Venison-tenderizing marinade

spit-roasted venison steaks accompanied by bread-kabobs and morel hobo's

I was given some venison as a gift (actually – full disclosure – it was pity venison, from the freezer, after I’d had a failed hunt – aint nothin’ wrong with pity venison!).  I was told, whatever I did, not to throw it on the grill!  Venison is too lean, too tough to make a nice grilling meat, best to just stew it for hours till its tender.  Well, it’s springtime!  The time for warm cozy stews is past and I was about to make a campfire meal that just begged for some forest-fresh steaks.  So I did a little research, combined just about ever tenderizing tip I found, and I solved the tough-venison problem.  Here’s the marinade (really it’s more of a brine with spices):

            >>   prep steps
The critical part – buttermilk brine
2 cups              Buttermilk
2 cups              Water
¼ cup              Kosher salt
2 tbs                Sugar

            >>        Mix the salt and sugar in the water and heat till dissolved.
            >>        Cool the mixture then add the buttermilk.
The tasty part – spice mix (vary as desired, I liked this mix)
2 tbs                Thyme (fresh if available, or dried)
2 tbs                Oregano (fresh if available, or dried)
2 tbs                Rosemary (fresh if available, or dried)
2 tbs                Balsamic vinegar
1 tbs                Coarse ground black pepper

           >>        Add to the liquid mixture.

Cooking Directions

  • Pour the spiced brine over your meat – in a covered, non-reactive container – store in the fridge.
  • Allow the meat to brine for several hour to overnight.

adjusting the venison spit - and, yes, there was also cauliflower-head-on-a-stick

NOTE – This is one of those odd times where ratios are pretty important.  Beautiful chemistry happens with the buttermilk and the salt brine.  The osmotic properties of the salt brine let the water penetrate the muscle tissue making it more tender and flavorful.  In addition enzymes and acidity of the buttermilk help break down the toughness.  You don’t want too little salt or it won’t work its way into the meat to do the work.  You don’t want too much or the taste will be overpowering.  (This also means using Kosher salt is pretty important – table salt is much more dense and 1/4 cup will be too much.  Iodized salt is also bad – it messes up the nice ionic balance.)  The sugar helps sweeten out the salt flavor a bit.  You could adjust the buttermilk:water ratio, but the water is handy for dissolving the salt and sugar.  You want enough brine to fully cover your meat, so just bump up the recipe with these ratios as needed.

I brined 4 steaks overnight and then roasted them on a spit over an open fire – they were some of the most tender steaks ever.  Oh yeah – I also wrapped bacon around them – that can’t hurt either!


4 Responses to “Venison-tenderizing marinade”

  1. Charon December 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Thank you for this! My first deer was tender and tasty thanks to your info! I linked back to you in my post about prepping my deer. All the best to you!

  2. Lonnie Moss January 8, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    Thank you for your heartfelt recipe.It was superb! I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman, having harvested over 300 deer over 30 years. We have constant supply of venison that we enjoy often and also share with our circle. I tried this recipe with excellent results leaving in the fridge for up to 3 dayd. I now will try to print as I want to pass this on to others.

  3. Lois Borsos April 6, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    Does it have to be kosher salt

    • coocoo-cachoo April 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      It can be any type of salt. BUT… you’ll need to alter the amount. Kosher salt is actually less dense than regular table salt – meaning that if you use the same measurement, table salt will make things taste much saltier. Try decreasing the salt amount by about 20% if you use table salt rather than kosher. 🙂

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