Venison: What is it and How is it Used?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Venison is the meat of a game animal, especially a deer. It’s a type of game meat, which is defined as the meat of wild animals hunted for sport. It’s leaner than beef or pork, with a stronger flavor. 

In this guide, I’ll explain what venison is, how it’s different from other meats, and why it’s so popular.

What is venison

What Exactly is Venison?

There are many different species of deer that can be used for venison, including:

  • White-tailed deer
  • Mule deer
  • Red deer
  • Roe deer
  • Fallow deer
  • Sika deer
  • Axis deer

Other Animals That Can Be Referred to as Venison

While venison is typically used to describe the meat of deer, the term can also be applied to the meat of other animals that are hunted for food. For example:

  • Hares and rabbits (family Leporidae)
  • Wild boars (family Suidae)
  • Goats (genus Capra)

The History of Venison

Venison has been a popular food source for humans for thousands of years. In fact, it is believed that venison was one of the first types of meat that humans ever ate. Native to many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and southern Asia, deer have been hunted for their meat by various cultures throughout history. Today, venison remains a popular food item in many parts of the world, particularly in regions where deer are native.

Exploring the Unique Taste of Venison

When cooking venison, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a lean meat, so it can dry out quickly if overcooked. Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing venison:

  • Venison is best cooked rare to medium-rare, so be careful not to overcook it.
  • Venison is excellent when grilled, roasted, or pan-seared.
  • The key compounds that give venison its unique flavor are referred to as “wild flavor,” which include spicy and slightly sweet notes.
  • Venison is often associated with extended aging, meaning it can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator before being cooked.
  • Venison is often served with a sauce to add moisture and flavor to the meat.

The Different Cuts of Venison

There are many different cuts of venison available, and each one has its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most common cuts of venison:

  • Venison loin is the most tender and prized cut of venison, and it’s often compared to beef tenderloin.
  • Venison chops are cut from the rib section of the deer and are similar to lamb chops.
  • Venison shoulder is a tougher cut of meat that requires longer cooking times, but it’s great for making stews and roasts.
  • Venison shank is a flavorful cut that is often used in making venison stock or soup.

Where to Find Venison

Venison is not as widely available as other meats, but it can be found at specialty meat stores, farmers’ markets, and online. Here are some tips for finding and buying venison:

  • Venison is mainly available during hunting season, which varies depending on the state and region.
  • Venison can be purchased from farms that raise deer for meat.
  • When buying venison, pay close attention to the color and smell of the meat. It should be a deep red color and have a slightly sweet smell.
  • Venison can be difficult to slice because it’s a lean meat, so it’s important to use a sharp knife.
  • If you’re going to store venison for a few days, it’s best to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the coolest part of your refrigerator.

Where Does Venison Come From? The Wild and Wonderful World of Deer Meat

If you’re looking to try venison, you may be wondering where to find it. Here are some options:

  • Locally sourced: Some specialty butchers and farmers markets may carry venison, especially during hunting season.
  • Online specialty butchers: There are also a number of online specialty butchers that sell certified venison.

Deer Species and Characteristics

Venison is a term that refers to the meat of certain species of deer. Here are some of the most common species:

  • Whitetail deer: This is the most common species of deer in North America and is known for its tender meat.
  • Mule deer: This species is found in the western United States and has a slightly stronger flavor than whitetail deer.
  • Red deer: This species is found in Europe and has a more pronounced flavor than other deer species.

Regardless of the species, venison is characterized by its fine grain and supple texture resulting from short, thin muscle fibers.

Comparing Venison to Other Meats

If you’re wondering how venison compares to other meats, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Flavor: Venison has a unique flavor that is often described as nutty and slightly sweet. It is also leaner than beef, which can affect the flavor and texture.
  • Texture: As mentioned earlier, venison has a fine grain and supple texture that sets it apart from other meats. It is also less marbled than beef, which can make it slightly tougher if overcooked.
  • Pairs well with: Venison pairs well with bold flavors like red wine, juniper berries, and rosemary.

The Many Qualities of Venison

Venison is an extremely lean meat, with cuts that are low in fat and saturated fat. This makes it a healthy choice for consumption, as it is high in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals. In addition, venison is sourced from wild deer that have lived on a natural diet of grass and other vegetation, making it a more naturally consumed meat.

Versatile in Cooking

Venison is a versatile meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. It can be roasted, stewed, stir-fried, or even used in minced form for dishes such as Bolognaise, burgers, or sausages. In addition, venison can be used to achieve a diverse range of flavors and textures, depending on the cooking method used.

Sourced Correctly

Venison is typically sourced through hunting, which is regulated by law to ensure the humane treatment of the animals. In addition, many western countries have strict regulations in place to prevent the spread of disease from wild animals to humans. When sourced correctly, venison is a safe and healthy meat option.

Organ Meats and Escalope

In addition to the traditional cuts of venison, such as steaks and roasts, the animal’s organ meats can also be consumed. These include the liver, heart, and kidneys, which are high in amino acids and other nutrients. Venison escalope, which is a thin slice of meat, is also a popular option for cooking.

Supply and Origin

Venison can be found in a variety of forms, including fresh, frozen, and canned. It is typically sourced from deer, which are native to many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. The phrase “venison” actually comes from the Middle English word “venisoun,” which referred to any animal that was hunted and consumed.

Moisture and Fat Content

When cooking venison, it is important to keep in mind its low fat content. To prevent the meat from becoming too tough, it is recommended to cook it with added moisture, such as olive oil or cheese. In addition, using minced venison for dishes such as hamburgers can help to add some fat content and achieve a juicier texture.

Mastering the Art of Cooking Venison

When it comes to cooking venison, it’s essential to choose the right cut of meat. The most popular cuts of venison include backstrap, shanks, chops, shoulders, and burger. Each cut requires a different cooking method, so it’s essential to know what you’re working with before you start cooking.

Preparing Venison for Cooking

Before you start cooking venison, you need to prepare it properly. Here are some easy steps to follow:

  • Remove any silver skin or sinew from the meat.
  • Trim any excess fat from the meat.
  • Season the meat with salt, pepper, and any other spices you like.
  • Let the meat rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Highlighting the Best Sections of Venison

Some of the best sections of venison include the backstrap and the osso bucco. The backstrap is a lean and tender cut of meat that’s perfect for grilling or roasting. The osso bucco is a flavorful cut of meat that’s best cooked slowly in a rich broth until it becomes tender and falls off the bone.

Thickening Venison Dishes

If you’re making a venison stew or soup, you may need to thicken the dish to give it a heartier texture. One easy way to thicken venison dishes is to add a helping of flour to the pot. The flour will help to thicken the broth and give the dish a richer flavor.

Safe Handling of Venison

It’s essential to handle venison safely to avoid foodborne illness. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling raw venison.
  • Keep raw venison separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook venison (here’s the best wood to do it) to an internal temperature of at least 160°F to ensure it’s safe to eat.
  • Store leftover venison in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh.

Proper Storage of Venison: Keeping Your Meat Fresh and Safe

When it comes to venison, proper storage is key to maintaining its quality and preventing potential health risks. Improper storage can cause the meat to spoil, develop mold, and even make you sick. To ensure that your venison stays fresh and safe to eat, consider the following:

How to Store Venison

Here are some tips on how to properly store venison:

  • Remove excess fat: Fat can cause the meat to spoil more quickly, so it’s best to remove as much as possible before storing.
  • Choose the right cuts: Some cuts of venison are better for long-term storage than others. For example, ground venison is more difficult to store than whole cuts.
  • Keep it cool: Venison should be stored at a cool temperature, ideally between 32-40°F. This can be achieved by storing it in a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Store it properly: Venison should be stored in a clean, airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Make sure to label the container with the date and type of meat.
  • Don’t store it hot: Venison should never be stored at room temperature or in a hot environment, as this can cause bacteria to grow and spoil the meat.
  • Freeze it soon: If you’re not going to use the venison within a few days, it’s best to freeze it as soon as possible. This will help to preserve its quality and prevent spoilage.
  • Use natural methods: Some hunters prefer to store their venison using natural methods, such as wrapping it in cheesecloth or leaving it uncovered on a sheet pan in the refrigerator. While these methods can work, they may not be as effective as more traditional storage methods.
  • Check for mold: Before storing venison, check for any signs of mold. If you see any, remove it carefully and discard any pieces that have been affected.
  • Test for freshness: To test if venison is fresh, check the color and smell. Fresh venison should be a deep red color and have a slightly sweet smell. If it smells sour or off, it may not be usable.
  • Control the environment: When storing venison, make sure to keep it away from foods that contain strong odors, as these can affect the flavor of the meat. Additionally, make sure to keep the storage area clean and free of any potential contaminants.


So, venison is the meat of a deer. It’s a great source of protein and can be delicious when cooked the right way. It’s a great way to explore the wonderful world of wild meats. 

So, now you know all the ins and outs of venison, and you can go and enjoy it!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.