The Best Marinades for Wild Game Meat

Click to view largerVenison on the Grill

Some people judge doneness by waiting for definitive grill marks to form on the steak. That works for beef steaks, which are usually cut thicker than venison (deer, elk, antelope, or caribou) steaks either by a meat processor or a hunter/processor. Thinner steaks will be overdone if you wait for those lovely grill marks, plus wild meat that’s overdone will be tougher, since it doesn’t have the marbled fat that beef has to baste it while cooking.

The rule of thumb is to cook steaks on a medium to medium-hot fire, about 350 degrees.  Before putting them on the grill, wipe them with oil or dredge the steaks in the marinade. Then leave the steaks cooking on the first side until blood drips percolate up to the topside of the steak. Turn once and cook about half as long on the second side. The problem is, with marinated steaks you might not see the little drops of blood because the marinade has diluted them. 

So, with marinated steaks, you need to watch the very bottom edge of the steak. When it starts to brown, turn them one time only. Continue to cook about half as long as the first side, until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 F, or medium rare. Using a probe meat thermometer will take the guesswork out of it.

Always rest meat a couple of minutes after removing from the grill.

A word about onions

Grating releases far more onion flavor than chopping, even chopping finely. 

But if you own a mini chopper or food processor, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, called for in the recipe, to the onion; the results are the same as grating.

You want the consistency of really bad gravy – it should have lots of lumps and a liquid texture, but not flow freely. 


Sour Cream
Chili Marinade
½ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup oil
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground
    black pepper
 Zesty Onion Marinade
½ cup oil
½ cup apple cider vinegar
8 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup grated onion
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarse ground
   black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes


Mix the marinade ingredients in a re-sealable plastic bag and add the meat. Marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 4 days depending on how tough the meat is, and how much flavor you want to add (or hide). 

Marinades work until you pour them off, and if you don’t rinse them off of the meat, the oil will keep the steak from sticking to the grill. 

Finally, never add the cold marinade to the finished steaks on the plate! It needs to be brought to a boil and simmered 4 minutes to be safely added to the finished dish.

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