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If you’ve never experienced the distinct flavor of the meat of a deer, you might wonder what possesses some people to hunt their own game. But with the right preparation and cooking techniques, you can make some of your most memorable recipes with venison. Deer meat is also one of the healthiest meats out there.
But before you try and seek out some of this meat from the untamed wilderness, you might be wondering — what does venison taste like?
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What is Venison?
At one point, the term venison applied to any kind of wild meat. But now, it’s more commonly used to refer to the meat of a deer or any animal in the deer family. The initial word comes from the Latin “venari,” a word meaning “to hunt or pursue.” Most often, the word is used to refer to the meat of the whitetail deer.
Though venison is very low in fat, it’s a kind of red meat. That makes it a great alternative to other red meats if you are trying to reduce the fat in your diet. And like any other meat, you can prepare venison in seemingly unending ways.
So what does deer taste like, anyway? Let’s find out in the next section.
What Does Venison Taste Like?
Does deer meat taste good? The venison flavor is somewhat hard to characterize. It tends to have a stronger flavor than other red meats, although some people describe it as being slightly sweeter, too. People used to farm-raised meat find the distinct taste of deer and other game meats to be especially strong.
The flavor of venison, along with the meat of other game animals, is often described as tasting “gamey.” Gamey meat is meat that has an earthy, pungent flavor, as it came from an animal that has lived its whole life in the wild.
Some of that flavor is caused by the deer’s diet in the wild. Many deer enjoy eating soybeans, acorns, and chestnuts. These foods add to the flavor of the meat. Some venison will taste spicy or minty, as deer will often eat herbs if they can find them. If a deer primarily eats corn, the flavor of the meat will usually be milder. Thus, the exact taste of the meat may vary from animal to animal.
Some people characterize venison meat as being festive-tasting meat, as it’s loaded with complex flavor notes that you simply don’t get with farm-raised red meat. Venison can be drier and tougher than other red meat. But as we’ll see further down, there are steps you can take to tenderize the meat and add other fats if desired.
Those accustomed to game hunting (as well as some other people) often really appreciate the gamey taste of venison. Others prefer to stick to the more familiar taste of an animal raised on a farm.
Reducing the Gamey Taste of Venison
When people ask how to make deer meat taste good, they are often asking how to reduce the gamey taste. Some of this happens somewhat naturally. As you remove the silver skin, internal organs, connective tissue, and fat, the gamey taste decreases.
If you hunt your own venison each hunting season, you likely already know that the handling of game animals in the field can have a major impact on their flavor. If the carcass does not cool down quickly enough, the field dressing is delayed, or the deer is not bled out properly, the gamey flavor can become too overpowering.
Assuming the carcass has been handled properly, here are some steps you can take to reduce the gamey taste of venison:
Remove hairs — After a deer carcass is butchered, it’s possible that there could be some residual hair on the meat itself. And aside from being unpleasant to eat, hair will also increase the gamey taste. The best way to remove it is with a clean cloth soaked in vinegar.
Add spices or marinades — The right spices and herbs can cover gaminess, and a good marinade can soften muscle fibers and enhance the flavor of a given cut of meat. Some marinades will also add some further flavor-enhancing fat.
Choosing the herbs and/or marinades you use is up to you. Venison is somewhat like a lamb in that it goes well with minty flavors. It’s also somewhat like pork in that it does well with sweet or savory dressings.
If you want to make venison softer, a relatively acidic marinade can work wonders. Tomato juice, vinegar, lemon juice, and wine can bring out flavors and make the meat pleasantly tenderized.
Make sure you marinate venison in the fridge for at least a few hours. But an overnight soak in the marinade will often do a better job of letting the flavors settle in.
Add other fats — Part of venison’s nutritional appeal is its leanness. But if you don’t mind some extra fat and calories, adding some fat to your marinade or rubbing it onto a cut of meat can impart a rich taste.
There are plenty of options to choose when it comes to other fats. Butter is a great choice if you want an especially rich flavor. Olive oil, bacon fat, and sweet and sour cream are all good choices.
Though it isn’t entirely related to flavor, tenderizing or softening the meat will help venison taste good. Doing this is especially helpful if you’re preparing a venison steak. To tenderize, simply beat the venison with a specialized tool for tenderizing meat. If you are making stew meat or ground venison, you can then chop and grind it.
What Are the Health Benefits of Venison?
You now know the answer to the question, “what does deer meat taste like?” So before you go pick up some venison, you may want to know some of its health benefits:
It’s very rich in iron — The main type of iron found in deer meat is haem iron. This type of iron is easily absorbed from dietary sources, so your body should be able to use it efficiently.
It’s low in fat and calories — Venison is pretty light as far as meats go; it is low in both fat and calories. Most notably, it’s lower in saturated fat than other types of red meat. Keep in mind that if you marinate it in butter or olive oil, it will add more fat!
It’s very high protein — Venison is an outstanding lean protein. If you have a high-protein diet but like to keep your fat intake low, it’s a great choice.
It has plenty of vitamins and minerals — Venison is full of vitamins and minerals that support both energy and general health. It’s especially rich in vitamin B6, B12, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. It also includes zinc, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.
It’s low in sodium — For various reasons, many of us try to limit salt intake. And while many meats are full of salt, venison really doesn’t have much. That makes it one of the better meats for those who need to restrict salt because of a heart condition.
If you want to jump more into venison’s nutritional benefits, check out this interesting video.
How Do You Prepare Venison?
So how does venison taste best? You can prepare it just about any way you like. If you find the texture to be tough, you might like to try ground venison in quesadillas or burgers. You can also cook it in a crockpot or slow cooker to tenderize the meat.
If you’ve never really had venison and want to get a sense of the flavor, pan-roasting it is a good way to go. When you combine fresh venison with chopped herbs, butter, garlic, and potatoes, you get a dish that tastes truly memorable!
Since deer meat does well when cooked slowly, it’s a great candidate for making soups and stews. And of course, if you’re partial to jerky, venison jerky can be a delicious alternative to beef jerky.
When it comes to preparing venison, it’s a lot of fun to get creative! If you have a favorite recipe using another meat, try substituting venison. You can also experiment with seasonings and marinades to dial in the perfect venison steak. And of course, it’s always a good idea to seek out recipes from experienced game hunters — these are some of the best ones!
Incorporating Venison Into Your Diet
If you like the venison taste and want to incorporate more low-fat, high-protein meat into your diet, it’s a good idea to regularly find some deer meat. But if you aren’t part of the entire hunting culture, it can be hard to find. Ask around to see if you can acquire some from someone near you who hunts. Some specialty meat stores also sell venison. It can take some effort to find venison, but it’s worth it!
Still, have some questions on venison taste? Here are some answers:
How does venison taste compared to beef?
The venison vs beef taste question is a common one. Venison is smoother with a drier texture, as it is much lower in fat. A lot of people describe venison as tasting sweeter than beef.
Why does venison taste bad?
Not everyone thinks venison tastes bad, but some people certainly do. Most people who dislike the taste aren’t a fan of the earthy, gamey flavor. This taste is unique to the meat of wild animals — pork and cattle meat don’t have it.
Does deer taste better than beef?
That depends on who you ask. People who prefer lower fat meats and don’t mind gamey taste might say that deer tastes better. Those who are more accustomed to tender, farm-raised meats (or “normal meat”) might prefer beef.
Is venison gamey tasting?
If you ask anyone “how does deer taste?” they will probably tell you it tastes gamey. That’s because it comes from wild deer, and the meat of wild animals will usually have a pungent, earthy, gamey taste.