Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slow Cooker Venison Barbecue Recipe (Deer-B-Que)

Top BBQ Venison Sandwiches with homemade creamy cider slaw.
I didn't grow up eating much venison. My dad was an avid squirrel hunter back in the day (all hail Wild, Wonderful West Virginia!), but when it came to a meaty dinner in our house, it was almost always pork, pork and more pork. Lord knows, I heart the pork (like, A LOT), but I love my game meats, too, so when I was bequeathed a 3 pound venison roast my first thought was bring on the slow cooker deer-b-que.

I learned to cook venison from an old friend in college who was an avid hunter. Nary a winter passed without seeing him come back from the Virginia mountains with a big buck laid out in the back of his pick-up truck, and after the deer was field dressed and processed, there would be enough meat to last for months. While the tenderloin was always the most highly prized, the lesser cuts would never to go waste, ending up as sausages, burgers, air dried deer jerky or plopped inside a crockpot to make venison barbecue, stew or roast.

While there are many ways to cook tougher cuts of venison (such as in a regular oven, Dutch oven, smoker or grill), the slow cooker is simply made for tackling a super lean piece of meat like this because of its low and slow heat and the fact that the slow cooker naturally retains a good amount of moisture during the cooking process. When it comes to making deer-b-que in the slow cooker, just about anything goes flavor-wise as long as your meat remains covered in some kind of liquid during the cooking process. Unlike a fatty, marbled pork butt (which makes some stellar-tasting BBQ in the crockpot), venison roast contains virtually no fat at all, so it won't be long before you have a dried out hockey puck piece of meat on your hands if it's not braised in liquid.
There are many ways to get around this dilemma when it comes to choosing your braising liquid. I've seen whole roasts covered in beer, cola, water infused with onions, garlic and celery (a sort of homemade stock), even cooking the roast in coffee, which was suggested to me by a Facebook friend. With all of these methods the roast is cooked for 9 hours or so until it's super tender in just the braising liquid. After which, the remaining liquid is discarded, the roast is removed and shredded and then returned to the slow cooker before it meets with a good dousing of your favorite BBQ sauce. Not only does this method help to stave off any gaminess by infusing it with additional flavor, but if you're liquid contains some kind of acid (vinegar, buttermilk, citrus, Coke), this helps to break down the connective tissue in the meat and reduce gaminess while tenderizing it. FYI: Not all venison cuts will have a strong gamey flavor. Much depends on how the deer was killed, what it ate, and how it was processed after the kill.

For this recipe, I wanted to create a one-pot wonder where the venison roast slow cooks directly in the barbecue sauce, eliminating the extra step of cooking it in a separate liquid prior. In order to make sure my barbecue sauce covered the meat (and the meat wasn't swimming in it once it was done), I sliced the venison in two-inch thick pieces and placed them on top of some onions before pouring in the barbecue sauce along with a bit of stock. Nine hours later my deer-b-que was done and, not only was it infused with tons of flavor from cooking it directly in the barbecue sauce, but all it needed was to be shredded and it was ready to stuff into a warm bun and topped with creamy cider slaw. Super easy, super tasty and nary a bit of gaminess.

Slow Cooker Venison Barbecue Sandwiches (A.K.A. The Bambi Sammy)

Makes 8-10 sandwiches, depending on the size of your roast.

When slow cooking a lean meat such as venison you will need to remember two things: make sure the meat is covered in some kind of liquid as it cooks in the slow cooker (be it BBQ sauce, water, beef stock, beer or a can of cola), and be sure add some type of fat into the cooking liquid (in this case, I incorporated a couple of tablespoons of butter into the BBQ sauce) to compensate for the venison’s leanness. Top these protein packed BBQ sandwiches with homemade cider slaw and a dash of hot sauce, if desired. Serve with Oven-Baked Spicy Rutabaga “Fries”(see recipe below) for a healthier take on a typical barbecue plate. Note: I used a 6-quart slow cooker for this recipe. Note #2: you can easily double the barbecue sauce and set some aside if you like your BBQ saucy.

3-4 pound whole venison roast
One large onion, sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark beer
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup beef or chicken stock, beer, cola or water, or enough to cover the venison

Trim deer roast of any visible fat and/or connective tissue and cut it into 2-inch thick slices (this will help the meat to stay submerged in the sauce). Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray or place a slow cooker liner inside. Spread the sliced onions onto the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the pieces of meat inside the slow cooker without overlapping them too much, if possible.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk the cider vinegar and the brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in beer, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, butter, chili powder, salt, mustard, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pour sauce over the venison pieces, reserving about a ½ cup if desired to serve on the side. Pour the 1 cup of stock (or more) over the meat, making sure it is barely covered. Cover the slow cooker and set on low 9-10 hours or until the meat can be easily shredded. Remove meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. Return the meat to the slow cooker and cook another hour on low. Set the slow cooker to warm and serve barbecue straight from the slow cooker insert.

Oven-Baked Spicy Rutabaga "Fries"

Serves 4-6

Cook's Note: These won't get super crispy like potatoes, but they are still really tasty!

2 medium-sized rutabaga
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and slice the rutabaga into ½-inch wide spears (as you would potatoes for making french fries). In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika. Toss the rutabaga with the oil mixture and spread it (making sure it doesn't touch) onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed generously with cooking spray. Season rutabaga with salt and pepper.

Place the sheet pan in the middle rack of the oven and cook the fries for about 15 minutes or until they begin to crisp on the bottom. Then turn over the rutabaga pieces and cook them on the other side, about another 15-20 minutes or until crispy, watching them closely so they don’t burn.

Remove fries to a serving platter and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.

All photos and text ©2013 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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  1. I finally got off my butt of Instagram to come over for a visit. Anything with venison catches my attention! haha. The brown sugar and beer intrigues me...I will be trying this out ASAP. Thanks!

  2. I am so happy to find this--Perre Magness spotted it and referred me here. Someone just gave me so very much venison, and I've only ever cooked the tenderloin. Am reposting on my cookbook's FB page, where we're talkin' venison. Thanks--cannot wait to try it.


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