Chicken Fried Venison Loin

The inner loin is the most tender cut of venison. Similar to filet mignon of a cow. The problem is they are quite small, so it would take quite a few to make a meal for four.

We usually cook the inner loins along with pieces of the backstrap, just don’t cook it quite as long.

Tenderloins lend themselves well to fast cooking. They can be cooked on the grill (a charcoal grill will impart added smoky flavor) or in a hot cast iron pan. They can be marinated or rubbed with spices and herbs.

The inner loin is best cooked to medium rare, 130°F

Backstrap / Loin

The loin or backstrap is the second most tender cut of the deer. It is very versatile and lends itself well to quick cooking.

Cooking methods include grilling, pan frying, or breading.

Meat can be marinated and / or pounded out to increase tenderness. The backstrap can be cut into steaks or left in large chunks to cook as a roast.

The loin is best cooked to medium-rare, 130°F.

This cut is so tender that it can just be seasoned with salt and pepper, for a simple, fast dinner.

Always cook the tender pieces with added fat from butter, vegetable oil, olive oil or various marinades that contain an acid, like vinegar, citrus juices, as we did in this teriyaki marinade.

Recipes for venison backstrap

Venison with Blackberry Sauce
This Venison with Blackberry Sauce is elegant enough for company but easy enough for any weeknight dinner! Venison with Blackberry Sauce is also one of the most delicious recipes in my repitoire of Venison Recipes!
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Venison with blackberry sauce on a bed of arugula.Pin
Venison Wellington
Venison Wellington is an easy, gourmet meal that will impress your guests! It’s made with store bought phyllo sheets, so it comes together in 20 minutes!
Make This
Venison Wellington on gray plate with sides.Pin
Venison Steak Kebabs
These Venison Steak Kebabs are great for Father's Day! 
Make This
close up of venison steak kabobsPin
Venison Loin Parmigiana
Venison Parmesan is an easy recipe that only takes a couple of minutes. Your venison is tender, juicy, and cheesy in less than 30 minutes.
Make This
Two pieces of venison Parmesan on a bed of spaghetti.Pin
Smoked Venison Backstrap
Here's a different way to cook one of the most tender cuts of deer. This Smoked Venison Backstrap will amaze you. It's that good.
Make This
Sliced backstrap on board with fresh rosemary garnish.Pin
Chicken Fried Venison
Another easy, delicious venison recipe! This Chicken Fried Venison is the epitome of Southern comfort food! Lightened up a bit because we use venison!
Make This
chicken fried venison sliced on gray plate with sides
Sliced loin on bed of arugulaPin
Whole Venison Loin Roast

Brisket

The brisket is cut from the chest of the animal. It is quite a thin piece of meat. It’s is not the most tender cut but it has a great chew. Brisket is perfect for smoking however it is also great cooked in the slow cooker.

Unlike the pork brisket, aka bacon, venison brisket is very lean. It is best marinated and then slow cooked or low smoked.

Venison Brisket
Venison brisket can be one of the toughest cuts on the deer. Learn how to prepare it so that it comes out tender and juicy every time!
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Sliced venison brisket on cutting board.Pin

Ribs

Brine overnight to increase tenderness.

The whole ribs of the deer can be roasted or smoked, similar to pork or beef ribs. They will not take as long to smoke as pork ribs. Generally about 2 hours at 225°F.

Include the backstrap with the rib chops and you have Frenched ribs.

Grilled Venison Backstrap
The grill adds a wonderful smoky flavor to this delicious deer roast. Grilled venison backstraps only take a few minutes to come together too!
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Close up of sliced venison backstrap.Pin

Neck

The neck is a cut that we never used to utilize. We just cut the meat off of them and used it for ground. That was a mistake.

Neck roasts are delicious and tender. Arguably one of the most tender cuts when slow braised or slow cooked. No need to remove the windpipe or all of the small tendons. They are easily removed after cooking.

Venison Neck Roast
The Venison Neck Roast is not a cut that we saved years ago. I am not sure why, because when it is cooked properly, the Venison Neck Roast is one of the more tender cuts of the deer.
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Venison neck roast in a stew with bread garnish.Pin

Rear leg cuts

Rear leg cuts on white cutting board.Pin
Rear leg cuts

The largest quantity of meat on a deer comes on the back legs. These cuts of deer are very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways.

Cut into chunks for soups or stews, or grind for burgers and meatloaf. Each muscle group can actually be made into roasts.

The shanks (also known as venison osso buco) are delicious slow braised. We never used to save them and just removed the meat for ground. We won’t do that again. The meat comes out ultra tender and insanely delicious.

Large cuts are best marinated to tenderize. The top round, bottom round, eye of round and sirloin make delicious corned venison. The meat becomes very tender during the corning process. These cuts are best slow cooked.

Cooking methods that best tenderize leg cuts are slow braising and slow cooking.

If sliced ultra thin, the top round can make delicious Philly cheese sandwiches or French dips. This cut is also great for jerky.

Pro tip; to slice the meat ultra thin, partially freeze so that the meat is very firm. Use a very sharp filet or boning knife.

Recipes for rear leg cuts

Chunky Venison Chili – Slow Cooker Version
Chunky venison chili only takes a few minutes to put together but it slow cooks for 2 days! So tender, you won’t believe it’s venison!
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Chunky venison chili in white bowl with black trim.Pin
Deer Jerky – How to make venison jerky
One of the first recipes many new hunters make has to be jerky. Deer jerky is easy, delicious and a perfect on-the-go snack. Learn how to make venison jerky with the easy step by step recipe.
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Dried deer jerky standing up in glass jar.Pin
Venison Stew, slow cooker or stovetop
This Venison Stew is so easy! It’s so much healthier than beef, and has just as much flavor. The venison in this Venison Stew is neither gamey, nor tough. It is melt in your mouth tender, in the slow cooker or on the stove!
Make This
Venison stew in blue bowl.Pin
Homemade Corned Venison – Brined
This takes days to marinate but it so worth the wait~ the best way to eat some of those tougher cuts of venison leg roasts!
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Slices of corned venison on board.Pin
Slow Cooker Corned Venison Recipe
This Slow Cooker Corned Venison Recipe is so easy! Tender and juicy with a usually tough piece of the deer!
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Slices of corned venison on bamboo cutting board.Pin
Venison Enchiladas
These Venison Enchiladas are one of our favorite ways to enjoy venison! The venison is slow cooked so it is tender and juicy every time!
Make This
Two venison enchiladas on gray plate.Pin
Venison Roast
Learn how to cook a Venison Roast in the Instant Pot, Crockpot or stovetop. An easy, delicious winter meal. Perfect comfort food!
Make This
Whole venison roast with vegetables on white platter.Pin
Venison Shepherd’s Pie
This Venison Shepherd's Pie is the perfect comfort food to make to celebrate St. Patrick's day or any cold winter day!
Make This
3 individual shepherd's pie on wood slab.Pin
Reuben Sandwiches on YouTube!
The king of all grilled sandwiches! Made with corned beef or venison and topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and 1000 Island dressing!
Make This
Corned Venison Reuben on marble rye bread.Pin
Venison Soup
Venison Soup is great to throw in the crockpot when you are cutting up your deer. Venison soup is easy and utilizes meat that is normally discarded! 
Make This
Venison soup in white bowl with gray rim.Pin
Venison in the Slow cooker – Carnitas
Venison Carnitas are delicious and so easy! The meat stays moist, tender and never tough when cooked in your slow cooker!
Make This
Two enchiladas on white plate with casserole in background.Pin
Venison Meatballs
Venison Meatballs are an easy, low fat alternative to beef! These Venison Meatballs can be baked, or air fried to make them even healthier!
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Venison meatball topped spaghetti in a white bowl.Pin
Canning Deer Meat
Canning deer meat at home is incredibly easy and the flavor just can’t be beat! You can simply raw pack venison with only two ingredients.
Make This
Close up of canned deer meat in a pint jar.Pin
Jerky in jar in woodland scene.Pin
Venison jerky

Front legs / Shoulder

Front leg cuts photographed on white cutting board.Pin
Front leg cuts and shoulder

The front leg actually contains quite a bit of meat but nothing compared to the rear legs.

Again, we save the shanks and slow braise them.

The remaining cuts are all shoulder and chuck. These cuts are best suited to ground or stew meat. They also lend themselves best to slow cooking, if they are left in chunks.

Ground meats can be quick cooked as for burgers or slow cooked as for stews and soups.

Recipes like sausage, burgers and meatballs/ meatloaf benefit from the addition of added fat, like pork shoulder or butt or for burgers we like beef steak trimmings.

Recipes for front leg cuts

Braised Venison Shanks / How to Cook Deer Shanks
Venison Shanks are an underutilized cut of the deer. When slow braised, these shanks are tender, flavorful and juicy. Also known as ossobucco.
Make This
Venison shank with gravy on white plate with sides.Pin
Venison Burger
Venison burger, if not cooked properly, can be dried out and tough as hockey pucks! These Venison burgers, are juicy moist and delicious! This recipe is fast and easy and utilizes a secret ingredient- steak trimmings.
Make This
venison cheeseburger on a Kaiser rolls with lettuce and tomato slice.Pin
Slow Cooker Venison Carnitas Tacos or Tostadas
This is another easy way to prepare some of the leg roasts of venison that tend to be tough!
Make This
Taco on gray background.Pin
Venison Breakfast Sausage
This Venison Breakfast Sausage recipe is easy and delicious! Make your own. Here is a step by step tutorial that will make you a pro.
Make This
Whirl of venison breakfast sausage on brown paper.Pin
Venison Summer Sausage
This Venison Summer Sausage is so delicious. It is a smoked sausage that is great for appetizers or in sandwiches and the like.
Make This
Sliced sausage with cheese in it and crackers.Pin
Venison Italian Sausage Recipe
This Venison Italian Sausage Recipe only takes a few minutes to make so it couldn't be easier! Delicious, fresh new use for your deer.
Make This
3 Italian sausage on wooden cutting board.Pin
Venison Chorizo
Learn how to make your own specialty sausage with venison. This Venison Chorizo Recipe is a delicious addition to your journey with venison.
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Close up photo of venison chorizo taco.Pin
Shank covered in gravy on gray plate with veggies.Pin
Venison shanks

Organs

IMPORTANT!! Before consuming the organs check with your local wildlife management department to inquire about any known illnesses or parasites you should be aware of!

Many of the internal organs of the deer are edible as well. The heart, liver, kidneys, tongue and testicles are all edible cuts of the deer. The offal is usually some of the most nutrient dense cuts of the animal. This is the precise reason that predators eat these parts first.

Many hunters just leave these super healthy cuts in the gut pile in the woods. It is good practice to try to eliminate waste where we can (although I’m sure the coyotes and raptors are happy).

Heart

Clean up the deer heart well. Remove the lining. Then, remove the arteries and veins. Remove any connective tissue and any additional blood vessels. You will end up with 2 beautiful steaks.

The heart is best cooked quickly. You do not want to overcook them or they become tough. Grilling or pan frying is preferred. This is the most eaten organ of the animal.

Venison Heart Recipe
Indulge in the exquisite and savory delights of our venison heart recipe. This exceptional dish, renowned for its delicate and nuanced flavors and tender texture, elevates traditional meat cuisine to an art form.
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Close up of seared, sliced deer heart.Pin
Grilled Deer Heart
Marinated and grilled to perfection!
Make This
Sliced deer heart with brussels sprouts.Pin

Liver

The liver is a delicious piece of the deer. It is not as strong flavored as that of calves, has very little fat and has a nicer texture.

Like the heart, you do not want to overcook the liver. Cook to medium rare.

Deer Liver and Onions
The simplest deer liver recipe has got to be venison liver and onions.
Make This
Deer liver and onions in a cast pan.Pin

Tongue

Tongues are after all just another muscle of the deer. Just like the sirloin or the loins. They have a texture similar as well.

Once cooked according to your recipe, the tongues should have the skins removed. They tend to be a bit chewy.

Kidneys

The kidneys must be soaked before cooking. Soak them in milk or salt water for 24 hours, then proceed with your recipe. After soaking they can be smoked or pan fried.

Intestines

Intestines of the deer, once thoroughly cleaned and dried can be used as natural sausage casings, just like hog or lamb casings are used.

Other

Bones

The last cut to discuss is the bones. These make absolutely delicious broth and stock. Bone marrow broth is a semi new rage that has been deemed a super food.

These broths are high in antioxidants, aid in digestion and gut health, support weight loss, joint health and immune function to name a few. Not only are they healthy they are incredibly easy to make and so delicious.

Use the broth in all of your soups and stews. This is a far better choice than using beef stock which can tend to overpower the mild flavor of deer.

Venison Bone Broth | Venison Stock
This venison bone broth or venison stock is so easy. It's the key to making delicious soups and stews with deer meat. Limits waste as well!
Make This
Clarified venison stock in jarsPin

Location of cuts on the animal

If you are processing your own deer you will need to know where each different cut is located.

If you would like to learn where each cut is located on the deer, this is a great infographic.

Bone stock in mason jars.Pin
Venison broth

Useful tools for processing

Summary

Knowing what cuts of deer meat you have in your hand will help you in learning how to cook the best venison from scratch. Knowing which techniques and cooking methods to apply for any specific cut will start you on the road to becoming a master of venison cooking.

Want to learn more about mastering venison cooking? Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to Cooking Venison. Complete with over 70 recipes!

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If you have any questions or comments, please ask in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe today.

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

Binky's signature

Originally published March 26, 2021. Updated December 26, 2022.

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10 Comments

  1. My dad used to hunt deer when we were kids but I haven’t had it since! If I could find some around here, I would definitely try this recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    Oh wow! This is so helpful! We love venison but don’t cook it enough. I can’t wait to now. So excited!

  3. We love venison and this is surely getting bookmarked thanks for taking the time with such great info!

  4. This is a really great informative post! I grew up eating venison that my dad made, but I wouldn’t probably know what to do with it if I had some now. Saving this!

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