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One of the most tender cuts of venison is the heart. Venison itself has a bit of a gamey flavor and is notoriously tougher due to a lack of fat compared to farm raised animals. With a simple brine and quick sear, you can enjoy a a deliciously tender Venison Heart, making use of all the animal has to give.
Hunting Season is Here!
It’s that time of year! Our family takes full advantage of the land and what it has to offer. And every year our number grows as our family does. We’ve got 6 children plus my husband and myself. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. And with the cost of living, groceries, constantly on the rise, supply chains having issues etc. the need to rely on the land and support the natural ecosystem is one that homesteaders and cast iron enthusiasts are familiar with.
Using Every Part of the Deer
We don’t take for granted what we’re offered here on our land. So we are very mindful to use every part of the deer. Much of the venison will be turned into ground meat to use in hearty, filling recipes like chili, while other cuts will be used as roasts, bones used for broth, and the venison heart treated much like a fancy steak dinner.
How to Brine Venison Heart
Secrets to a tender venison (or any animal) heart include proper trimming and brining. Brining is needed to help flush the heart of excess blood which can leave a metallic taste in your food if not handled. The best way to do this, as per a follower Allen in my Cast Iron Recipes Facebook Group, is with use of salt, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Thanks Allen! It did not disappoint!
To make a brine, you’ll need about 6 cups of water to fully submerge the heart. Place this water in a pot on the stove. Add about 1/2 cup of salt, 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 bay leaves, and a heaping bundle of fresh thyme. Heat this liquid over the stovetop and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Then remove the pot from the stove and allow the liquid to fully cool.
While cooling, rinse the venison heart in the sink under cool water, compressing the heart in the process to help push out any excess blood. Once cleaned, set it into the container you’ll be brining in. Pour the cooled brine over the heart and again compress to help the brine liquid get into the heart and flush out any air pockets.
Cover the container with plastic wrap or the matching cover if available. Place in the refrigerator, or outside if cool enough, for 1 hour per pound or overnight if able.
Note: Be sure to do this as soon as the heart is harvested. The sooner you can clean it and start the brining process the less chances there are for coagulated blood within the heart, which can be hard to get out and lend to that metallic taste.
What does Venison Heart taste like?
Venison heart is very tender but dense. I liken it to a cross between a high-end beef steak and a pork loin. There is little to virtually no fat requiring the cooking method to either be low and slow as a full heart that has been trimmed, or with a quick sear like a typical steak. Aim for a rare to medium-rare treatment of the filets.
How to Cook Venison Heart
Being a tender cut of meat, and a thin one, you’ll want to act quickly with a hot skillet to cook the filets.
Get the skillet hot and use an oil with a high smoke point, plus some butter. Get the oil and butter into the skillet and the butter will start melting immediately. Place your seasoned filets in the skillet and sear for no longer than 2 minutes on each side. Add the garlic and herbs to the skillet as well.
Note that the cuts will want to go back to their original circular shape. If you have a cast iron bacon press, use that on top of the filets as it will help them to lay flat for more even cooking. If you don’t, you can also use a smaller skillet and just set it on top. Again the weight will really help. Only do this for the first side as we will baste the second side.
After flipping the filets, tilt the pan and use a spoon to gather the frying liquid and spoon over the cuts of meat and the top portion of the skillet. Do this for a minute or so. The constant basting will really help to infuse the filets with the garlic herb buttery goodness.
Remove from the skillet and set on a piece of tinfoil that you can cover. Let the venison rest for 5-10 minutes. It will continue to cook slightly and allow the juices to redistribute, which is why we want to only briefly cook this in the skillet.
What to Serve with Venison Heart
A typical heart can serve 2-3 adults. We were able to feed our entire family with the one heart, and its three filets. Granted the kids didn’t eat nearly as much as we did and of course we had sides.
Quick and Easy Venison Heart
- brining container
- 10-inch skillet
- bacon press
- Cutting board
For the Brine
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bundle fresh thyme
- 1 venison heart
For the Skillet
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 1 bundle fresh thyme
- In a pot on the stovetop, bring the brine ingredients to a quick boil for the salt and sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
- Once cooled, add the rinsed heart and brine to a container, fully submerging the heart in the brine. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
- After the heart has been brined, rinse under cold water to remove any excess brine. Trim the heart of excess fat, arteries, and veins. Butterfly the heart and cut into three filets. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Get a skillet hot on the stovetop. Add the oil, butter, smashed garlic, and fresh thyme. Add the filets and press with the weight of a bacon press or smaller skillet. Cook for just two minutes.
- Flip the filets and tilt the skillet, gathering all of the liquid into one corner. Use a spoon to baste the filets with the hot oil butter mixture for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove from the skillet and set on a sheet of tinfoil and close loosely, allowing it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve.