Smoked Venison Backstrap
April 05, 2021
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Smoked venison backstrap is something you need in your life.
Sliced thin and served in a sandwich, or as-is with any number of sauces — or au natural — this is one of my favorite ways to celebrate a successful hunt.
First thing to remember is that you don’t smoke venison the way you smoke pork. If you are familiar with my other smoked venison recipe, the one for smoked venison roast or whole leg, you’ll know that the secret is to only smoke the meat to medium-rare or medium, no more.
You can use curing salt here, and if you do, use Instacure No. 1, but I rarely do. It’s not really needed in this case. If you do want to use it, you will want to weigh out 0.25% of curing salt compared to the weight of the meat; that’s one quarter of 1 percent, to be clear.
That gets me to the other trick for smoked venison backstrap, and that’s to use what’s called an equilibrium cure, or EQ. To do this you weigh the meat first, in grams. Then you add anywhere from 1.5 percent to 2 percent of that weight in salt. Massage that into the meat, and, ideally, vacuum seal it. If you don’t have a vac sealer, put it in a freezer bag.
If you do this, you can keep the venison in the fridge for many days. It won’t get too salty.
As far as smoking is concerned, you want to smoke slow and low. I prefer to keep the smoker (I use a Traeger here) at 185°F. Wood choice is up to you, but I like mesquite or hickory. Fruit woods are another good option.
Get the smoker going and have it at the target temperature before you add the meat. To get the best smoke ring on your smoked venison backstrap, you will want to move it right from the fridge to the smoker. Take the meat out of the plastic bag and briefly rinse it, then pat dry with paper towels.
A bit of science: A smoke ring will develop only until the meat hits about 140°F. The slower this happens, the thicker the ring. Now, with this method, you will be pulling the meat before 140°F so it will have been working on that smoke ring the whole time.
I like to insert a probe thermometer into the backstrap so I know when to pull it. However you do it, pull the meat when it hits 130°F to 140°F, or medium-rare. I prefer the low end of this scale. At 185°F, that normally takes about 3 to 4 hours — a good long smoke for a tender cut of meat.
How to eat your smoked venison backstrap? Any way you like. I prefer to slice it thin and eat with sandwiches. The sauce you see in the picture is cilantro and roasted Hatch chiles pureed with mayo, black pepper and smoked salt. Damn sight better than regular mayo, no?
Smoked Venison Backstrap
- 2 pounds venison loin, in one piece
- Salt (See headnotes)
- Weigh the meat in grams. Weigh out 1.5% of that weight in salt; you can go as high as 2%. Massage the salt into the meat well. Vacuum seal the meat and set it in the fridge for 2 days, longer if you are using elk or moose or something else thick. You cannot leave this too long -- it won't get too salty, so you can leave the meat in the fridge a week if you wanted to.
- Get your smoker going; wood choice is yours. Try to keep it below 200°F. When it's ready, rinse the meat, then pat it dry with paper towels. If you have a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the backstrap. Smoke until it reaches about 135°F, which should take between 2 and 4 hours. Slice and eat.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Man, this is a game-changer. Absolutely delicious. Thank you!
Do you have a recipe for the sauce to start with?
Jim: Not really. It’s just something I threw together.
Made this last night for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a huge hit and will be making again! Was super easy too!
We raise Muscovey ducks and I am finding that most recipes that work for venison lend themselves well to duck breast. Any pointers/thoughts if I want to try this recipe with a muscovey breast?
Nancy: Harder because it’s so small in comparison. But if you smoke “cool,” below 200F, you can get there. Pull when the interior temp is about 135F.
For cold sandwiches and the mayo chile spread, what cheese would you recommend on a brioche/kaiser/croissant roll?
Jeff: Whatever you like. I like cheddar or provolone.
Will try this weekend. This is a great resource
Hi I’d like to smoke a venison loin for a carpaccio, would you use the same cure and just drop the smoke temperature to not cook the meat?
Mark: That’s really tricky. You’d need to fully cure the venison, so I’d extend the curing time in the fridge at least one day longer than you might otherwise, and then you need to cold smoke it, which means the chamber where the venison is smoking can’t get hotter than about 75F.
Thanks, would you add curing salt and/or sugar or other spices? I really want to try it but am cautious and don’t want to waste a good piece of meat. I was thinking I’d leave it in the cure for 3 – 5 days and then smoke on the weekend. I have a contraption that should give me truly “cold” smoke
Mark: That’s up to you. You can add up to equal amounts of sugar and salt, and if you want to do curing salt, use No. 1, sodium nitrite, at 0.25% of the meat by weight, so that is one quarter of one percent.
As a growing chef, I would like to say that this jut inspired me for something new on the menu. I am new to smoking meats in an American style restaurant (in Australia) I hadn’t thought of smoking venison until now so thank you.
I will practice and play around at home first in my new smoker.
I am just wondering if you could give me some advice on reheating? I have not worked with venison before.
Bridie: Reheating is a tough one, because you are smoking to temperature. I would more likely serve it warm the first time, then cold after, in sandwiches, or as a steak salad or something. Or, if the diner isn’t going to care, as meat in a meat pie.
I got into smoking meats about 6 months ago and am loving it. Gave this recipe a try today and I got to say it’s tasty. Kind of reminds me of Asian smoked pork. I’m using a Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 smoker and the venison was finished just shy of 3 hrs. I pulled it at 138 degrees and let it set on the kitchen counter to rest with a foil cap for about 2 hrs. It cut real nice and stayed moist which I like in a good sandwich meat. Then put it in the fridge to cool and will bag up for snacking or sandwiches.
To be clear on the salt, it’s .25% cure (.0025 x weight of meat) and an additional 2% (.02 x weight of the meat) of standard salt…?
So for 1 lb of meat (~454 grams), it’s 1.135g cure, and up to 9g of standard salt (sea salt/ kosher salt)… correct?
Levi: Yes, that’s right. You can go a little lower on the standard salt if you want, all the way down to 1% if needed, and 1.5% is what many prefer.
Due to poor labeling, one of the cuts I thawed was a bitterflied venison neck roast (fatty and sinewy.) I went ahead and prepared it this way. Wouldn’t you know, it makes a fantastic creamed chipped venison on toast (“SOS”). This will be hunting camp breakfast later this fall.
dont forget to think capacola when you find that piece
I tried this with a sika backstrap on a gas Weber grill. My only problem was keeping the wood smoking at such low temperatures. Worth it though. Delicious and Sweet
ok i seen it i got it i read it better in the remarks,I made the smoked venison roast a few times always AMAZING ,in that one you added sugar also.I use curing salt #1 but only for a nice pink color. If you ever made prosciutto its salt and salt only in Italy by law,Thanks ,I will deffently try this one.
hank, what about pink curing salt can i add that also.cause you got a nice pink color and in other recipes you always say if you smoke this use the pink curing salts
My birthday was April 5th (75) and my daughter bought me your book ‘Buck, Buck, Moose ‘ and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Last spring and fall I shot 6 turkey ( one with crossbow first time ) and two deer ( one with muzzle loader first time ) and I have been trying to try different recipes each week. My wife will not eat wild game so trying to devide up say a pound of ground venison I make half into chili and the other half into burgers and so on with different cuts.
I wrote a weekly outdoor column for our local paper for twenty years and did other writing/photography for outdoor magazines and TV and most outdoorsmen/ women always wanted good recipes to utilize there wild game effectively.
Your book covers all the bases and I can’t wait to try some new things out!
I can’t wait to try this! I’m starting out with a portion of elk backstrap cut from the narrow end, which is about 1 and 1/4-1/2″ high on the cutting board. You mention ‘if using elk, or moose, or something thick’…what was the size/thickness of your 2-day recipe? Thanks!
Hank, what scale do you suggest for weighing meat, salt, etc. in grams?
Can you use sea salt or kosher salt for the rub
Bob: Yes, you can use sea or kosher salt. And no, I use grams because it is far more precise than ounces. With this cure you need that precision or the meat will be too salty, or not salty enough. Sorry.
What’s the sauce pictured in the photo?
Dan: Mayo, cilantro and roasted green Hatch chiles all pureed.
Sounds like a great way to smoke an impala or wildebeest backstrap. Will try soon using knobthorn wood. Thanks.
Love the intro to this article about this Smoked Venison recipe. Comparing it to roast beef. ??. That’s like saying: “This is how I polish Gold to such a luster that it looks just like common Brass “ ?
Bob: Ha! Well, I rather like good roast beef…