Spice Coated Seared Venison and Summer Squash

This is a bold BBQ recipe for blackened venison strips. This dish is all about quality spices, so make sure you use fresh stuff.

I love spices, herbs and seasonings a lot. I get everything from Penzey’s online catalog and love trying new things. They have a great selection of things you’ve never heard of, and the things you know you love. This recipe uses a ton of flavor to compliment the delicate notes of venison, without tasting like you coated it with too much. I think the following recipe includes some spices that are a perfect match for dark game, so use this on your elk and bear too. Since each cut of meat is a different size, I usually eyeball the spices in this recipe so add more or less if you feel the need.


  • A back-strap or roast – cut into thin strips for a skewer
  • A summer squash cut to ¾” rounds, these will also go on skewers
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • A pinch of smoked red pepper flakes. I grow, dry and smoke my own (see below)
  • 1 tbsp black pepper, fresh and coarse-ground
  • 1-2 tsp rock or kosher salt
  • A tiny dash of ground cumin – this is a very strong spice, use in small amounts as it can overpower all of the other spices. I’m talking less than 1/8 of a teaspoon
  • 1 tbsp of charnushka – What is that? The dark sesame seeds you find on bakery bread, bagels, or “Jewish rye bread” (see right). It is a must have for the game cooker as it really accents those flavors


20141001_1121241. Mix the spices all together in a small dish.

2. Skewer the squash and venison. I “thread” my venison so it stays better (see photo).

3. Spray or coat the squash in oil and lightly sprinkle some spices on both sides. Save enough so you can heavily sprinkle your venison strips on both sides. Don’t oil the venison.

4. Cook over direct heat on a BBQ at about 325F, avoid direct flame and aim for red coals. 3-4 minutes per side for the meat and veggies, they both finish at around the same time. I like my venison just blackened on the edges and my veggies “al dente” or tender to the tooth, as opposed to mushy.

Coal Choices

I prefer Char-wood over Charcoal. Royal Oak is the best brand I have come across and lends a distinct hardwood smoke to all dishes. I tend to stray from Charcoal because I don’t know what is truly in it and I find the flavor offensive, especially pre-fueled coal for easy ignition. A charcoal chimney is a great investment. My coals are good to go in five minutes, all of them evenly red hot.

Smoking Peppers

20141010_144436I mentioned I smoke my own peppers which is an extremely fun and rewarding process. I smoke over a big barrel filled with white oak that has burned down to coal. Place the peppers in some chicken wire, form a basket, and hang over the smoke for about 6 hours. I use my gambrel to form a heavy duty hanger. Then pop the top stems off and roll the peppers in gloved fingers to remove the seeds. Grind briefly in a food processor until flaked. They will stay smoked for two years if kept in a glass jar with a sealed lid. I typically run out before September comes around again. Good varieties are: Ancho, Maule’s Red Hot, and Alma Paprika.


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