An easy venison backstrap recipe marinated overnight and grilled to perfection the next day resulting in a tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful deer backstrap.

Perfectly grilled venison backstrap sliced and served with a ramp pesto.
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I’ve been getting more and more into wild game lately.

In case these elk burgers weren’t proof enough, when digging out the venison backstrap from the depths of the freezer, I thought I should share this insanely simple marinade and grilling method we’ve been enjoying recently.

First off, I have to give a shoutout to my brother for gifting me this venison backstrap to begin with. He also gave me the roast I used in my Instant Pot venison roast recipe but if you know anything about backstrap, you know parting ways with that cut of the deer is a completely selfless gesture.

Venison backstrap is a coveted piece of meat. Many compare it to a filet mignon from a cow or call it the prime rib of deer and once you’ve tasted it (so long as you cook it properly), you’ll see why.

This grilled backstrap recipe respects the venison with its outright simplicity. The star of the show is truly the tender, juicy backstrap merely highlighted with crispy grilled edges and undertones of the sweet balsamic and garlic marinade.

Quick and simple marinade for venison backstrap poured over venison in a plastic bag.

WHAT IS VENISON BACKSTRAP?

Backstrap is a term typically used when referring to deer, elk, moose and other wild game and the meat comes from exactly where you’d think: along the spine of the animal. Because it’s the length of the loin on the back of those animals, you only get two backstraps per deer so it’s important to make them count.

Backstrap vs. tenderloin

Some think backstrap and tenderloin are the same thing but they’re actually two different cuts.

Tenderloins are two strips of meat underneath the loin and behind the ribs. This is what would actually be comparable to beef filet mignon. Tenderloins are much smaller than backstrap. This image is helpful in visualizing the difference between the two.

So while not actually the same as tenderloin, backstrap is still considered one of the most tender cuts of meat on a deer. It melts like butter in your mouth, kind of like a rare seared woodcock breast and is a definite must-try for anyone who appreciates wild game meats.

Venison backstrap marinating in a plastic bag overnight.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO COOK VENISON BACKSTRAP?

There’s a lot of opinions on this question but I’m of the opinion that less is more when it comes to cooking backstrap.

While there are many methods out there including smoking, using a dry rub, pan-searing (like my pan seared duck recipe), reverse searing and grilling, I’m partial to this grilled backstrap recipe for its ease and consistent results.

I personally think a simple marinade before grilling makes for the best tasting venison backstrap. It’s quicker than smoking and much less messy than pan-searing. Results are comparable across all three methods so why not take the easier route?

Some people will use this prized cut of meat for recipes like venison stroganoff but you won’t catch me doing that. Backstrap deserves a solo performance. Masking its innate tender flavor with creamy sauces is just doing a disservice to the animal.

Two pieces of grilled venison backstrap on a cutting board.

HOW TO MARINATE DEER BACKSTRAP

For this easy venison marinade you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • maple syrup
  • minced garlic
  • minced ginger

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Place the backstrap, which should be fully thawed if previously frozen, in a plastic or silicone sealable bag and pour the marinade into the bag.

*Pro tip — I love these reusable silicone Stasher bags. They’re dishwasher safe, durable and help reduce the use of plastic. I use them all the time for marinating meats like this.

Stasher Reusable Silicone Storage Bag

Stasher bags are my favorite refrigerator, freezer and pantry reusable storage bags. They're durable, dishwasher safe and reduce plastic use.

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Seal the bag, squeezing out any excess air and massage the marinade into the venison a bit. Place the bag in the refrigerator with the vension laying flat and let marinate for at least 4 hours.

Do not, under any circumstances, try to quickly thaw backstrap in the microwave. You don’t want to risk partially cooking the meat. Plan ahead and let it thaw under refrigeration

If you have the time to leave it overnight, even better.

The marinade is a combination of sweet and savory. It’s similar to my recipe for marinated tempeh and just like that recipe, when cooked, the marinade forms a crusty sweetness around the venison that pairs perfectly with the wild game.

Often, venison gets labeled as “gamey” tasting. This marinade will obliterate any trace of that.

Between the tenderness of the backstrap and the flavor of the marinade, this venison backstrap recipe is the recipe to convert any venison skeptics.

Venison backstrap recipe grilled and sliced on a cutting board with pesto on the side.

GRILLING THE BACKSTRAP

Once the venison has marinated and you’re ready to grill, remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

Preheat an outdoor grill to about 500°F. Using tongs, remove the backstrap from the bag and place on the grill over direct heat.

Grill for about 5 minutes per side until the internal temperature of the venison reaches about 120-135°F. Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Easy recipe for deer backstrap marinated, grilled and sliced on a cutting board with pesto.

WHAT TEMPERATURE DO YOU COOK VENISON BACKSTRAP?

Besides the marinade and the cut, the most important factor in a tasty final venison dish is the temperature you cook it to. If you don’t like rare or medium-rare meat, venison backstrap is not the dish for you.

Deer should pretty much never be cooked past medium. And honestly, medium is pushing it. I’d even go so far as to say medium-rare.

I always pull my venison off the heat source at 125F at the most.

With a 10-15 minutes rest, that will result in the pinkish red center you see in these pictures, a medium-rare/borderline medium cook.

Keep in mind, as with any meat, it will continue to cook after you pull it off the heat. This is why I like suggesting a 120-125F internal temperature with a solid rest period. The backstrap will end with a final internal temperature between 130-140F with this approach.

If you’ve had venison and thought it was tough and gamey and it looked grey in color, it was overcooked. I’m sorry you had to experience that. Now you know better.

If you don’t have a good digital instant read thermometer, it’s a kitchen tool worth every cent. They don’t even cost that much. I use this one which is like $15.

More tips and tricks

  • Keep the backstrap as one full piece of meat. Don’t cut it into chunks or make kabobs out if it.
  • Make sure the grill is very hot before placing the meat on the grates. This will ensure a good sear.
  • If there’s silver skin on the backstrap (like pork ribs have) remove it prior to cooking.
  • Fats are your friend when it comes to venison. Serve with butter or an oil based condiment like pesto to balance the lean meat.
Grilled venison backstrap sliced on a plate with grilled vegetables on the side.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH MARINATED VENISON BACKSTRAP

To keep this meal easy, grilled summer vegetables (using a veggie grill mat) are a great side dish.

Grill Mat Set of 6-100% Non-Stick BBQ Grill Mats
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These are great for grilling vegetables that would otherwise fall through the grates. They'll last all season (or more) and are easily cleaned in soapy water.

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04/10/2024 05:10 am GMT

Grilled green beans and grilled artichokes are also great option if the zucchini and mushrooms shown doesn’t appeal to you.

I happened to pick up a simple ramp pesto from the farmers market the week I made this venison backstrap recipe which was delicious dolloped on top of each slice of meat.

Any pesto is a great complement to this dish. From zucchini pesto to the sun-dried tomato pesto used on the flank steak in that recipe, there are so many variations that will go well with venison.

For a starch, roasted pesto potatoes or these striking mashed purple sweet potatoes are delicious choices.

While parsnip fries or jicama fries would also be great for a steak and frites vibe.

Do you love mushrooms with red meat like me? Air fryer mushrooms are the perfect accompaniment if so.

Medium rare grilled venison backstrap sliced and served with pesto and grilled vegetables on a plate.

If you don’t have venison on hand, this marinade and grilling method can also be used with beef or lamb with wonderful success.

But if you’re as lucky as me to be gifted the coveted venison backstrap or hunt it yourself, hopefully this simple marinated and grilled backstrap recipe convinces you to not over do it.

Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to tender, buttery and flavorful venison. Don’t over complicate things.

Looking for another easy venison recipe to try – check out my venison meatballs. They’re baked, freeze wonderfully and probably more accessible since ground venison is a bit easier to procure.

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4.60 from 269 votes

Grilled Venison Backstrap

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total: 12 hours 15 minutes
venison backstrap recipe
A grilled venison backstrap recipe with a simple marinade that leads to the most tender, juicy and flavorful deer backstrap you'll ever eat!

Ingredients 

  • 1.5-2 pounds venison backstrap
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions 

  • Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together in a small bowl.
  • Place the venison in a sealable plastic or silicone bag.
  • Pour the marinade into the bag, seal shut and massage the marinade into the venison with the bag closed.
  • Marinate for at least 4 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator with the bag/venison laying flat.
  • Take the venison out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat an outdoor grill to 500°F.
  • Using tongs, remove the venison from the bag and place on the grill over direct heat.
  • Grill for about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches between 120-135°F for medium-rare to medium. (*see note)
  • Remove the backstrap from the grill to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

*It’s suggested to not cook venison past 135°F as it tends to become tough. If you choose to grill past medium, keep that in mind!

Nutrition

Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 416kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 69gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 179mgSodium: 146mgSugar: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
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Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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43 Comments

  1. This marinade was spectacular!!! We loved how juicy and tender and flavorful the meat was – we are obsessed!! 10/10 recommend! Thank you!!

  2. I made this recipe using beef fillet. I really like the flavor from the combined sauces. They made the beef so flavorful, and I think the method helps the meat stay juicy yet tender. Love it.

  3. 5 stars
    This was so tender and delicious! The marinade was absolutely perfect. I served mine with baby redskins and broccoli. Will definitely make my venison backstrap this way again.

  4. I recently made these grilled venison backstraps, and they turned out so delicious! I loved how tender and juicy the flavor was. Such a great recipe to try!

  5. Always learning something new! I loved this recipe but you’re right…135 degrees is the sweet temp! Loved it so good! Great flavor