You see it in Youtube videos, in upscale restaurants, or your friends have lavished you with stories of eating raw venison.
The short answer is yes, you can eat raw venison in certain conditions.
Preparation for Eating Raw Venison
Eating venison raw requires a good deal of preparation from the moment of the harvest through to plating.
The only occasion I eat raw venison is when I’m there when the animal is harvested.
You must ensure that the shot is clean and not a gut shot.
Next, you need a very clean working area; it’s important to make sure no dirt gets on the meat.
Whatever cut you have earmarked for a raw dish needs to come out quickly and get cooling.
Getting the meat cooled quickly is essential to slow down the growth of bacteria.
Which Cuts of Venison Can You Eat Raw
Some cuts of venison lend themselves well to raw dishes, whereas others are just not a good fit.
You can use most of the lean cuts raw once you remove the silverskin and membrane.
The backstrap is probably the most popular cut of venison. This cut has many recipes it can be used in, such as butterfly steak, stuffed backstrap, or even stir fry.
However, if you want to try raw venison it may be worth saving your backstrap for that.
Fortunately, backstraps are usually pretty large and there are two of them, so I usually keep at least one for raw dishes.
Primarily I use backstrap for carpaccio only. You can make large slices, it cuts well, is extremely lean and maybe has a bit more flavor than tenderloin.
The tenderloin is the most tender cut of venison which is why I like to keep this cut for tartare.
There is no harm in using the backstrap for tartare but if you want the best the tenderloin is that little bit better due to being more tender.
I’ve also used tenderloin to make carpaccio, which worked but was a bit of a challenge due to the meat being so tender.
Even slightly frozen, it was hard to slice for carpaccio.
The flat iron is on this list for those of you who like a stronger taste of venison.
It’s not as tender as the backstrap or tenderloin but it’s up there. What the flat iron lacks in texture it makes up for in flavor.
Both the backstrap and tenderloin are relatively mild cuts of venison, but the flat iron is rich with flavor.
If this is your first foray into raw venison you may find it too strong, but if you’re used to venison, it might be worth trying.
Sadly, due to the size of the flat iron it won’t be good for carpaccio, so best used for tartare.
If you’re not willing to risk one of your prime cuts on raw dishes, I hear you.
An alternative option is to use either the top or bottom round. Both cuts could be used for tartare if ground.
If you want to make carpaccio or minced tartare the top round is a bit more tender.
Dangers Of Eating Raw Venison
As with most raw meats, there are some risks associated with consuming raw venison.
- Bacterial Infections: Raw venison can harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause foodborne illnesses characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever.
- Parasitic Infections: Raw venison can also contain parasites like Trichinella spiralis (the cause of trichinosis), Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis), and tapeworms. Although there have been very few cases of trichinella in venison the risk is still there. Cooking the meat to the right temperature can kill these parasites, but they can be harmful or potentially fatal if ingested. Venison can also harbor other worms such as roundworms, I recently butchered a deer with numerous roundworms. These are not harmful to humans but don’t make an appetizing meal, especially raw.
- Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): This is a prion disease similar to mad cow disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. While there’s currently no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of contaminated meat, research on this topic is ongoing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not eating meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.
Raw Venison Dishes
There are not many dishes for raw venison; the two most popular are carpaccio and tartare.
Venison carpaccio is thinly cut slices of lean venison. The dish originates from Italy and is typically served with lemon and olive oil.
Although most modern carpaccio dishes are made from beef, I’ve had great results with venison carpaccio and much prefer it.
There are only two cuts of venison I think are worthy of carpaccio, the tenderloin, and the backstrap.
One of my favorite carpaccio dishes is venison carpaccio pizza; this is a simple recipe but wouldn’t look out of place in a gourmet restaurant.
Next is tartare, a well-known dish across much of Europe and Asia.
If you’re not used to raw meats, tartare may take a little more getting used to than carpaccio.
With that being said with the right seasoning and dressings, tartare is one of my favorite venison dishes.
Typically tartare is made of ground meat and served with a raw egg, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
Personally, I prefer to finely mince the venison with a sharp knife. I also prefer to serve it with a quail egg.
Similar to Carpaccio, the only two cuts I would use for tartare are the tenderloin and backstrap.
These cuts are tender enough to melt in your mouth without grinding.
If you prefer to grind the meat rather than mince it you have more options.
Ground tartare will leave the texture of most cuts palatable, but the flavor will still need to be considered.
Some cuts will have a stronger flavor, in fact, most cuts have a stronger flavor than the backstrap or tenderloin.