Venison Barbecue 2014

2014-07-04 16.20.39We’ve had good success with smoking venison in the past, but the fine art of smoking meat is a continual learning process. Where I ran into previous problems was that fact that the venison was seldom ready to pull by the time it reached its desired internal temperature of 160F. To get around this, I usually finished the meat by braising it in a combination of its own drippings and venison stock.

After reflecting on some of my favorite barbecue joints in the Memphis area, I realized that I tend to prefer chopped barbecue versus pulled barbecue. By chopping the meat, you are tenderizing it and this process allows you to shave a little time off the smoking/cooking process resulting in a more firm texture. Pulled meat certainly can be wonderful, but it can easily easily be over cooked, resulting in a “mushy” texture.

Similar to the recent experiment with venison pastrami, I applied a thin coat of lard to the meat before adding the rub. You can use bacon fat instead, but bacon fat tends to have a very dominate flavor. For the rub, we used the following recipe:

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Paprika
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Cayenne


After applying the lard and rub, the meat was placed in the smoker at 180F degrees for several hours and then cranked up to 200F for several more until an internal temperature of 160F was reached. The meat was then allowed to rest for over an hour in foil. The subject matter of smoking temperature can be a topic of hot debate. The general idea with using these lower temps is to prolong the smoking process for as long as possible. If your smoker doesn’t operate very well in these lower ranges, you can adjust to 200-225F, but observe the internal temp of the meat carefully.

After the resting stage, I deboned and then expended a good bit of energy chopping the venison  with a heavy duty cleaver. Since you’ll invariably have some tougher pieces of meat when dealing with venison, you want to thoroughly chop, tenderize and mix the tough with the more tender pieces of meat. I’m not going to promise that you won’t encounter the occasional bite of meat that is a little too tough due to silverskin, but its venison, so this is to be expected. All and all this was the best results so far while experimenting with venison barbecue.

We used this recipe for a KC style sauce.

2014-07-04 20.10.12

Venison Pastrami

2014-06-30 21.07.26-2I’ve had some excellent success with venison charcuterie experiments in the past, but none have turned out quite as well as venison pastrami, which is something that I have been intending to do for over a year. The recipe itself is rather simple and is an adaptation of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s book Charcuterie.

Pastrami is basically corned beef (in this case, venison) with a smoking stage. A peppercorn and coriander crust provide the distinct flavor profile. The pastrami is brined, smoked, cooled and then a steamed (oven, roasting pan full of water and a wire rack). Beef pastrami is generally cut from the fatty part of the shoulder. For the venison recipe, I used a cut of bottom round from the hindquarter. To get around the lack of fat, I applied a thin coat of pork lard.


1 gallon water
1.5 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1.5 ounces (8 tsp) pink salt (Cure #1)
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp allspice berries
1 tsp juniper berries
1/2 tsp ground mace
2-4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 packed cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 garlic cloves, minced



2014-06-29 10.42.55Bring the brine to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled. Place the venison in the brine for 3 days. Make sure the meat is fully submerged (a plate or bowl can be used to sink the meat if necessary).

Remove the meat from the brine, rinse well and pat dry


Using a dry skillet, Toast 1 tbsp each of black peppercorns and Coriander seed until brown. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

2014-06-29 12.02.47-2Using no more than half of the ingredients, apply the peppercorn and coriander to the meat, then, using your finger, apply a thin coat of pork lard (or bacon fat) to the meat. Apply the remaining peppercorn and coriander to the exterior of the lard.

Smoke the venison at 180F degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 150F, then remove. This will take several hours. A hotter temp will work (no more than 225F), but you want to impart as much smoke flavor as possible, so a lower temp is advised.

2014-06-30 16.41.00For serving, preheat the oven to 275F, fill a roasting pan full of water and place the meat on a wire rack over the water for 2.5 to 3 hours.

2014-06-30 21.04.10Slice the meat thinly across the grain.   -don’t forget the Sauerkraut!





See also:

Corned Venison & Hash 

Blood Sausage

Venison Bresaola 

Venison Salami 

Natural Instincts and Bypassing Anatomic Capacity

Eating meat made us human. In fact, there is strong evolutionary evidence that the principal reason that humans stood upright with sweat glands (instead of on all fours without sweat glands) is so that we (humans) could run game down in a manner of persistence hunting. As the earth’s landscape changed and dense forest retreated into open savannahs, humans took to running game animals into exhaustion in a highly organized manner known as persistence hunting.

This adaptation may be the primary reason that humans survived and Neanderthals went extinct. They (Neanderthals) had the odds in their favor: they were bigger, stronger, tougher and better conventional hunters, but, humans could run long distances for sustained periods. Game animals can out run us only in a sprint. Our meat eating allowed us to develop large brains which require proportionally more energy than any other animal. Not only do these large brains give us a ballast for balance when standing and running upright, it allowed (and allows) us to develop weapons for more efficient procurement of meat.

Fact of the matter is, we are both anatomically equipped (sweat glands, long distance running) and mentally equipped (large brains which allow technology i.e. weaponry development) for meat eating. We evolved for meat eating and we survived natural selection through meat eating and the adaptations directly associated with meat eating. To deny that fundamental connection to meat eating with arguments of humanity and compassion is anti-humanist. Our connection with meat eating is fundamental to our entire existence as well as part of our social and emotional interactive programming.

This is obviously an entirely different argument than tackling the industrial meat supply, however, the more I encounter arguments that suggest humans are denying our natural instincts and bypassing our anatomic capacity by killing and eating animals, the more I suspect that the industrial meat chain has shot itself in the foot by having removed direct experience with meat. Can you imagine, for example, someone making the “bypassing natural instincts and anatomic capacity” argument to a Native person living in the Arctic Circle? Remove Caribou, Seal, Whale and Fish from the diet and it would have been impossible for people to exist there at any point in history and it would be impossible for them to exists there now.  To argue that they are not “honorable” in their time tested existence is entirely dishonest.


June Tab Clearing

We’ll be getting back to regular posting in July with some Summer meat projects (been busy training for Elk season). In the meantime, here are some stories we have been following:

The U.S. Department of Interior is currently reviewing a proposal presented by animal protection and wildlife conservation groups to require the use of non-lead ammunition when discharging a firearm on all public lands.

Sunday hunting debate heating up in Massachusetts.

Stripped Carbs, the anti-health food.

The Paleo diet is not a “rich person’s diet” as the Inquisitor would have you believe. You just need to learn how to hunt.

Via the American Alpine Institute, Down sleeping bags vs. synthetic.

Backcountry hunting as an advocate for Wilderness in America.

Federal charges for high fence deer smugglers.

Finally, check out the new book on Memphis Barbecue by our friend Craig over at the Memphis Que blog.


Venison Meatloaf


This is a simple and traditional meatloaf recipe utilizing your venison stores. We blend the Venison equally with high quality, grass fed, ground beef.

Heat oven to 325

In a food processor, combine 5 oz. croutons, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp thyme. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. 

Combine 1/4 onion, 1 carrot, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 and red bell pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. 

Combine the vegetable mixture, 1 Ib ground beef, and 1 lb ground venison with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the kosher salt. Add 1 egg  and 1 1/2 tsp salt and combine thoroughly, but avoid squeezing the meat. 

Pack this mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to mold the shape of the meatloaf. Onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, turn the meatloaf out of the pan onto the center of the tray. Put in oven for 45 mins.

Combine 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tsp cumin, dashes Worcestershire sauce, dashes hot pepper sauce and honey. Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 20 minutes.

The Paleo Workout

Outside Online has the scoop from several academics suggesting that Paleolithic man was a far superior athlete to modern man, even when compared to our most elite athletes.  The full story can be read here.

The conclusion is that “Pleo exercise” (i.e. hunting and gathering), much like the Paleo diet, conditioned our Genome, therefore we should imitate this exercise to the best of our ability through weight training, stretching, and, in particular, cross-country running. Colin Shaw estimates that some Paleolithic hunters covered areas as large as 2,000-3,000 miles while following animal migrations. Colin Shaw’s academic contribution in the Journal of Evolution can be read here.




Scientific American on Paleo Diet

Scientific American bags on the Paleo diet primarily because Paleolithic diets varied so much from region to region. For example, the diet of the Arctic Paleolithic hunter/gatherer was very different from that of the Central American hunter/gatherer. Reasonable argument. Another criticism has to do with evolutionary changes that have taken place in humans over the last 10,000 years, particularly with regards to the PH levels in our intestines.

I have no doubt that the modern concept of eating pure Paleo has holes on it. I do like the fact that it moves people away from eating processed foods and battles the myths of saturated fats as being unhealthy. For most people, eating a more Paleo based diet is only going to benefit them. However, I disagree entirely with the premise of the strict no dairy interpretations of the Paleo diet. I just don’t buy it. As a hunter, I have killed numerous deer that were carrying milk. In a Paleo setting where humans hunted constantly, especially Megafauna such as Mammoths, are you telling me that Paleolithics did not consume milk when they split open the guts of animals and discovered it? Milk would be the “most bang for your buck” as far as fat, nutrients and calories, especially when eating lean game meats. In fact, If I were hunting for pure survival, I’d likely target animals with young offspring in the hopes of acquiring milk. While the milk of wild game may be not something that a Paleolithic hunter would consume daily, I’d sure think that any reasonable hunter/gatherer consumed dairy products any chance they got. Was it enough consumption for humans to develop lactose tolerance? I am not sure. But, I am confident that consumption was frequent enough for me to justify drinking milk to any contemporary Paleo snob, especially one who does not consume game meats. Most any contemporary “Paleo” diet is going to have flaws and inconsistencies, but, in the end, it is difficult to criticize any diet founded on the principles of eating quality meat, vegetables and forage.