For most people that harvest venison or even those that buy farmed venison, the majority of this meat will end up as ground venison.
The most important things to mix with this venison are fat and seasoning, and this will vary depending on your use of the venison.
Venison is very lean meat, so we add fat when grinding to prevent it from getting too dry when cooking.
The most common fat used is pork fat; however, you can also use beef fat.
There is a small amount of fat on venison, but this is usually trimmed off due to the unpleasant taste.
For most of my recipes, I recommend using pork belly. I find that this is some of the best fat, but also has a minimal amount of pork meat which helps with the bind on sausages or burgers.
There is no right or wrong amount of fat to add to your venison, and it’s a matter of personal preference.
The most common amount of fat added is 20-50 percent. I rarely like to use less than 20% fat as I find the meat is too dry, and I get a poor bind.
Similarly, I don’t often use more than 50% as I want my sausages and burgers to be mostly venison.
One thing to keep in mind when adding fat is your cooking method. Most ground venison will end up as sausages or burgers, and there are numerous ways to cook venison burgers and sausages.
If you are cooking these on the grill, you can afford to add a little extra fat, but if you are cooking them in a skillet, you should use a little less fat to prevent them from swimming.
Venison burgers are typically cooked over high heat and are best from the grill. For this reason, adding a little more fat than normal is beneficial.
I find 30% pork belly to be the perfect amount of fat for burgers. This gives enough fat and a little pork meat.
For venison sausages, I aim for around 20% fat. A lot of sausage meat gets cooked in the pan, so we don’t want too much fat coming out.
Also, sausages are usually cased, so we add less fat to prevent them from becoming too loose.
Adding seasoning to your ground venison varies according to what you are making.
For example, seasoning venison burgers will differ greatly from seasoning venison Italian sausage.
When it comes to venison burgers, I use the less is more mantra for seasoning.
You should apply most of the seasoning after the patty has been formed and is ready to cook.
However, I like adding minimal seasoning to the ground burger meat.
As you will see in my venison burger recipe, I use a small amount of garlic and onion powder.
Anything extra will be applied directly before cooking.
Venison sausages vary greatly, and each recipe calls for various seasonings.
Venison Italian Sausage
Italian sausage is one of the most popular dishes amongst hunters. This dish is usually made in large amounts, and much of the ground venison goes into Italian sausages.
When grinding venison for Italian sausage, you will add a lot of seasoning.
While there is some room for experimentation in making a classic Italian sausage, some seasonings are unavoidable.
Fennel: Most Italian sausage recipes call for fennel seeds, except ours; I prefer to use caraway, which has a very similar flavor to fennel but is more complex.
Red pepper Flakes: Italian sausage meat is not very spicey, but it does need a little kick, even if it’s subtle. This comes from adding red chili flakes.
Oregano: If you look through our recipes and find Italian dishes, you will see that most call for oregano. Most Italian recipes make good use of oregano. I find this herb great for balancing the ground meat, especially if you leave it loose to use in other recipes.
Adding ingredients to your ground venison doesn’t stop at fat and seasoning.
You can add numerous other ingredients depending on your use of the ground meat.
For example, cheese and jalapenos are commonly added to sausage meat.
As mentioned above, you will add parmesan, onions, fresh herbs, and milk if you make meatballs.
Making ground venison can seem complicated; I follow a few rules of thumb to keep it simple.
Fat: 20-30 percent
Seasoning: Only for sausages and meatballs; less is more.
Extras: Experiment, but stick close to recipes.
Rusty enjoys connecting food and nature and has done so since a child. He was fortunate enough to explore cuisine worldwide and work at great European restaurants. He now enjoys thinking up new recipes that he can find around him in nature in North America.