A quick look through venison recipes on the web shows me that a lot of cooks don’t know the difference between the backstrap and the tenderloin, and they are quite different, even though both are prized tender cuts. Some people don’t know the difference, even if they hunt their own deer, because they send it off to a deer processor instead of butchering it themselves. Deer processor practices vary and you can’t always make specific suggestions to the butcher about the cuts you want. Sometimes they are so overwhelmed with deer in hunting season that you just take it in and get back what everyone gets back. Sometimes the cuts are mislabeled and the package might say backstrap but it is really the tenderloins, because the backstrap has been cut into chops with the bone attached. Maybe some processors just think you won’t know the difference (?).
The backstraps run down the back of the animal next to the spine and are quite a bit longer than the tenderloins that run next to the spine on the inside of the animal cavity. We always cut the backstrap into two pieces, just because it is so long and would be hard to cook in most kitchen pans. Cut in half, they are about the length of a tenderloin, depending on the size of the deer.
This is the last bit of venison from the white-tailed deer I took in this past fall’s muzzleloader season, and I saved it because I knew we were going to get a charcoal grill. This backstrap is fairly small, as the deer was young, a young button buck, but it will be enough for the two of us. All the meat from that young deer has been very good, so, again, I thank you, little deer for the meat.
I know there are all kinds of marinades and rubs that I could use, but I think I’m just going to go with olive oil and lots of kosher salt and cracked black pepper, because it doesn’t need to be gilded with other flavors to be good. The backstrap will cook very quickly over direct heat, because you really only need to char the outside and keep it rare-medium rare inside. Grilling the vegetables will take more work and time.
Grilled Venison Backstrap
This method works with pork tenderloin, as well, but you might want to use a thermometer to check for your desired doneness. We eat pork tenderloins a little pink.
- Set up grill for direct heat and let heat to about 400˚
- About 30 minutes before cooking, brush venison backstrap with olive oil and coat with lots of kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
- Place on center of grill rack. You can cook with the lid open or close it for just a few minutes to start.
- Turn to get a nice, quick char on all sides. You can brush more oil on to get a little flare up from the coals to make that char.
- I test for doneness by feel; when there is almost no resistance when pressed lightly, it is done. Don’t overcook.
- Rest, covered lightly with foil, for 10 minutes.
- Carve 1/2-3/4 inch medallions at an angle and serve.