Unfortunately, not all venison is created equal. Here’s why—and how to take care of the “gamey” flavor.
All right, before I get emails, tweets, and comments: yes, it is wild game, and it is supposed to taste “gamey.” I grew up eating venison, and I have had some that is noticeably more “gamey,” sometimes so much so that is overpowers the flavor of the meat.
Here’s why that usually happens.
1. You didn’t process it yourself.
It seems like anytime someone has a butcher process their deer, they complain. This is not the case with all butchers, and you might have found a good one (lucky you). A butcher might not dedicate the time and care you would to processing your meat, leaving the fat and other parts that add to the “gamey” flavor. Learn to process your own game, age it, and when you cut it, take the fat, sinew and tendons off.
2. You waited too long to field dress or process it.
While it might not always be feasible, ideally, you want to field dress the deer the moment it hits the ground. The longer you leave it to lay, the more it will start to decay, even more so in warm weather. Now, don’t confuse what I just said and think aging the meat is bad. Aging is done in a controlled environment in cooler temperatures WITHOUT the guts in it.
3. You misplaced your shot or made a field dressing mistake.
Making a bad shot on a deer can adversely affect the meat, not to mention making it harder to recover the deer. If you gut shot the deer, you now have all that acid and stomach contents seasoning your deer. Good job; I know it happens, but try to avoid it. On the same note, cutting the stomach while field dressing is never a good idea.
Finally, with a poor shot, the deer runs more, building up lactic acid in the muscles.
4. You overcooked it.
I’m going to make this short so as not to rant. No game animal should be cooked beyond medium. Ever. I used to work at a steakhouse: use the finger method.
5. You shot an older deer.
There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s going to taste different. The meat will be tougher as it is older. This isn’t always the case, though; follow the advice above and you should be fine.
So, to have the best-tasting deer, basically, make a clean shot. Then gut it and process it yourself as soon as possible. Finally, for the love of God, don’t overcook it.