Frye: Tips for better tasting venison
You can feel it. I know you can.
The cool bite in the breeze, the chillier nights, the way the air, which hung so heavy and lifeless for months, suddenly seems alive again. All say it's time to hit the deer woods.
Archery season is here.
Pennsylvania's earliest antlerless deer seasons opened Sept. 16 in some wildlife management units. The statewide season is right behind, opening Sept. 30.
If history holds, big things are in the works.
Last year, archers took an estimated 109,250 whitetails. That was almost one-third of the total harvest, counting all seasons.
That's a lot of venison in the freezer.
For that to be tasty venison, though, requires some care.
Chef Albert Wutsch is the former culinary director of IUP. He now lives in Montana and operates Cache Creek Enterprises, writing and lecturing about wild game cooking.
He offered some advice on how to handle deer.
• Butcher a deer, and you'll notice its muscles are separated by seams. Be sure to follow them to separate the muscles that need slow cooking from those that require faster techniques. Always be sure to remove the fascia, or silverskin. That membrane gives the meat a gamey flavor.
• When cooking venison, don't put too much cold meat in a pan at once. It will cool the pan down, and you'll end up sweating your meat rather than searing or browning it. Cook more, but smaller, batches of meat to keep the pan hot and get nice caramelization on the outside.
• What's the most flavorful cut of meat on a deer? The tenderloin and backstrap are the most tender. But the shank has the most flavor. It's a tough cut, though, so cook it slowly.
• Brining is a great way to tenderize a tough cut of meat. The key, though, is to give the brine plenty of time to do its work. Inject it into the muscle and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. When you take it out to cook, the meat will be much more palatable. And if you don't have an injector, don't worry. Just let the meat set in your solution a while longer so that it can soak into the tissues.
• Venison rack of ribs is a meal too often overlooked. To prepare them, coat the ribs with a good dry rub in the flavor of your choice. Let them sit for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. That will allow the rub to render the fat and tenderize the meat. Then, cook as you would any rib dish.
• Do you turn your venison into round steaks? You might want to reconsider. Those steaks include three different cuts of meat, some more tender than others, all connected by a membrane. That's why — no matter how you cook them — they curl up at the edges like baloney in a frying pan and often end up tough or chewy. Separate those cuts and deal with them individually.
• When dealing with tender cuts of game, prepare it quickly over high heat using a dry cooking method, like deep frying, sautéing, stir frying, broiling or grilling. Then, be sure to serve it rare. Cook it beyond that, and you'll make it tough.
Now, who's ready to get out there?