The term venison originated in the 13th century from the Latin word "venatio," which meant hunting. The English version likely came from the French word, also spelled venison, which meant the flesh of a hunted animal used for food. Not until the 18th century did the word venison became mostly associated with deer meat, the Word-Origins website explains; in modern times, many continue to use the term to refer to deer meat only. Farm- or ranch-raised deer and elk are not usually described as venison, although some people may group them in this category.
Understanding What Influences the Taste of Your Venison
How flavorful your venison will be depends on the age, sex and diet of your animal. A younger animal will be more tender than an older animal. A male animal in rut (during mating season) is likely to taste stronger than a male animal not in rut. Animals that feed on a rancher's or farmer's cornfields will taste different than animals that graze on wild grasses. Farm-raised deer or elk may taste different than wild animals depending on what the animals were fed. How your venison was handled by the hunter will affect the taste of the meat; and most hunters agree that skinning the animal and cooling the meat as quickly as possible will ensure better tasting venison.
To ensure the best, most tender backstrap — the cuts similar to filets — you should age them yourself. Whole backstrap, cleaned and free of hair, should be kept in the lower portion of your refrigerator. Cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent the meat from drying out. Store for three to five days. Aging the meat in this way makes it more tender. Before you cook your venison, remove any fat or fascia the butcher did not remove. Though game meat is naturally low in fat, it is important to trim the meat very cleanly to have the most flavorful filet.
Using techniques for cooking low-fat meat is the key to preparing delicious venison tenderloin. Grilling is the best way to do this. After you trim the meat, season it thoroughly to taste with seasoned salts, peppers or spices of your choosing. Coat it with olive oil and knead the oil into the meat. Allow it to sit for at least one hour, covered, in your refrigerator. You may also prepare the meat for several hours in a marinade that contains olive oil, such as Italian dressing, but you will mask the true venison flavor by doing this.
Your grill should be very hot so that it sears the venison, to seal in juices. Place your filets on the grill and cook two to three minutes per side, depending on their thickness. Turn the grill to low and cook the filets one minute more on each side. Game meat should be cooked to rare or medium rare, and never more than medium. It will appear more rare than it is due to its dark purplish and red color. Overcooking game meat is the biggest mistake novice game meat chefs make, because overcooked venison gets tough very quickly. Remove your filets from the grill and place on a hot plate to keep your filet steaks warm. Use tongs while cooking and serving the meat so it does not get pierced and lose juices. Serving with mushrooms and onions will enhance your presentation.
Venison has a longer history of being the staple meat source for man than domestic animals. The domestication of animals has caused us to lose our understanding of how to prepare this unique meat.