Grilling is the best way, the only way, to cook a venison backstrap. The smoky sear that only comes from a hot fire and the toothsome, unmistakable twang of wild meat strikes a primal chord with my taste buds. Its something cerebral, something in my subconscious that registers “meat… plus fire…equal…good.” Its evolutionary, an acquired predilection.
I prefer my backstrap grilled whole. Many favor slicing the loin against the grain into medallions, but I say nay. Its difficult for anyone but the most seasoned butcher to cut slices of consistent thickness and its much harder to manage a grill crowded with thin, quickly cooking pieces of meat. And of course there’s the presentation: vivid grill marks gracing a slab of perfectly seared meat…well, food doesn’t get much sexier than that.
As for seasoning, a ‘strap needs nothing more than olive oil and a good dry rub. Even a simple rub down with kosher salt and cracked pepper is sufficient. And please resist the urge to use a marinade. They have no place in deer loin perfection.
Lastly, for the love of God, REST YOUR SEARED MEATS! Everyday, in backyards all over America, there are well-meaning Dads hovering over grills, plucking hunks of seared meat off the grill before stabbing them with a knife “to see if they’re done yet.” This is the worst possible thing you can do to your steak. The juices that make meat so darn tasty are still circulating within, and a puncture will drain it of this deliciousness. You will be left with dry, tough venison. Rest your meat, its not optional.
Perfect Grilled Backstrap
- 1-1 1/2lb section of venison backstrap
- 2 tbs olive oil, plus extra for the grate
Cowboy Coffee Rub:
- 1/2 tbs ground dark roast coffee
- 1/2 tbs brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- Remove your venison loin from refrigeration and allow to come to room temperature, 30 minutes to an hour. It should be free of silverskin. Ready your grill for indirect high heat, about 500-550°F. If your grill isn’t equipped with a thermometer and your too lazy to dig through the kitchen drawer for one, you can perform the hand test. Hold your hand 3 or 4 inches over the grate and if you can count to three before yanking it back and saying “oh sh*t that’s hot”…its perfect.
- Once the coals are ready, mix the rub ingredients together well. Oil the loin liberally, then massage in the rub. Dip a paper towel in olive oil and brush your grate.
- Place the loin on the grill so it bisects the grate at a 45° angle. Sear for 2 minutes, then rotate the loin 90 degrees so the hot grill creates an X-shaped pattern on the meat. This creates the so called “killer grill marks.” Sear for 2 minutes more.
- Flip the backstrap over and repeat step 3.
- Once the loin is seared on both sides, move it over indirect heat, close the lid and roast for 4 minutes. This will yield medium-rare on an “average” backstrap. This cooking time will obviously change with the size of the animal. A yearling may only require a quick 3-4 minute sear on each side, whereas that 12 pointer you shot may take a much longer roast. Learn to do the finger test. It changed my life.
- Once the loin is cooked to your liking (don’t cook venison past medium), let it rest for 5-10 minutes in loosely tented foil. Carve like a roast or serve in hunks like a steak. Potatoes and corn on the cob are good sides, or serve with some sauteed morels for a meal that would turn any Bon Appetit-reading-hipster-foodie green with envy.