The summer months are ideal for grilling and smoking venison. (Photo by Art Lander, Jr.)
Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a three-part series on venison — grilling and smoking venison, a summertime favorite.
Summer is the ideal time for grilling or smoking venison.
Take a seat in the shade, open a cold beverage and tune in to the baseball game on the radio.
For grilling and smoking, nothing beats a barrel-type grill with a lid, to hold in the smoke and keep the fire from flaming.
Barrel-type grills also have a large cooking area, room enough for venison burgers, venison steaks, loin, backstrap cutlets or chicken.
Also, because of the moveable grates, there are cooking options:
1) Build the fire in the center of the barrel, flanked by the cooking grates.
2) Build the fire on the right side of the grill, or in a firebox, farthest from the dampened chimney, for indirect heat and maximum smoke.
3) Position the grates over the fire for direct grilling.
Starting the Fire
The best option is starting the fire using hardwood charcoal, usually referred to as char wood, or lump charcoal, made from maple, oak, mesquite or hickory wood.
It’s real wood in various shapes and sizes. It lights quickly, burns hotter, creates less ash, and imparts a purer, wood-fire flavor to foods.
A popular brand is Cowboy Oak & Hickory Lump Charcoal. An 8-pound bag sells for about $14.
Light your char wood in what’s called a charcoal chimney, which is basically a metal tube, with a grate and an insulated handle. Stuff a few pieces of wadded-up newspaper below the grate. Pour the char wood into the chimney, and light the paper. Add paper as needed until the char wood gets ignited.
The chimney draws air that fuels the flames and quickly lights the char wood. When glowing hot, pour the char wood into the grill, onto a bed of hardwood chunks, sticks and wood chips.
When pouring hot char wood into the grill it’s always best to wear an insulated glove and eye protection, especially if there is any wind.
Green wood will impart the best flavor to the smoke. A good mixture is a combination of oak, cherry and hickory wood.
For tasty venison, marinate before cooking, to tenderize and neutralize any gamey taste. Soy-based marinades work great with venison, and can be bought at most grocery stores.
An excellent choice is Allegro, made in Paris, Tennessee. Several of their blends are available locally. Their website is www.allegromarinade.com.
Another option is to mix up a marinade fresh, using your own choice of ingredients.
Here’s a classic marinade recipe, developed over the decades. This recipe can be halved, if you are grilling or smoking a small amount of venison:
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup lemon juice
Mix ingredients in a large bowl, add venison cuts.
Dry Rub Recipe
Dry rub will enhance the flavor of venison.
Here’s the recipe for a basic “Texas-style” rub that works great on all cuts of venison, and beef brisket, too:
2 T Kosher Salt
2 T Garlic Powder
2 T Paprika
2 T Black Pepper
This recipe makes a half cup of rub. Store in an air-tight jar or zippered plastic bag to retain freshness.
Add the dry rub to burgers of venison cuts, one side at a time. Sprinkle a light coating on the cut or meat when it first goes on the grill, and when it’s turned over for the first time.
A second option is to add the rub to the venison on both sides about 30 minutes before it goes on the grill.
Don’t overcook venison. Venison is best when cooked medium-rare to medium for maximum flavor, and juiciness.
Venison Burger Recipe
Who doesn’t like a good burger, and burgers made from venison are very tasty and distinctive.
Here’s a basic venison burger recipe:
2 pounds of ground venison
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 small green pepper finely chopped
1/4 cup of shredded carrot
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon of liquid smoke
Mix thoroughly and make into 1/4-pound burger patties.
Venison was meant to be cooked over an open fire. It’s high-quality free-range red meat at its best when it has been grilled over wood coals much in the same way Native American hunters and gatherers prepared it, way back in time before Europeans ever came to North America.
Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.