How to Cook Venison and Make It Tender

Freshly served venison with cranberries and rosemary


Venison is leaner than beef, especially if it's cut from wild game, rather than farm-raised deer, elk or antelope. While that makes it lower in calories and saturated fat, the implication for the cook is tougher meat that easily dries out. Braising is one of the surer ways to turn out tender venison. This wet cooking method involves simmering food in a flavorful liquid for an extended period to impart a great taste while soaking and breaking down the meat to make it tender and juicy.

Prepare a mirepoix to use in the dish. Mirepoix is a mixture of chopped carrots, onion and celery.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Set your Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with cooking oil.

Dab the venison dry with paper towels; if the surface is wet, the meat doesn't develop its desirable brown, crisp exterior during searing. Pat salt and pepper over the venison. Add other herbs and spices you'd like to use, such as thyme, parsley, garlic, onion powder or curry powder.

Place the venison in the Dutch oven. Sear each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, until it's golden brown. Take the meat out of the pot and set it aside. Then, saute the mirepoix and aromatics in the Dutch oven for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the ingredients soften.

Add in a braising liquid. Red or white wine, beer, broth or apple cider work well. Use enough liquid to cover about half the venison when it's returned to the pot; the amount varies from fairly little for steaks, chops and other relatively thin cuts to considerably more for loins, shoulder and other larger cuts.

Deglaze the Dutch oven by firmly scraping the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon or a rubber or plastic spatula after adding the liquid. Get up all the caramelized brown bits left behind from searing the venison, as they're full of flavor. Add in any other seasonings to taste, including some more of those used on the venison before searing. Bring the braising liquid to a boil, then turn off the burner.

Put the meat back into the Dutch oven. Add vegetables or aromatics, such as green beans, beans, chopped potato, garlic or shallot, if you like. Put the lid on the dish and transfer it into the oven and cook it for approximately 1 1/2 hours, turning the venison once halfway through, until it's fork-tender. Confirm with a meat thermometer that the venison has reached 160 F at its thickest point to ensure safety. Spoon the braising liquid over it when serving.