The taste and tenderness of venison depends on the deer’s diet, how the meat was processed, and how it is prepared and cooked. Marinating venison prior to cooking improves its taste and tenderizes the meat. Venison is typically much leaner than beef, and the venison marinade needs to include oil to prevent the venison from drying out during cooking. The marinade should also include a food acid to tenderize the meat. Adding other spices to the marinade will help accent and bring out the flavor of the venison.
Most venison is processed either at home or at a wild meat processing shop. While beef is allowed to hang and cure for an extended period of time during processing, venison is usually hung for only a short time before being cut up and packaged. The longer the cure time, the more tender the meat becomes. Venison marinade makes up for the shorter cure time by using food acids, such as vinegar, wine or lemon juice. The acid in these liquids tenderize the meat by breaking down the tough cellular structures in the muscle tissue.
Animal fat keeps meat moist and juicy. Venison not only contains less fat than beef, but it has very little fat marbling. Venison marinade should contain olive oil to help compensate for the lack of fat in the meat. This helps the meat retain moisture during cooking so that it does not become dry and chewy. Very lean venison requires more olive oil in the marinade than venison with some amount of fat present.
Spices add to the flavor of venison and help prevent a gamy taste. Venison has a distinctive taste that is different than beef, but true gaminess is usually due to improper processing methods. A venison marinade made with soy sauce or garlic will help neutralize any gamy taste. Additional flavorings, such as brown sugar, thyme and rosemary, work well with venison.
The venison marinade should be put in a plastic or glass container. A metal container should not be used as the acid in the liquids will react with the metal. Small pieces of venison can be put in a plastic bag and covered with marinade, while larger pieces need to be marinated in a covered container. The venison marinade needs to come in contact with all parts of the meat, so larger pieces of venison need to be turned in the marinade periodically. The venison should soak in the marinade for four days under refrigerated conditions.