By Josh Boyd
With every successful harvest comes a prize of delectable nature. The fresh sustenance that such a harvest provides nourishes our bodies and treats our taste buds to the wonders of culinary adventure. We as hunters, take great pride in fostering our game through its journey from field to fork, with the ultimate trophy being that of the smile on our family’s faces as they consume what has been taken afield.
With such a wide array of cuts that can be prepared from a number of different game species, it is quite difficult to put your finger on exactly which is the stand-alone favorite. However, few individual cuts are as revered as the prize of all prizes among hunters as the backstrap of a whitetail deer.
The loin or “backstrap” of a whitetail deer is considered to be one of the most highly sought after wild game cuts available. Used primarily in the cooking of steaks, backstrap can be grilled or fried, with opinions being highly variable as to which method takes precedence. Many choose to fry venison loin due to the difficulty of keeping their steaks moist when attempting to grill them. However, with an eye for detail, tasty and tender grilled venison steaks can be prepared with relative ease.
Although a multitude of recipes and many methods of grilling can be utilized when cooking venison steaks, the following is the method that I have used for the better part of two decades, to much success.
Thickness Is Everything
The problem that many encounter when grilling venison steak is that there is an extremely fine line between grilling success and turning your prized cuts into charred remnants with the consistency of boot leather. Venison is naturally lean and requires a special amount of finesse to prevent it from drying out.
By carefully selecting the thickness in which your steaks are to be cut, you can eliminate a substantial amount of worry pertaining to overcooking, and minimize the number of variables that go into grilling times. I have experienced the best results by placing a segment of loin on a cutting board and cutting it into ½” thick slices along its width. I then take these slices and cut them in half to create a number of smaller medallion steaks.
This particular sized cut appears to give the best results when seeking to grill the loin to perfection in its entirety. Through trial and error, I have found that thinner cuts tend to be nearly impossible to prevent from drying out. On the other hand, thicker cuts take an extensive amount of time to cook internally, leading to an overcooked and rubbery exterior.
The Magic Of Marinade
Once your steaks are cut, you can begin marinating them to your preferred taste. While a number of commercial marinades exist on the market, much satisfaction can be taken from preparing your own from scratch. This allows you to make future modifications to the recipe as you see fit.
The marinade recipe, which I have used for a number of years, is as follows:
- ⅔ cup white vinegar
- ⅔ cup soy sauce
- ⅔ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 3 teaspoons liquid smoke
- ½ teaspoon seasoning salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
All of these ingredients are to be stirred in a bowl to allow proper mixing. Your steaks can now be placed into a one-gallon freezer bag, where the marinade is to be poured from its bowl, thereby submerging your steaks. Gently shake the bag with the steaks and marinade inside, and place it into the refrigerator for approximately three hours.
Steak With A Side Of Bacon
Once your steak has been allowed to marinate, take the bag out of the refrigerator and sit it in a bowl alongside a cutting board and dish of the appropriate size to place your steaks. You will now open up a pack of bacon and cut each slice in half. Each individual steak can now be wrapped in a half-slice of bacon, which will be secured in place with the help of a toothpick.
You might find it helpful to begin preheating your grill while this step is in progress to save time. This is best accomplished by igniting your grill of choice and adjusting temperature settings to that in the medium heat range. Allow the grill ample time to preheat, as you want your steaks to be cooked quickly and thoroughly upon being placed upon the grill.
Grill To Perfection
With the grill adequately preheated, you can begin placing your steaks evenly across the grated surface. If you choose to use a cast iron grill, as has become popular in recent years, it is important to ensure that all steaks are spread evenly, but also placed as centrally on the grill top as possible.
Once the steaks have been placed on the grill, the heat can be dialed up slightly, placing it squarely within the medium to high heat threshold. The key is to cook your steak thoroughly in as short of time as possible. Extensive cooking time at lower heat dries venison out quickly and depletes the flavor along the way.
Typically, grilling times of approximately three to four minutes per side are sufficient in order to achieve a medium-rare to medium finish. This figure can vary, as every grill cooks at slightly different rates. However, what is important to know is that any venison steak cooked past the point of a medium finish will begin to become tough, therefore discretion is important.
Venison Steak To Die For
With your steak cooked to perfection, all that will be left is to remove any remaining toothpicks and gather around the table with friends and family. With everyone gathered in unison, to enjoy the sustenance rendered by your successful harvest, you will be able to look back in fond recollection at the memorable hunt that made such a special occasion possible.