Venison and Kidney Pie

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Steak and kidney pie is just about the most British meal you can eat. I make it with venison, and it is so good it will convince you to save those kidneys. Seriously. It will.

If your nose is all squinched up thinking about eating kidneys, walk with me for a moment.

A venison and kidney pie uncut, on the table.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Kidneys are super high in protein and several key vitamins you need to stay healthy. But yeah, I get it: It’s a filter for pee. Sounds like not good eats. And, prepped poorly, you’d be right. But remember that all store-bought kidneys will be pre-prepped and ready to cook.

However, if you are harvesting deer kidneys or some other wild animal’s kidneys, you will want to pull the thin membranes off them, slice them in half lengthwise, and soak in a solution of about 1/4 cup kosher salt to 1 quart water in the fridge overnight. Remove, rinse, and, if you want to (and I do), give them another overnight soak in milk. This literally soaks the piss out of them.

Eaten raw (!) or lightly cooked, kidneys are actually kinda crunchy, which can be off-putting. But cooked slow and low, as you do with this kidney pie, their texture softens, and they get a mouthfeel that’s rich, warming and perfect as a counterpoint to the muscle meat they go with.

Now obviously you don’t need to be a hunter to make steak and kidney pie. Most British cooks use beef. If that’s you, I highly recommend lamb as a better substitute, or even better better? Veal. Thankfully, you can find humanely raised veal these days.

A slice of venison and kidney pie on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

What, exactly, is steak and kidney pie? Well, traditionally it’s made with skirt or flank steak that is long cooked, but I think that is a waste of good taco meat. So I use neck meat, shoulder or shank, and braise it long and slow with the kidneys for a thick, stew-like filling. That filling goes into a nice pie crust — either puff pastry as I do here, or the same basic pie dough you’d use for apple pie or pot pie, only with no sugar — and is baked.

You eat wedges of kidney pie with some good mustard, and ideally a crisp salad and lots of malty beer.

A word on British food in general. It gets a bad rap, and a generation ago, it deserved it. But British food, skillfully done, can be soulfully satisfying — especially in cool weather. Think British bangers and mash, Scotch broth, or even that other famous kidney dish, deviled kidneys.

Kidney pie is also a great way to use a little more of the animal, waste less, and enjoy the alchemy of making something wonderful from what most throw away.

Once made, your kidney pie will keep a week in the fridge. It does not freeze well, but the filling does, so you can thaw that out and make more pies later.

A slice of venison and kidney pie on a plate
5 from 7 votes

Venison and Kidney Pie

Obviously you can use pretty much any meat with its kidneys here: Beef, lamb or mutton would be my top alternatives, but this could be done with pork or even bear.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine: British
Servings: 8
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours

Ingredients 

FILLING

  • 2 pounds venison shank, shoulder or neck meat
  • 1 pound venison kidneys
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup lard, bacon fat or butter (or beef drippings)
  • 1 pound chopped fresh mushrooms (any kind)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
  • Salt
  • 2 cups stout or porter or other dark, malty beer, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley stems
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 cups venison stock
  • 3 turnips or parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and black pepper, to taste

PASTRY

  • 1 17-ounce box, puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions 

  • Chop the venison and kidneys into chunks. Salt them and toss in flour. Heat the bacon fat in a large pan and brown the meats. Don't crowd the pan and take your time; you might need to do this in batches. You want them all nicely browned. Remove the pieces as they brown.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Deglaze the pot with the fresh mushrooms and the chopped onion; their moisture will loosen all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which you want to scrape up with a wooden spoon. Salt these as they cook, and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of the beer to the pot and use it to scrape up any more browned bits from the pot. Add the thyme, parsley stems, bay leaves, rosemary and minced celery, along with the rest of the beer and the venison stock. Return the meats to the pot along with any juices in the bowl where you'd left them.
  • Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 90 minutes. After that has elapsed, add the parsnips or turnips. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Cover the pot again, return it to the oven and cook until everything is nice and tender. This could be 30 minutes, could be another couple hours, depending on how old and tough your game was.
  • Remove the lid, and add chopped parsley leaves, Worcestershire, Coleman's dry mustard and black pepper to taste. Let this cool. At this point, the filling can be stored up to a few days before making the pie.
  • Jack the oven up to 425°F
  • To make the pie, let the puff pastry thaw according to the directions on the box. Press in one sheet of pastry into a standard pie pan and dock it by poking it all over with a fork. Fill the pie generously. It should be sorta jellified if it came out of the fridge, and even if you just let it cool, it will be very thick once cooled. Top with the other sheet of pastry and seal the edges.
  • Whisk together the beaten egg and milk and paint the whole pie with it. If you have stray bits, make a fun deer or whatever out of them and stick it in the middle; it will adhere because of the egg wash. Paint the decoration, too. Finally cut vents in the pie here and there.
  • Bake the pie about 45 minutes, or until pretty and browned. Remove, and let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 512kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 287mg | Sodium: 374mg | Potassium: 1002mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1029IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 7mg

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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21 Comments

  1. I riffed on this recipe to make a shank and kidney pie for Super Bowl Sunday a few years ago. I was widely loved and surprised me how good offal could be beyond hearts.

    I used kidneys from a youngish feral hog and shanks from a rather old buck to great effect.

  2. Hi Hank. This is my first time ever cooking organ meats! In step 5, how long do I make the pie sit in the oven if I’m using grass-finished beef neck meat and beef kidneys? I don’t know how to use venison sine I’m not a hunter… Also, do you ever get a soggy bottom crust using this method? Shouldn’t you blind bake the bottom crust first for at a least 20 minutes before putting the filling in? One last thing, are we using an actual pie plate for this or simply a 4-quart pot? I’m kind of concerned all this won’t fit in a standard pie plate!

    1. Annie: Yes, the bottom gets a little soggy, but it’s a meat pie so I am OK with that. I don’t think a blind bake step would stop that, and because it’s puff pastry, I am not sure it’s a good idea. Yes, I use an actual pie plate, but I’ve also used ramekins to serve it in individual portions. Also, with your first question, remember that the first few instructions are all about making the filling. You only cook the filled pie 45 minutes.

      1. Thank you! I meant how long do I let the filling sit in the oven? I will have bought my meat instead of having killed it.

      2. Annie: Probably the same amount of time. Maybe a little less. I’d start checking at an hour.

  3. So tasty and wonderful! Sumptuous even!
    However, I absolutely disagree about the 20 minute prep time. It took me about that long to prep the kidneys. Then there is the peeling/cutting of the turnips and celery. …chopping the onions…separating the parsley stems from the leaves. Mincing the rosemary…cleaning and chopping the mushrooms…measuring the ingredients. I planned an hour, but in truth, (I admit that I am a slow prepper ,especially the first time I make a recipe) it took me 4 hours. I have never spent so much time making dinner!
    Again, the dish is absolutely delicious!

    1. Lorraine: Sorry about that! I will adjust it. One problem I have is that I was a restaurant chef, so my prep time is typically faster than others’ prep time.

  4. Hank,
    In the recipe list you have 1/4 cup of chopped parsley leaves but you never say when to add them to the filling. You have adding the parsley stems, but not the leaves. When do they get added in?
    -Gillian

    1. Gillian: Oops! Good catch. The leaves go into the filling at the end, after everything’s all ready. You want the leaves to stay green and fresh tasting.

  5. Nice recipe! I agree 1000% about true British food, whose reputation read destroyed post-WWII. Fergus Henderson’s “Nose to Tail” books are great examples, as is Jane Grigson’s work. And anyone who grows or hunts for their table should check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “River Cottage” shows and books.

  6. Hey there, Hank! In step 3, you mentioned reglazing the pan with fresh onions and chopped onion. Did you mean “fresh mushrooms and chopped onion”?
    I’ll be trying this recipe this week. Thanks for countless hours of great reading and terrific recipes.

  7. Just wondering…..soaking in milk, which I have done with meat, draws out strong flavors. But doesn’t it also expose the meat to tons of bacteria?

    I have never really been into offal, but save all of it: heart, lungs, kidneys, tongue, trachea, esophagus, major blood vessels, caul fat, all fat, and blood….I parcel it out to the dog….He enjoys it with great relish. I think he would run away from home if I reneged on our current arrangement.

    Just wondering? Have you ever done anything with the tarsals, carpals, metatarsals, and metacarpals? There is a lot of good stuff in them that makes great stock. They are a bit tricky to skin, I use my vice and a good pair of pliers.

    I jus toss a couple in with each roast I make, and after picking out all the meat, simmer the rest…makes a really firm(upon cooling) stock. Great for onion soup.

    I know you make a blood sausage, but have you ever made one with big game blood?

    Hope your day is smooth sailing,
    Dave

    1. Nope. You are soaking it in the fridge. Below 40F. And milk is pasteurized. Nope, I have never done anything with those bits. And I have made blood sausage with a wild hog once. Was quite the shitshow trying to get clean blood into a container in the field.

  8. I like steak and kidney pie, but I adore steak and kidney PUDDING, which is is the same filling in a suet-based dough, and then steamed. It’s amazing.

  9. Just wondering if I substitute beef kidneys, in this recipe, I always have plenty of venison, however the liver and kidney’s do not often survive the shot.