If you're looking for some brilliant new ideas for cooking steak, this isn't it. But, if you want to try a time-honored classic, you've come to the right place. Arroser (a·ro·zé) is French for "to baste." This method gives your venison backstrap a nice aromatic butter bath in the last couple minutes of cooking. If that sounds like something you need in your life, keep reading.
- Venison Backstrap - approximately 1 lb section, not cut into steaks
- Lard (or other high smoke point cooking fat)
- Good Butter
- Fresh Thyme
What takes the "gamey" taste out of venison?
Wild game tends to get a bad rap in the non-hunting world for various reasons. One of them is that game meat tastes different than meat you buy at the grocery store. Every animal has its own unique flavor profile and should be respected for what it is. However, bad meat handling can lead to off flavors in any type of meat and wild game is no different. But to some extent you can get rid of some off flavors by thawing your meat on a paper towel. The paper towel will become soaked with a red liquid that's a mixture of myoglobin (a type of protein) and water, not blood.
Science tidbit: Muscle is made up of mostly water. When meat is frozen, the water expands. When the meat is thawed, the muscle loses its ability to hold onto all the water. The water leaks out of the meat and some myoglobin comes with it which makes the liquid red. Allowing paper towels to soak up the liquid also helps leech out some of the funky flavors that might be hiding in your meat. Keeping the outside of the meat dry also helps immensely in the browning process. Summary: Do not skip this step!
How do you cook a venison steak?
Cast iron pans work great for cooking steak. They hold onto the heat so well that they create a perfect crust on the outside without over-cooking the inside. I like to get my pan nice and hot, around 5-7 minutes over high heat. Add some lard or oil with a high smoke point (canola, avocado, grapeseed, etc.). It won't take long for the oil to heat up so you want to have your steak ready to go. Season one side with salt and pepper just before cooking. Once the steak is in the pan, you can season the other side. Salting the steak too soon before cooking can draw moisture out of your steak. Depending on the thickness of the steak, I cook it 2.5-3.5 minutes per side on medium-high heat for rare to medium-rare. An internal temperature of 120°F will be a perfect medium-rare after resting.
After the first side gets a nice crust, flip it and add the butter, herbs, and garlic to the pan. Let the butter melt and allow the herbs and garlic to flavor the butter for a bit, maybe 30 seconds. Then place the herbs and garlic on top of the steak and spoon hot butter over the steak until it has finished cooking. Promptly move the steak to a plate or cutting board and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes. I know it's hard to wait but letting it rest makes sure all those lovely juices stay in the meat and not on your cutting board.
How to serve venison backstrap:
Ok you have your perfectly cooked steak, now what? Time to slice it and dig in! Slice the steak into ¼-1/2" thick slices and serve with melted butter from the pan. But, don't forget about the sides! Besides a good bottle of red wine, you might want to add a couple of side dishes to round out your meal. I like to serve simple sides to let the steak shine because we all know it's the star of the show. Try out some of my favorite side dishes for venison steak:
Perfect Venison Backstrap
- 1 lb venison backstrap
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoon salted butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon lard (or other high smokepoint cooking fat)
- Thaw meat in the fridge on paper towel lined plate. Change the paper towels out a time or 2 until the meat is thawed. This will help remove any off flavors and will help in the browning process. Let steak sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Heat cast iron pan over high heat. While pan is heating, season meat generously on one side with salt and pepper. Add lard to pan.
- Allow lard to get hot, about 30 seconds. Put steak seasoned side down in the pan. Season the other side of the steak and cook 2.5-3.5 minutes.
- Flip steak and add butter, thyme, and garlic cloves to pan. Allow the herbs and garlic to season the butter as it melts, about 30 seconds.
- Place thyme and garlic on top of steak and continuously pour hot butter over steak until 2.5-3.5 minutes have passed. 2.5 minutes per side will give you a steak on the rarer side. 3.5 minutes will be closer to medium rare. Time will vary greatly depending on the thickness of the steak. Once the internal temperature reaches 120°F, it's time to pull it out of the pan.
- Remove steak from pan and let rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board or plate. Slice into ¼-½" slices and serve with butter from the pan. Enjoy!