Smoking Venison the Right Way
Historically, it was all about food preservation when it came to the art of smoking. Native Americans and early settlers used the process of smoking for their venison, beef and pork, making it an integral part of our cultural past.
In 2017, of course, smoking methods are far more efficient. A smokehouse, although charming, is no longer necessary to get meat smoked to absolute perfection. Vertical box-style smokers include racks for the meat, a smoking box, a heating element and a water bowl that provides moisture for the slow-cooking process, which will most definitely lock in the flavor of both the meat and the marinade you create to make your meat absolutely delicious.
When it comes to choosing the wood or wood chips that will be used in the smoker, it’s important to know that dense hardwoods (i.e., oak, mesquite, walnut and hickory) are preferred because of their ‘longer life’ in the smokebox, as well as for their natural sugar content.
Venison is something that many are turning to these days, seeing as that it is a healthy alternative to beef. Although it, too, is part of the red meat category, venison actually has five times less fat than beef. Because of the slow-cooking method of smoking, the most popular meats up until now to smoke have typically been high in fat content, but when you choose the leaner venison smoking actually becomes both a challenge and a talent if you learn to do it well and follow the right smoking tips.
You have many options when it comes to smoking venison – from the hindquarter roasts to shoulder and neck roasts. When picking the ultimate venison smoke, it is venison sausage that tops the list when it comes to items being prepared in home smokers across North America today. And when it comes to having the right equipment, whether you use a conventional smoker or one of the propane models on the market, just be sure to smoke sausage meats to the temperatures listed in FDA-recommended manuals.
Although a great many hunters overlook the shoulders and neck because they’re too much “trouble” to smoke, the reality is they’re not. If smoking shoulders or the neck roast, your goal is to have the main bone slide out easily from the meat, leaving you with tender venison that can be shredded for the very popular pulled sandwiches. When it comes to hindquarters, after deboning and separating the muscles, just remove the tougher silver skin and tendons. To accomplish this, put the roasts into the freezer for approximately a half-hour; it is far easier to carve away that tough skin when the meat is partially frozen.
Backstraps and tenderloins work perfectly with your favorite rub or marinade. As before, make sure to remove that silver skin and do not overcook them. Always remember that venison is a lean meat and over-smoking can leave you with nothing more than shoe leather.
Use the simple steps below to make sure that your venison receives the perfect smoke.
1) Make that perfect brine just the way you like it. There are many recipes floating around on the Internet, but basic brine is accomplished by combining:
1 gallon of water
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup of kosher salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup of molasses
2 tbs. of pepper
1 tbs. of rosemary
2) Submerge the meat into the brine until it’s completely covered and allow it to stand in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, but no longer than 24. The brining process will increase the flavor and moistness of the meat. It is the added step to venison smoking that makes all the difference in the end.
3) If using wood chips, make sure to soak them in water two hours prior to smoking. To prepare the smoker, fill up the water pan, and the wood chip box with your pre-soaked wood chips.
4) Remove the venison from the brine, rinse it well, dry, and coat the meat with your special blend of spices.
5) Now it’s time to smoke. Check the temperature on the smoker, as well as the wood chips and water pan every half-hour or so. (The goal is to keep the temp. between 250 and 300F. If it exceeds 300 degrees, open the vent halfway. If the temp gets too low, add more coals.) Using an electric smoker is far easier because the actual model will do a good job regulating everything.
6) Smoke the meat for approximately 1.5 hours per pound, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140F; then remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes before diving in.
After that, enjoy all the flavor of a delicious meat and gain the health benefits that venison ‘brings to the table.’