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Simple Seared Venison Kidneys

seared venison kidneys

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Kidneys can be challenging. If you don’t soak them long enough, they can be bitter and, well, smell and taste a little like pee. That should not deter you from keeping the kidneys from the deer you shoot every year. Properly soaked, venison kidneys are delicious and not at all off-putting. If you are not a hunter, use lamb kidneys; they’re almost identical in flavor and size.

The key is to prep the kidneys first and then soak them in milk for several days in the fridge. I know it seems like a lot for a little piece of meat — the kidneys off a normal deer will only serve two people as an appetizer. Just give it a go.

You prep a kidney by peeling the thin membrane that is on each lobe, then slicing the kidneys in half lengthwise, so you preserve that cool kidney shape. There will be some crunchy hard stuff at the center of the kidneys, which you snip out carefully with kitchen shears or a paring knife. You can eat it, but I don’t like the texture.

Sear the kidneys in a ripping hot pan and serve them simply. I like them with just good salt and lemon, but a good country mustard is also nice.

Serves 2

  • 2 venison or lamb kidneys
  • 2 cups milk
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons grapeseed or other high smoke-point oil
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Coarse finishing salt like fleur de sel


  1. Carefully peel the membranes off the kidneys. Slice them in half lengthwise so you preserve the kidney shape. Cut out the hard, white centers of the kidneys with kitchen shears or a paring knife.
  2. Soak the kidneys in the milk in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. If the milk gets too bloody, change it up to once per day.
  3. Rinse off the kidneys and pat them dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle some kosher salt on them.
  4. Heat a small frying pan on high for 1-2 minutes. Add enough grapeseed oil to put a film on the pan. You don’t want the oil too deep or everything will spatter all over the place. Heat this oil for 30 seconds to a minute. You want it hot, but not smoking.
  5. Place the kidneys cut side down in the hot oil so they are not touching. They will want to curl up, so gently press down on them with a spatula. Sear like this for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn the kidneys over and sear in the same way for another 1-2 minutes. Kidneys should still be pink in the middle.
  7. Take the kidneys off the heat and allow to rest on a cutting board for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle some lemon juice over them. Serve finished with coarse fleur de sel.

More Venison Recipes

6 responses to “Simple Seared Venison Kidneys”

  1. Peter Syapin

    This is just what I was looking for. I’m going to try this with the kidneys I just harvested.
    Can I ask a question? We’ve started harvesting whitetails off our west Texas lease and I’m looking for directions on removing the thymus glands. I took hearts and kidneys this year (sorry just not a fan of liver unless its foie gras) and would like to try sweetbreads next season. I can’t seem to find anything on the Internet or books I have on cleaning and cooking game. I enjoy your web site and look forward to you duck book.
    Peter Syapin

  2. Jason Caudell

    Tried this for the first time ever and I’ve been eating deer my whole life! Delicious. Even my picky 3-year old daughter loves it. Any suggestions for making the liver more palatable and not so tinney?

  3. lana

    Hank, appriciate you so much. You’re a joy. My delimna is a freezer of cleaned, sliced venison liver. I loved your pate and creme brulee but the guys like more “rustic” fare. I’m tired of the ole liver n onions.
    And thanks for your wonderful recipes, writings and experiences you share. It’s a pleasure to find quite time to muse with you.
    Any help in the liver dept greatly welcome.
    Prepared one of your teal recipes tonight. Yes, lovely. Thanks.

  4. Mark

    Love it – your site / post. Will try the kidneys over next day or so. I harvested some from deer this week from a wounded soldiers / managed-crop damage hunt. Saw this several weeks ago and set in my mind to save some for next opportunity. Now I’m back to get the details.
    PS. I have been making a deer liver curry that I think is scrumptious alternative to liver&onions. I’ll check in later and maybe pass it to you for your thoughts. Thanks Hank.

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