Sous Vide Venison for Perfectly Cooked Wild Meat

venison backstrap
A finished sous vide backstrap.

Most people who have cooked venison have at some point left their venison steak or chop on the heat too long, and ended up with a dry hockey puck that was barely edible. This is not necessarily an indictment of their cooking skills, but rather an example of just how fragile venison can be when cooking it.

The difference between meat cooked to 130 degrees and 165 degrees is only a matter of minutes. I have seen venison cooking recommendations that suggest that all venison be cooked to 165 degrees, and I would never discourage anyone from taking the safe road. If you choose, however, to live life on the edge because you prefer venison medium-rare (or, as I prefer it, rare), hitting that magical 125-130 degree temperature range can be difficult.

When cooking venison backstrap, for instance, cutting it into chops or medallions will reduces cook time to a matter of minutes. This is why I prefer to leave my backstraps in large, whole pieces so that I can maintain some control. When grilling a large piece, I leave it on the grill for about 4 minutes per side on the direct heat, then move it to the top rack for about 5 minutes to finish. This usually gets me pretty close to what I want, but there’s still a lot of room for error and overcooking.

A more controlled method is to sear the backstrap in a pan with butter, then move to a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes. Again, this will get me close, but depending on the size of the backtrap there is still too much room for error. Sure, I could throw a thermometer in…

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