Cooking with Venison: Pan-Seared Deer Tenderloin

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Deer tenderloin is the filet mignon of venison, so it's best when prepared simply. A simple pan sauce that can be used with any kind of meat is the cherry on top of this perfectly cooked venison tenderloin.

Pan seared venison tenderloin with a red wine sauce on a platter, alongside lingonberries and wild rice. Image by Holly A. Heyser

Allow me to state the bleeding obvious: venison tenderloin is not the same thing as venison loin. The loins, also known as the backstraps, are the meaty part of a deer (or moose, elk, pronghorn, etc.) as the ribeye cut of beef in beef They're fantastic, but not quite as tender as their "tender" loin counterpart.

Any kind of tenderloin, including deer tenderloin, is cut from the interior of the animal. They are in pairs, one on either side of the animal's body, and are fastened over the digestive system at the base of the spine, below the backstrap. They require comparatively little knifework to accomplish.

Fish tenderloins, breakfast loins, and "weenie" loins are just a few of the names I've heard for venison tenderloins. No matter what you call them, they're guaranteed to be tender even when overcooked. Well-cooked deer tenderloin will fool some chefs who rely on the finger test for doneness because it will feel only medium to the touch.

This is why it's important to keep an eye on the clock and the thermometer.

A platter of venison tenderloin with a pan sauce, with wild rice in the background. Illustration by Holly A. Heyser

Simple Solutions

Due to the small size of the tenderloins, even a large deer will only provide enough food for two people to enjoy a meal of venison tenderloin. These antlers came from a 240-pound mature buck. In other words, you'd like to avoid any unnecessary complications. Tenderloin of deer makes a great dinner-for-two option.

To begin, salt thy loins. Steaks, in particular, benefit greatly from being salted before being cooked. After removing the meat from the refrigerator, I always allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (and up to an hour if possible), during which time I salt it liberally.

Aside from being an extra precaution against food poisoning, this seasoning method for meat that has been left out at room temperature also serves to remove some of the moisture, concentrating the meat's flavor.

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When searing venison tenderloin, use only a small amount of oil with a high smoke point. Oils such as grapeseed, avocado, safflower, and canola are used in the proportion of 2 tablespoons.

Bear in mind that a deer tenderloin is very tender and cook it at the right time. Since venison tenderloins are typically triangular in cross section, I usually sear them for 2 minutes on each major side, which takes a total of 6 minutes once the meat is at room temperature and the oil is roaring hot.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and rest for 5 to 8 minutes. Now is the time to prepare the pan sauce.

Saucing for Venison Tenderloin

There are many pan sauces on this site that pair well with venison tenderloin or backstrap, but I'll give you a simple one here.

They all need to be quick, because you don’t rest a deer tenderloin very long Some of my favorites are:

  • Steak Diane is a steak dish served with a sauce made of mustard, Worcestershire sauce, demi-glace, cream, and shallots. That timeless tune for a romantic evening
  • Red currants, along with red wine or Port, are used in a sauce called cumberland. Equally famous as a pan sauce
  • Sauce au poivre, a French condiment This green peppercorn and cream sauce is divine.
  • I frequently prepare duck in a sauce made from Scandinavian beer.
  • A blueberry sauce with just a hint of sweetness, perfect for the tenderloin of venison.
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Pan sauce jazz is another possible combination. The fat left in the pan, or enough to make 2 tablespoons, is required. Begin by sautéing some onions or shallots. To which you can add a glass of wine, beer, vermouth, or brandy. Bring to a boil Mix in some beef or venison stock. Perhaps some dried herbs, just a pinch You should wait until the entire pan is covered in bubbling before proceeding.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter; the sauce will emulsify as the butter melts. Doneski

Please rate this recipe and leave a comment if you enjoyed it; I'm interested in hearing how it turned out. You can find me on Instagram at huntgathercook; just post a photo and include the hashtag.

Close up of seared venison tenderloin.
Prepare a Printed Recipe
Cooking a deer tenderloin in a pan is easy with this foolproof method, and the accompanying pan sauce is simple yet delicious.
  • Prepare the pan sauce by mincing the shallot and setting aside while you salt the meat.
  • Cook the tenderloins over high heat in safflower oil in a pan large enough to hold them; the meat will shrink as it hits the hot oil. A fan should be turned on over the stove, and the meat should be dried with paper towels.
  • Affix the tenderloins to the pan. Immediate constriction is expected. The meat should sear for 2 minutes before being flipped. Repeat this step once or twice more, as desired, for medium-rare to well-done tenderloin. If you need to, you can sear a side more than once. The meat should be transferred to a cutting board, where black pepper can be freshly ground and sprinkled on top.
  • When the oil has heated, add the shallots and cook until they begin to brown, adding more safflower oil if necessary. To remove the browned bits from the pan, move the shallots over them with a wooden spoon.
  • Then, after letting it boil for a few seconds, add the stock and the red wine. In a sauce that is currently boiling, a pinch of salt can do wonders. Wait a few minutes until the entire surface of the pan is covered in bubbles and a wooden spoon leaves a trail when dragged through the middle of the pan before checking it. Reduce the temperature
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and stir it in until it melts. Repeat with the second. The venison should be cut into medallions and served with the sauce. Start serving right away
Remember that pronghorn and caribou tenderloins can also be prepared using this method. Cooking times for elk and moose should be increased by about 3 to 4 minutes, or 1 minute per side.  
Calories: 502 kcal | Carbohydrates: 5 g | Protein: 54 g | Fat: 24 g | Trans Fats: 9 g | Saturated Fat: 2 g | A Few Words About Monounsaturated Fat 10 g | Trans Fat: 0.5 g | Cholesterol: 164 mg | Sodium: 428 mg | Potassium: 1020 mg | Fiber: 0.4 g | Sugar: 2 g | Vitamin A: 352 IU | Vitamin C: 1 mg | Calcium: 33 mg | Iron: 8 mg
Use the hashtag #HankShaw or tag @HuntGatherCook.
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