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The correct way to cook venison depends largely on the cut of the meat. The two main types of venison are tender cuts and working cuts, which differ based on the structure of the muscle tissue. Each of these cuts needs to be cooked at different temperatures for varying time periods to achieve the best flavor and texture. The most challenging part of venison cooking can be selecting the technique that will prevent the meat from becoming too tough or dry.
Tender venison cuts come from muscle tissue that was not used regularly in movement such as running and jumping. This muscle is located mostly in and around the midsection. Venison sirloin and tenderloin steaks are tender cuts, as are chops and smaller round sections known as noisettes. To cook venison tender cuts properly, remove them from the heat source once their internal temperature reaches 130 to 140° F (54 to 60° C) as measured by a meat thermometer. Since tender cuts of venison do not have the tough connective tissue found in working cuts, they cook more quickly.
Popular techniques for cooking tender venison cuts include oven broiling, dry roasting, and braising. You can also cook venison over a direct barbeque flame, though this method should only be done for a short time over a medium flame since it can easily char the venison if not done carefully. Roasting is usually done without basting liquid because the meat tenderizes well enough without it. To cook venison by braising, first brown the meat at a higher temperature and then finish it at a lower one so the meat can absorb flavor from its own fat.
Tougher working cuts can sometimes be more of a challenge when you are first learning how to cook venison. Shoulders, legs, and shanks are all examples of thicker venison muscle that was bulked up during the animal's life. The flavor of working cuts is more pronounced than that of tender cuts, particularly if the venison came from an older deer or buck. This type of meat needs to be cooked longer and at low temperatures, generally between 220 and 280° F (104 and 138° C).
Slower grilling at medium-low temperatures is an effective way to cook venison from working cuts since this method provides enough heat to soften and tenderize the connective tissue without drying out the meat. Roasting larger working cuts such as venison chuck roast also produces similar results. When cooking a chuck roast, you may need to add a small amount of liquid cooking stock since working cuts usually contain less fat than tender cuts.
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