Pan-Seared Venison Chops in a Spiced Marinade

Some people don’t like to eat game because it’s too, well, gamey. Others prize wild meat for exactly this quality. Lack of gaminess, one might argue, is lack of any real flavor in meat. When we bought venison this week, we found tons of recipes that claimed to mask the gamey flavor, but this seemed to defeat the whole purpose of eating venison. Isn’t trying to take the gaminess out of venison like trying to take the beefiness out of beef?

Meat from grass-fed animals has more flavor than meat from animals fed only grain, so it just makes sense that meat from animals feasting in the wild on everything from ragweed to wild clover to dandelions has the most flavor of all. In venison, this flavor comes across as slightly sweet and very rich, with a bit of a grassy, herbal quality to it. Truly wild venison has a stronger, more nuanced flavor than most venison sold in butcher shops, since much of the venison on the market is farm or ranch raised. “Venison” can be meat from deer, elk, moose, caribou or antelope, but most typically refers to deer. The name of the specific animal must be specified on the package label when the meat is sold. According to the USDA, farm raised deer live in a somewhat confined outdoor area and can be fed grains such as wheat, alfalfa, or corn. Ranch raised deer are allowed to roam over hundreds of acres and forage in a fairly natural setting. Some ranch-raised deer are also harvested in the field, rather than rounded up and butchered in a processing plant. Short of hunting your own deer meat, ranch-raised game is the next best option.

If the gamey flavor in venison is overpowering and unpleasant, it’s likely that what you’re tasting isn’t the natural flavor of the meat, but the side affects of improper handling. As an experienced hunter will tell you, once a deer is shot the meat should be cleaned and butchered as quickly and efficiently as possible. Fat is never left on deer meat because it spoils quickly and can give the meat a rancid flavor. The age of the deer also plays a role – the younger the animal, the more mild and tender its meat is.

Venison roasts are best slow cooked, but most other smaller cuts can be pan seared or grilled. We cooked our venison chops much like we cook our beef steaks, seared in a hot pan then finished in the oven. Marinating venison will help tenderize the lean meat and enhance the taste without masking the meat’s true flavor. Our red wine marinade, spiced with peppercorns, bay leaves, allspice and cumin, gives the meat a little more complexity, a hint of spice and the mellow flavor of wine.

The wild and gamey flavor of venison, less refined than beef and so much bolder than pork, is exactly what we like about it. Eating venison makes us feel closer to nature and after a few bites we always begin to imagine we are hunters living off the land rather than city folk who drove through traffic to buy our venison at a butcher shop. Maybe one day we will have the chance to hunt for our dinner…  but until then we have these tasty venison chops to tide us over.


  • 2 pounds of venison chops
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt


In a bowl or sealable plastic bag, combine wine, oil, garlic, peppercorns, cumin, allspice and bay leaves. Add venison and marinate for 4-6 hours, periodically rotating meat so all sides are exposed to the marinade.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pat chops dry and season with 1 teaspoon of salt.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add chops, searing 2-3 minutes on each side.

Move the chops into the oven and cook 4-8 minutes (depending on thickness of the meat) until meat is rare to medium-rare and a thermometer registers 125-130 degrees. Venison cooked beyond medium-rare is likely to be tough.

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26 thoughts on “Pan-Seared Venison Chops in a Spiced Marinade”

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  1. I love venison and this marinade sounds yummy. Question– do we discard the marinade after use, or turn it into a sauce?

    1. I find that marinades make great salad dressings. I usually just simmer them for a bit in a pan so de-raw the meat juice, then let it cool before pouring it over my salad.

    2. Heat the marinade. Make a roux (1 part unsalted butter and 1 part flour by weight) add to marinade and thicken.

  2. Chicken fried backstrap is the best. And deer chili. Dang. And deer season doesn’t start until November.

  3. I love venison. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity this year but a friend of mine hunts and can only eat so much so he and friends will ‘donate’ whole animals for the cost of processing, about $80.

    When I lived overseas there was a lot more wild game available in the supermarkets. You could get quite a bit year round but in the fall the selection was amazing.

  4. I made venison stir fry just last night. Sliced backstrap (aka loin) thin, marinaded for a few hours in favorite asian flavors, stir fried it up with julianed peppers, zuch, yellow squash, and onions. Served over cauliflower ‘fried rice’….. was DELISH. Earlier this week I made antelope stew and venison tacos. Once you understand a few factors, cooking with game is really easy.

    I am so so happy my husband understands the importance of proper meat care. We rarely if ever have off tasting meat. We also do all the processing in our own kitchen (he skins and quarters in the field), so I can create my own cuts based on what we like to eat, make ground meat, sausages, etc. We are currently working on two Kansas deer and one Colo antelope from this season.

  5. Perfect, my fiances dad has some venison meat he just recently got hunting. Ill have to put in a request for the chops and try this out.

    I am also a big fan of venison loin and jerky, yummm.

  6. Deer jerky is better than bacon. And never underestimate the power of Guinness Deer Stew. Just make sure to use some carrots or peas to counteract the bitterness of the Guinness. The beer is worth it though. Just call it 20% and enjoy. 😀

    1. I’m sure the marinade will work just fine for the coon. Some real good eating no matter how you fix it. Some of the tenderest meat I’ve ever eaten. Eat 2 a year during the fall. 🙂

  7. Have some venison sirloin in my freezer, compliments of a friend who’s dad is a hunter (so it’s au natural!) Can’t wait to try this recipe, modified for a different cut of meat!

  8. Most of the commercially sold venison is axis. It’s apparently really good, but really mild. I’ve never had any. I wish we had some axis up here, there’s no season on them, so you can harvest them year round. But apparently they like flat land, and we live in a hilly area. We have lots of whitetail though, and I love eating them.

    Also, part of what helps the flavor of venison, is it’s supposed to hang and air dry for a week, or even two, in a refrigerated place. You wouldn’t want to shoot a deer and then try to eat it immediately. I mean, if you’re starving sure, but if you’re not, it needs to cure. This goes for all parts, even the tenderloin. My uncle once tried to cook a tenderloin the night he shot a deer. It was apparently not very good.

  9. Grains like alfalfa???
    Okay – I’ll let that one slide, but Mark, you know they don’t feed alfalfa as a grain. Granted, it’s richer feed than grass hay, but it sure doesn’t count as grain.

    It always kills me that everything wild is sold as “venison” since moose is as different from pronghorn as chicken is from emu.

    Some things that are worth mentioning in any discussion of wild (ish) meat – is that lots of things can enter into the taste and tenderness of the meat.
    One is the emotional state (believe it or not) of the animal when it died – adrenaline surging through the bloodstream has a profoundly negative effect on tenderness and taste, and the other is ageing – the rigor must exit the animal after death or the meat is tough, and some meats benefit from longer hanging/aging depending on fat content, species and care after death. The “old school” thought on pheasants, for example, was to hang them on the north side of a building until their feathers fell off with a shake, or to hang them from their heads until their heads came off. I’ve often wondered if there was some bacteria/enzyme action that was beneficial that we are now missing with our endless concern about meat freshness/cleanliness.

    FWIW –
    Cristy in WY

  10. I harvest about five whitetail deer per season, and my family enjoys it often. We have no problems with the fat going rancid as they are free range animals and the fat, especially the cavity and back fat are highly saturated and great for rendering. We always have some venison tallow on hand.

  11. I’ve got several bags of deer meat and this sounds like a great recipe for at least one of them.

    I usually do pot roasts in the crock pot because they are easy but I think I’ll make the effort for this.

  12. The secret to great tasting deer meat is to remove all of the fat (tallow) and white connective tissue that you can from the meat. deer fat or tallow is solid at room temperature, and will give the meat a waxy coating as the meat cools on the plate. A little extra preparation will be well worth it.

  13. I have a compartment in my freezer full of venison that my brother (the great white hunter) gave me. I’ve never liked it, but I gave him a gas stove for my niece when I replaced mine.

    However, I’m game (pun intended, LOL). I’d like to start with a large chunk of backstrap that’s taking up quite a bit of space. What is the best recipe for someone that wants to like venison but never has? Of course, the way my family cooks it is to bread and fry it, and I think it’s just yucky.

    I’m generally not a picky eater, so I’m surprised I’ve never like it. Ideas, anyone?

    1. Oops, I meant to say when I gave my niece the gas stove, my brother reciprocated with a lot of venison. (In case you were wondering why I even mentioned the gas stove, LOL).