It isn’t at all hard to make ground venison and while you can have a qualified butcher do the job, you can also save quite a bit of money if you do it yourself. It is far lower in fat than ground beef, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s good because it is a much healthier alternative to hamburger and it’s a bad thing because it tends to fall apart when you cook it. This means that it is perfectly good for dishes such as venison spaghetti and venison chili con carne, but making burger patties or meatloaf can be problematic.
The good thing about making your own ground venison is that you have a lot more control over what goes into the ground meat. Only you know how you are going to use it, after all. There are also alternatives to the old method, which is given here anyway since it does work.
Grinding the Meat
To make your own ground venison or elk, you naturally need to have a meat grinder. This can be the electric kind or the manual hand-crank grinder. It is best to use finer blades to get the right texture. The finished product should look similar to the hamburger you can buy at the store, though it will probably be darker red since the meat is leaner than beef.
It isn’t necessary to cut steaks or roasts for use in the ground venison. Scraps produced during the cutting and wrapping process or stew meat is perfectly acceptable for making into ground venison. Pieces of meat that are no more than an inch or two long, tall and thick are manageable sized for putting through the grinder.
The idea is to start with about five pounds of ground meat. If the venison or elk is going to be used in meat sauce recipes, little more needs to be done once the venison has been ground. Simply wrap the ground meat, label it and date it. It is recommended that you indicate that it is ground for meat sauces. You can also run an onion through the grinder to mix in with this meat if you prefer putting onions in your meat sauce. This helps keep the meat moister once it is thawed and cooked.
Old-Style Ground Venison
The old-style of making ground venison is to add either pork fat or beef fat when you are grinding the venison. The purpose of this is to help the ground meat stick together when you are making burgers or meatloaf. Pork fat is normally preferred.
Some hunters add up to an equal amount of pork fat, or five pounds, to a batch of five pounds of venison. However, adding too much fat negates the health benefits of deer meat and it results in a much greasier burger.
Therefore the recommendation is to only put about three fourths of a pound of fat through the grinder while you are making the ground venison or elk. The burger might still have a tendency of falling apart if you aren’t careful when you are cooking it, but the flavor and health benefits will usually be far better.
It is also a good idea to add about a tablespoon of salt and a half tablespoon of pepper to the ground venison, blending it in thoroughly, prior to packaging and labeling it. The salt and pepper not only enhances the flavor of the burger, it also helps the venison keep a little better for a longer period of time.
Alternate Ground Venison
What if you are a purist, love the taste of venison and want burgers without adding a bunch of fat? There is a way to do it. Part of the reason that added fat helps burger patties and meatloaf hold together is because of the oils released by the fat as it cooks. One of the ways you can make the ground meat without adding pork or beef fat is to add a cup of extra virgin olive oil to the ground venison or elk and mix it in thoroughly. You are adding an oil, but it is a very healthy one that adds to the health benefits of the venison without adding more animal fat.
When you are actually making the burgers or meatloaf, you can also add a couple of eggs, scrambled. Many cooks do this even with ground beef meatloaf since the egg makes it stick together better without taking anything away from the great flavor. There is no reason this won’t also work with venison. With eggs added, the ground venison is also less likely to fall apart when you make it into burgers and cook them. A little extra care needs to be taken when you are turning them over in the pan, but the flavor is great and you don’t need to add any extra beef or pork fat.
It isn’t difficult to make your own ground venison and doing so makes it easier to control the healthy aspects of the meat. It also saves money, as compared to having a butcher do the work for you. Venison is a healthy meat and by selecting how it is going to be used and what you are going to add to the meat, you can end up with some truly remarkable meals. If you need any additional incentive, ground venison is also cheaper than ground beef. Why not plan on making some with the next venison you bag?
Picture by FotoosVanRobin