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.
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.