A big, juicy steak on a sizzling platter once was de rigueur for Saturday afternoon cookouts.
It showed on our waistlines.
In the mid-1960s, 42 percent of our calories came from fat—far above the maximum 30 percent intake recommended by the American Heart Association.
Today, more Americans are turning to chicken as a low-fat alternative to red meat. Now the typical U.S. diet derives 32 percent of calories from fat.
Perhaps if science could create a steak with less fat than chicken, a steak far richer in calcium, phosphorus, and iron, we could put more red meat on the table without the added guilt.
That steak does exist—it’s venison, the meat from white-tailed deer.
“Venison is a very lean meat,” says Maria G. Boosalis, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky. “Deer move around. They don’t sit around. They don’t get fat.”
A 3-ounce serving of venison has less fat and calories than same-sized portions of beef, pork, turkey, or chicken, says Boosalis. Venison, a good source of protein, niacin, and zinc, also has a fraction of the saturated fat found in beef.
Venison’s inherent leanness calls for cooking techniques different from beef. Wild game chef Randy Goodhew says venison is best cooked at lower temperatures than beef. Goodhew, a resident of Morning View, writes the Kentucky Afield cooking column and is working on his first cookbook, Rustic Kentucky Cooking.
While roasting times for deer and beef are the same, cook venison at 275-300 degrees rather than beef’s 325-350 degrees, Goodhew explains. Wait 20 minutes before carving for maximum juiciness.
Use low heat and baste with marinade when grilling venison. Marinades tenderize venison and keep it moist. Goodhew’s traditional marinade includes half a cup of red wine, a quarter cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, half a teaspoon garlic powder, four to six cracked black peppercorns, and salt to taste. Marinate meat in refrigerator at least two hours.
Before cooking venison, trim fat and soak overnight in a saltwater solution or buttermilk to reduce the wild taste.
Wild venison isn’t sold in stores. So if you want to try it but don’t hunt, ask a neighbor. More than 250,000 people hunt deer in Kentucky each year.
The Kentucky Afield gift shop stocks a variety of wild game cookbooks. Call (502) 564-7863 Tuesday through Sunday for more information or to order by telephone.