Once the province of hunters, venison has become more accessible in local supermarkets. The lean, flavorful meat has about two-thirds the calories of an equivalent serving of pork, yet it's as versatile in the kitchen. Venison's pronounced flavor appeals to more sophisticated palates, but you can make it more kid-friendly if you treat it like a pork chop. Like pork chops, venison chops work with sweeter sauces and cooking methods that leave the meat tender.
Venison retains a trace of its wild taste even if you buy it from the supermarket. If your kids are unaccustomed to eating game, they may find this flavor off-putting. While you don't want to disguise venison's characteristic taste, you can mellow it with a marinade. Marinating venison also keeps this lean meat moist during cooking. Salad dressings -- either oily or creamy -- make excellent marinades as they contain enough acidity to remove some of the wildness from the meat. Some chefs marinate venison in milk or buttermilk to remove gaminess, then transfer the meat to a more flavorful marinade a few hours before cooking. If you have picky eaters, soak the venison in milk or a creamy buttermilk salad dressing in your refrigerator for a day before you cook it.
Venison chops contain the animal's most flavorful meat, so quicker cooking methods work well with this cut. Thin chops pan-sear in minutes, letting you get dinner on the table in record time. Venison is so lean that you'll need a little fat to make the chops release from the pan easily. You could also use non-stick cookware, but you'll see less browning if you choose a non-stick pan. Heat the oil or butter in the pan before adding the chops so the surface of the meat will pick up a rich brown sear as soon as it hits the hot pan, and cook the chops only a few minutes per side. When you remove the venison, deglaze the pan with a splash of orange juice or apple juice and reduce the juice mixture to form a delicious sauce for the meat.
Thicker chops will stay tender in the oven if you broil them. Because you don't have to disturb the surface of the meat much during broiling, a dry rub treatment works beautifully. Venison's earthy taste goes well with cumin, coriander or rosemary, but let your taste buds be your guide, and choose flavors your family enjoys. For a kid-friendly flavor, try a ranch seasoning mix. Rub the meat with the spice mixture and broil it until it browns on top, then flip each chop once and let the other side broil. Add some fresh apple or peach halves to the broiling pan and cook them along with the venison for a sweet and savory combination that appeals to kids as well as adults.
If the weather permits it, grilling does venison chops justice. Smoky flavors meld with the meat's wild taste, while the quick cooking method keeps lean venison from drying. Brush on some honeyed barbecue sauce as you grill the chops; its sweetness complements venison. Turn the venison chops only once on the grill so they stay tender and juicy. Overcooking venison chops will leave them in such a state that only the family dog might appreciate them, so keep the meat thermometer handy and pull the chops from the grill when they reach the 145 degrees Fahrenheit that the USDA recommends for whole chops.
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- Oklahoma State University Extension; Venison Vittles; LaDell Emmons
- Recipe Tips; USDA Nutrition - Deer (venison) Nutrition Facts
- Recipe Tips; USDA Nutrition - Pork Blade Steak Nutrition Facts
- USDA News Releases: USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145 Degrees F; May 2011
Lauren Whitney covers science, health, fitness, fashion, food and weight loss. She has been writing professionally since 2009 and teaches hatha yoga in a home studio. Whitney holds bachelor's degrees in English and biology from the University of New Orleans.