Grilled Deer Heart with Peppers

5 from 36 votes
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grilled deer heart with peppers on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I get asked a lot about deer heart. Yeah, I know. Welcome to my world. But hearts are one of the more accessible wobbly bits — after all, they’re muscle, just like a tenderloin — and, I am very happy to say, an increasing number of deer hunters are keeping them for the table. So how to cook them?

There are lots of ways, from tossing them into a stew or casserole to pounding them thin and making a classic German jaegerschnitzel. The best way to cook a deer heart? Grilled. Hands down. Marinated and then grilled over very high heat just long enough for the center to warm, then sliced thin with some grilled peppers and onions — man, oh man you got to try it.

Just look at that picture. If you can honestly say that plate of food doesn’t look good to you, you are clearly a vegetarian. Which is fine, by the way, but then why are you looking at a picture of a grilled venison heart? Tempting, isn’t it…

Getting a typical venison heart to look like this one takes a little doing. For starters, you need to trim the heart. Begin by using a very sharp knife to slice off any visible fat from the heart. Most venison hearts are pretty lean, and you will find fat only at the top. Discard it.

Now look at the top of the heart. See all the gaps and holes? Use them as a guide to slice the heart into several thick cutlets. Many cooks will tell you to “open the heart like a book,” but it doesn’t work quite like that. You get one really nice cutlet, then two slightly thicker ones. This can be a pain when you are trying to make a pounded cutlet for schnitzel, but no biggie for this recipe.

Carefully cut away any and all vein-y bits from the inside of the heat; they look like cobwebs sticking to its inner walls. You should now have 2 to 4 nice, clean hunks of meat.

With a typical deer heart from a white-tailed deer, a blacktail or a muley, one heart will feed two people. Maybe. A big deer will definitely feed two, an antelope only one. An elk heart or a moose heart will feed up to six. If you are a non-hunter still reading this, a pork heart is like a regular deer’s, veal heart is like an elk or moose heart, and a beef heart will definitely serve six, maybe more.

Note that I marinate the hearts. Careful readers of this site may notice that I almost never marinate meats.

Why? Because a marinade penetrates meat at no more than 1/4 inch per day. This means you’d need 2-3 days for a really good steak or a thick piece of venison backstrap. And by then the outer layer of meat will be mushy. But a day’s marinade will penetrate almost down to the center of a deer heart, so in this case it works.

sliced venison heart on a cutting board
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Get your grill raging hot. You want a char on the outside of the heart, but the center still very much pink. A hot grill and cool meat will help you do this. So unlike most meats, which you should bring to room temperature first, in this case take the marinated hearts right from the fridge to the grill.

My final piece of advice: Undercook the hearts just a little. For whatever reason, hearts tend to go from pretty pink to icky gray faster than other cuts. And an overcooked heart is a sad thing. Dog food. Best to undercook a bit, then let the meat rest for a good 10 minutes.

If all goes well, you will be rewarded. Grilled hearts have a smoky, charred flavor on the outside, a tang from your marinade and a dense, firm texture somewhere between ribeye and flank steak. Slice thin and enjoy. Oh, and if you are serving people who might get all squinchy about eating deer heart, don’t tell them until after they’ve demolished their plate.

grilled deer heart recipe
5 from 36 votes

Grilled Venison Heart with Peppers and Onions

This recipe can be done with any large heart. I designed it for deer and elk, but it will work with antelope, moose, wild boar or whatever. For non-hunters, try beef heart, veal heart or lamb hearts. You don't have to marinate the meat, but it adds a lot of flavor, and helps keep it moist on the grill.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 or 2 deer hearts or 1 elk, moose or beef heart
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 or 4 colored bell peppers, cut into 2 to 3 pieces each
  • 1 large onion, cut into large wedges


  • Trim the hearts as discussed above. In a large bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, oregano, thyme and black pepper. Massage the marinade into the meat, put everything into a container that can just about hold everything and marinate for as little as 30 minutes, or as much as 2 days.
  • When you are ready to cook, get your grill hot. Coat the peppers and onion in the rest of the olive oil and salt well.
  • Grill everything on high heat. Put the hearts and veggies on the grill -- skin side down for the peppers -- and leave them alone with the grill cover open for 8 minutes. Flip everything and grill, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.
  • Check the peppers and onions, and when they are nicely cooked with a little char, remove and put in foil to steam. Remove any blackened skin from the peppers.
  • If the hearts are not cooked through yet, cover the grill and cook for 2 to 5 more minutes. If you are using a thermometer, you want to get the meat off the grill when it is 130°F in the center. You can also use the finger test for doneness. Tent the hearts loosely with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with black pepper and good sea salt at the table.


A tip on the peppers and onions: Cut them in large pieces so they don't fall through your grill grates. For the onions, make sure you keep the stem end attached. And cook the skin side of the peppers first -- if you get any parts that blacken, the skin peels right off. You actually want significant blackening here, so keep your grill ragingly hot.


Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 82g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 562mg | Sodium: 1073mg | Potassium: 1564mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2794IU | Vitamin C: 126mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 21mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. I just cooked the heart from my first archery buck. I must say I was super nervous as previous attempts with other recipes weren’t as nearly successful as this particular one. The only change I made was I took the heart segments off the grill after the first 8 minutes, foiled the heart pieces on a small cutting board, and put in the oven for 5 minutes, but did not turn the oven on. I must say this turned out spectacular! No sauce, other than the marinade, medium rare, and paired with a nice red wine…sooo tasty! I can’t wait till next season! Thank you, Mr. Shaw!

  2. this is honest to goodness the best deer heart marinade. I had never tried deer heart but my husband loves it so when I shot my deer last year I decided I would try cooking it for him. I found this recipe and went with it. I let the heart marinade for 2 days (mainly because I forgot about it the first day). it’s just so good. now I never leave my heart behind!

  3. I’ve never cooked heart before and this recipe was so easy and delicious. I don’t have a grill but I used a cast iron skillet and it still worked well.

  4. We go nuts for this recipe. It is so simple, but so damn good. Haven’t done anything else with the last 20 or so hearts we have taken from mule deer and antelope. Since we eat almost no other meat than wild game, folks are way too suspicious, otherwise I could unknowingly feed this to the biggest wild game snobs I know.

  5. 13 total minutes on the grill? I’m going to try my first deer heart soon and that total time caught me off guard. Do the 2 to 4 chunks of heart really take that long to get to medium rare? I feel like I’m missing something. I don’t know why I’m doubting you since everything of yours that I cook is great so please don’t take offense.

    1. Jason: Remember you are cooking the onions and peppers on the grill, too. That’s what takes the extra time. If your grill is hot, the meat should only need maybe 3 minutes per side.

  6. I’m a newby at organ meats. I followed your directions and my first deer heart came out good the very first time! Thanks Hank

  7. Absolutely delicious and a great way to introduce game heart to curious folks. I prepared it as an appetizer and served it as a modified bruschetta and it went over very well. Thanks, Hank!

    1. I used to hunt, but now rely on friends for heart and liver. This sounds like a great recipe and I will use it with the muley heart I received today! Thank you.

  8. So just wanted to let you know this. My kids were raised on wild meat. The first meal my wife cooked for me before we were married was a mule deer roast from that fall. The point is that wild meat is what we are accustomed to as a family. I have always said that if people don’t like venison, they simply haven’t had it properly cooked.

    Now given that, this is one heck of a marinade. We have eaten this twice so far this year on deer heart and tenderloin that was taken right out of each deer, marinated overnight in the fridge and then bar-b-qued (yes I am Canadian) to a perfect medium rare. Absolutely outstanding. The grilled peppers and onions pair perfectly. The only thing I added, probably due to my slavic background, was pasted fresh garlic to the marinade.

    Thanks very much for the recipe. We, as a family since our kids have been small, have hunted, fished, and gathered seasonal berries. We do our best to respect the animals with proper butchering, aging and then food preparation. I will definitely be looking back to your website for additional recipes.

  9. My wife and I are big fans of yours Hank and we tell all our fellow hunter gatherers about you. You’ve especially turned us on to the “wobbly bits”. We now eat what used to go to the dog! And now we’re ready to go all in. You wrote in Buck Buck Moose that “umble pie can be very, very good”. Can you recommend a recipe for umble pie? Thanks for everything and if you are ever in the Chicago area contact us and we can hook you up with the best veggies you’ve ever had fresh from our farm.

  10. I own buck buck moose! I love your recipes ! I cook a lot of wild d game and have experimented with them but your recipes perfect any goals I had thx!

  11. My husband and I loved this dish! It is December and pretty cold here, so I opted to broil in the oven rather than to grill outdoors. I followed the recipe exactly, marinating the heart for two days. I am an experienced cook, but new to game. I used my instant-read digital thermometer to check the internal temperature. Perfect! Thank you, Hank, for a great, healthy, tasty recipe! (Note that I put the peppers skin-side up on my foil-lined baking sheet, as I was broiling , not grilling.) :o)