An easy venison backstrap recipe marinated overnight and grilled to perfection the next day resulting in a tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful deer backstrap.
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.
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 and is a definite must-try for anyone who appreciates wild game meats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! I’d love to know how it goes. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Tag @runningtothekitchen on Instagram & Facebook.
Grilled Venison Backstrap
- 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
- 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.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.