Many deer hunters default to throwing venison over an open fire, getting a nice crust, and hunting for rare occasions. The only problem with this is that venison is not always cooked to the same level of doneness. For example, you can get medium rare in the center, but the outer layers of the meat will be well done.
Sous vide is the answer. It sounds fancy, but it’s basically just a way to slow cook meat by immersing it in a hot water bath. When done right, sous vide cooking minimizes those layers of gray, tasteless, dry meat, and instead produces pink, flavorful, medium-rare to crusty venison.
Sous vide cooking also allows for some freedom. When cooking at high heat over an open flame, a few minutes can be the difference between medium rare and medium. Sous vide plates offer a much greater margin of error because the temperatures are low and consistent.
Sous Vide basics for roasting tenderloins and tough cuts
If you want to cook venison, you need a sous vide cooker. The pot is attached to a container filled with water and uses heating coils to adjust the temperature of the water to the decimal point of a degree. You also need a strong vacuum sealer to seal the meat and separate it from the water bath. You can use Ziploc bags in a pinch – just try to squeeze out as much air as possible to keep your bagged meat floating in the water bath.
Different cuts of venison require different cooking times and temperatures. For example, here’s how long you need to cook some basic cuts of venison, from loin to roast.
- 6- to 8-inch backstrap: 2 to 3-1/2 hours at 115 degrees F
- Roast 3-pound rear quarter: 3 to 4 hours at 122 degrees F
- Round eye: 1-1/2 to 2 hours at 110 degrees F
For all cuts, after removing from the sauce bath and plastic bag, pat dry and sear the meat on a grill, flat top, or griddle heated to 600 degrees F for exactly 1 minute per side. Be sure to rest the meat uncovered for 15 minutes before carving. For tougher cuts, the rule of thumb is to cook at 180 degrees F for 14 to 16 hours.
How to Sous Vide a Backstrap Venison
Serves two to four
- A 6 to 8 inch back strap
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Two sprigs of fresh thyme
- Two sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Four cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of white wine
- Two pieces of salted butter
- Sunflower oil
Pickled red onions (boil until sugar and salt dissolve, let cool, then add onions to marinate for at least 6 hours.)
- Two medium red onions, sliced
- 2 cups of apple cider vinegar
- 2 glasses of water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Remove any skin or silver fascia from the fully thawed backstrap and lightly dust with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add the backstrap to a vacuum-sealed bag with the fresh rosemary, thyme, minced garlic cloves, white wine and butter. Mix and seal the bag as tightly as possible. If using an external vacuum sealer, you may choose not to use any white wine.
Heat the container of water with your sous vide cooker to 115 degrees F. Place the closed back strap in the container and leave for anywhere from 2 to 3 1/2 hours. When you’re ready to pull the backpack out of the sous vide bath, preheat a grill, flat top, or skillet to 600 degrees F. Cast iron or mild steel works great here, but I wouldn’t recommend preheating a stainless steel skillet. steel at this temperature. If you only have a stainless steel pan, dial for a surface temperature of 500 degrees and cook each side for 30 seconds longer than the times suggested below.
Dry meat cooks better, so dry the backpack after removing it from the bag. Lightly brush the loin with sunflower oil (or similar high-heat cooking oil) and brown the top and bottom for 1 minute on each side.
Read more: Want to Make the Perfect Smoked Back? Use frozen meat
Remove the backstrap and place on a cooking rack or wire rack to drain the juices. Let the loincloth rest, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes before carving and serving. If desired, combine with pickled red onions.