I hear you: You can eat deer kidney? Yep, you can. And what’s more, done right, they’re kind of amazing. And they are exactly like lamb kidney, too.
That said, kidneys can be challenging to the uninitiated. 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. Pork kidneys work well, too.
The key is to prep the kidneys first and then soak them in milk for several days in the fridge. Here’s how to clean a kidney. First, you’ll need to slip off the translucent membrane around them.
Next you will want to slice the kidneys lengthwise to expose the gnarly center. This also opens up more of the kidney to the soaking process.
After that, you will want to use a sharp knife, or even scissors, to clip out most of the hard, white center of the deer kidney, especially the white gristle at its center.
It’s your call whether you want to soak in brine or milk or both. I tend to do both. Brine overnight, then milk for up to a few days. It really makes a difference.
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. I save them up from big game season, and make a couple recipes once the hunting’s over for the year.
You’ll find a couple other recipes for deer kidney here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, including deviled kidneys, as well as a British steak and kidney pie.
Seared Venison Kidneys
- 2 venison or lamb kidneys
- 2 cups milk
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other high smoke-point oil
- Juice of a lemon
- Coarse finishing salt like fleur de sel
- 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. Soak the kidneys in the milk in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. If the milk gets too bloody, change it up to once per day.
- Rinse off the kidneys and pat them dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle some kosher salt on them.
- Heat a small frying pan on high for 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.
- 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 or bacon press. Sear like this for 2 minutes. Turn the kidneys over and sear in the same way for another 2 minutes. Kidneys should still be pink in the middle.
- Take the kidneys off the heat and allow to rest on a cutting board for 3 minutes. Sprinkle some lemon juice over them. Serve finished with coarse fleur de sel.
Mark Burlingame says
I’ve got a deer kidney in the deep freezer from last year, from before I picked up your book and learned about the milk soak. Is the kidney a goner, or can I thaw it, soak it, and cook it up?
Hank Shaw says
Mark: If is was vacuum sealed it should be fine. If not, if the kidney is not freezer burned, it should be fine.
Neil Van Dalsem says
Made this with kidneys from a deer I shot. I’ve never saved deer kidneys before. I’d never knowingly eaten kidneys before. I will now be gathering up all the unwanted kidneys at deer camp.
Cécile Stelzer-Johnson says
I was encouraged by the recipe you have here and remembered the way mom used to make beef or pork kidneys, so I decided to try her recipe with venison kidneys. I did not put onions, although if you need an extender…
Here goes: Ingredients: venison kidneys, milk, mushrooms like creminis or white buttons, flour, Port wine [the cheapest is fine.]
1- Remove the skin of the kidneys, cut lengthwise and remove as much of the white gristle with a small but very sharp knife. Chunk the kidneys: the milk bath can be shorter.
2- Soak the kidneys just submerged in milk for a day or two, [I had whole milk, so that is what I went with. I’m sure that 2% or fat free would work too].
3- Clean the mushrooms and stir fry them in butter on hot fire.
4- add the chunked kidneys without the milk [give pink milk to cat if you have one] and continue the stir fry.
5-Mix a good teaspoon of flour in a cup of Port until the lumps are gone.
6- Pour the flour and Port over the kidneys and mushrooms. When the sauce is thickened, remove from heat and serve immediately.
Delicious: The cooked mushrooms make the kidneys look like more. The Port gravy is out of this world!
Steve C says
I cut mine incorrectly before I found this recipe; in half lengthwise like above but then in slices the opposite direction. This was my second time trying deer kidney and it was much better. The first time I made it years ago I didn’t soak it long enough and it was not good. This was much better and I will start saving them again. Not something I would want to make a meal out of but still quite tasty.
Nice recipe. I’ve been doing this for fifty years. My method has evolved over the years to what I follow now. Slice the kidneys sideways after skin is off, then cut the sinewy part of each slice.
Soaking them in white vinegar overnight speeds things up up. I dust them in FryMagic and sauté in butter over low heat. OMG this is making me drool.