How to Prepare Deer Heart for Cooking

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I love cooking deer hearts, as well as the hearts of any large animal, from bison to pronghorn, elk, beef, you name it. Here’s how to prepare deer heart for cooking, regardless of the recipe.

A deer heart and a nilgai heart on a cutting table.
Photo by Hank Shaw

Obviously, start with hearts. Above are the hearts of a big buck deer and a nilgai, an Indian antelope that has run wild in south Texas for a century.

Keep in mind that this is how I trim deer hearts. There are other methods, but this is how I learned how to clean beef hearts in restaurants, and I think it works well, especially for people who might be squeamish about eating a heart.

Yes, it’s an organ, but deer hearts are 100 percent muscle, so they are unthreatening to newcomers, unlike, say, deer kidneys or livers.

All this is pretty easy. You need a very sharp knife and a well-lit place to work. From there, here’s how to prepare deer heart in a few easy steps.

Getting ready to prepare deer heart with a sharp boning knife.
Photo by Hank Shaw

First, trim the very top off the heart. It’s edible, but it can be a bit jiggly-veiny, so I will either feed it to the cat, or toss it into the grind pile.

Next, trim off as much of the fat ring around the top of the deer heart as you can. You might think it would be tasty, but it is the hardest and waxiest of all deer fat; for more on deer fat, read my article on it here.

A deer heart trimmed at the top, and with the hard fat removed from the outside of it.
Photo by Hank Shaw

Now you want to open the deer heart like a book. You start doing that by locating the chambers of the heart. As mammals, we all have four-chambered hearts. The geography of hearts are all the same, so this works as well with deer heart as it does with beef, pork, lamb, you name it.

Opening the chambers of a deer heart to prepare it for cooking.
Photo by Hank Shaw

I like to jam my fingers into the largest chamber, then use the knife to open it up along its natural pathway. Do this the the other chambers as well, and you essentially open the whole heart like a scroll or a book.

A deer heart opened up like a scroll or book.
Photo by Hank Shaw

Once it’s all opened like this, you will want to slice off the weird veiny bits. Again, these can feed your pets or go into the grind pile.

Then you slice the opened deer heart into large chunks. One will be much thicker than the others. This one I normally slice in half lengthwise so it’s the same thickness as the others.

Thickest part of a deer heart still needing to be trimmed.
Photo by Hank Shaw

After that, you’re done. You have a deer heart prepared for cooking.

A deer heart, prepared for cooking.
Photo by Hank Shaw

If you leave it in these large pieces, you can pound them into a cutlet or schnitzel and make jagerschnitzel with it, or make grilled deer heart with peppers and onions.

If you cut the big pieces into chunks, you can make Peruvian anticuchos, marinated grilled deer heart on a stick.

However you prepare deer heart, you will want to tenderize it. I like using a jaccard, which is a device that uses lots of little blades to pierce the meat, tenderizing it.

You can manually do this by dicing the deer heart small. Done this way, it make the perfect meat for venison chili or Cajun sauce piquante.

Deer hearts should be cooking medium-rare to medium, or for a very long time. Nothing in between.

If you want to see me prepare deer heart on video, it is part of my Masterclass-style video course on prepping and cooking venison. The ad below gives you a 20 percent discount!

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

Getting ready to prepare deer heart with a sharp boning knife.
4.94 from 16 votes

How to Prepare Deer Heart for Cooking

Here's how to go about getting a deer, elk, beef, lamb, pork or any large heart ready for cooking.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 heart

Instructions 

  • Slice the very top off the heart, which is mostly veins. You can grind this up for burger, or feed it to your pets, or toss it in the stock pot.
  • Trim away the fat from around the top of the heart. This is very hard and waxy.
  • Use your knife to open up the heart's chambers along their natural seams. You'll do this twice, and the end result opens the heart up like a scroll or book.
  • Carefully slice away the veiny bits. Again, these can go into the grinder, or stockpot, or your pet's bowl.
  • One end of the heart will be twice as thick as the rest. I slice that in half lengthwise so it's the same width as the others. Now you're ready to go!

Nutrition

Calories: 508kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 80g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 562mg | Sodium: 444mg | Potassium: 1302mg | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 20mg

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

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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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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15 Comments

  1. This is close to the way Dad and I prepared hearts for use except we kept the heart whole and scored the fat cap multiple times. Most of the time the fat would cook out and help flavor the muscle. Dad’s favorite way to fix hearts was by pickling (We all loved it as a snack.) At the end of butchering, we would cut up the assorted thawed hearts into 1 to 1/2 inch pieces, put them in a stock pot just covering with a 50/50 mix of apple cider and water. Put in your choice of whole spices, bring the whole pot to a rolling boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer covered for at least one hour, then let cool before decanting into a clean glass gallon jug. Any left after filling the jug/jar can be stored in a smaller jar. (One year we got two gallon jars with a quart and a half left over.) It would keep up to nine months in the back of the fridge–though it never lasted that long with three people and occasional family visitors noshing on it. Dad considered himself lucky if a jug lasted three months.

  2. Hi, I have eaten venison growing up but my neighbor gave me the heart. This will bey first time cleaning it. I’ll follow you way in a few days. I have it in the frezzers until I’m ready to cut and clean it so I can cook it. I’ll let you know how it turned out.

  3. We have prepared heart many different ways and looking forward to trying some of these. Another way we do up here in very northern Minnesota (Ely) is to salt and air dry in the very cold temps. We put them on strings in a wire cage so critters leave them alone and hang outside for a long time. This method was brought here from Lapland. Very good

  4. Just home from base camp.
    We had three groups come through and I was rewarded with an Elk heart from the first group and a Muley each of the other two groups.
    I serve sliced and cooked in some bacon fat and serve alongside whatever breakfast I’m making.

    I spend more time to cut off the outer surface. Would appreciate your thought on this.

  5. I feel if you don’t brine it, it can have a very irony taste. I brine the whole heart in salt water for 12-24 hours, then rinse and cut up. Delicious every time!

  6. Very interesting. I, unfortunately, do not have a hunter for me and live in FL where the deer are very small (I think). I am the only one interested in the turkey heart each Thanksgiving though LOL! All mine!! I just simmer it whole with the neck, liver and giblets for an hour or so. Yummy.

  7. Great method and recipe. Here’s another preparation I like.
    I love the challenge of turning offal from low on the hog/deer/steer into delights. Just finished this years Hereford heart cold cut-though I usually slice, warm and add a dollop of chutney. I like the look of the whole heart and cut around or eat tougher artery walls. Brined 3 days- 3.5% salt to water, .20%#1, 1.5% Sorghum, 1/2 cu simmered pickle spice, 20 g garlic, 10 chopped hot peppers, 1/2 bottle dry red wine. Hot smoke/water pan 250 dg 5 hours. Pressure cooker 1 hour.

  8. We just did this at deer camp, last Friday night in Northern MN, about an hour after harvesting a big Doe. It was the first time we’d had deer heart at camp, and used Hank’s marinade from the “Grilled Deer Heart with Peppers and Onions” recipe above, and it was amazing!
    I just cut the top fat off, sliced the heart in half, and marinated that way for about 30 minutes, and grilled it over wood charcoal on a small weber- It was really, really good. Sad to think how many deer hearts get left in the gut pile, when it’s so simple and delicious when prepared this way. Thanks again, Hank! Another great recipe.

  9. This is how I prep deer hearts too. I skip the slicing into chunks, but maybe I should do that. I normally marinate in lime juice, coarse Mexican sea salt and cilantro, and grill on a 500*F+ grill for 1.5-2 mins per side; just so the edges get charred, and then slice thin for carne asada.

  10. I prepare the Heart i’m going to eat in the same manner by removing the top and the fat but then i’ve cut it into half to three quarter inch slices from top to bottom. These rings fried in a little butter with a couple of eggs, home fries, toast with a good cup of coffee is the breakfast of champions.
    I also unravel the heart as described thinning where necessary then using various stuffings (seafood or traditional) to spread thinly before rolling it up. Sometimes i pin it with toothpicks and bake it or slice it from top to bottom to make pin wheels. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but organ meat should not be overlooked and discarded.

  11. Great tutorial though I am not new to the heart. I have an annual deer liver party for a select few friends and my appetizer often centers around the deer heart, in the past cooked after slicing with hot cherry peppers and onions. This helped me sharpen my initial prep of the heart and understand what I’m actually doing when I’m slicing and dicing. I always look forward to your emails and own four or five of your books. They are the best. I’m thankful for you!