Because deer are constantly on the move and their muscles are well-exercised, the meat is lean and tends to be tough. The tenderloin, cut from the unexercised area around the spine, is the tenderest cut of all, especially when taken from a young animal. Although you can pan fry the tenderloin in hot butter or oil, a red wine marinade turns deer meat into an unforgettably succulent and mouthwatering meal.
Slice the tenderloin into steaks about 1 inch thick.
Place chopped onion and minced garlic in a large, non-metal bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, along with your choice of seasonings such as thyme, basil or bay leaves.
Pour about a cup of water over the ingredients in the bowl. Put the bowl in the refrigerator until the water cools, then pour in approximately a cup of dry red wine and a small amount of olive or canola oil.
Stir the mixture well, then add the tenderloin steaks. If necessary, add more water or wine so the meat is completely immersed in liquid.
Cover the bowl and allow the meat to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. If the meat is tough, marinate it as long as 10 hours.
Place a small amount of butter or oil in a heavy skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat, then add the tenderloin steaks.
Cook the meat for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, or until the meat is tender and a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the center of the steak.
Transfer the steaks to a serving platter. Let them rest for 3 minutes before serving.
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- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Shannon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Field and Stream: Wild Game Marinades; Sylvia Bashline
- Making the Most of Your Deer; Dennis Walrod
- West Virginia University Extension Service: Venison Fact Sheet: Cooking Venison
- University of Wisconsin Extension: USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperatures for All Cuts of Meat to 145 Degrees
- To test the temperature of steak with a meat thermometer, hold the steak with tongs and insert the thermometer into the side of the steak.
- If you prefer, you can marinate deer tenderloin in red wine without onion, garlic or seasonings.
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.