Today we are going to discuss the difference between venison vs. elk meat.
Many hunters prefer one over the other, and you are likely to be no different.
If you are going to focus on hunting one over the other, it only makes sense to hunt wild game you prefer the taste of.
So let’s not waste anytime and get started…
Elk Vs. Deer Meat
Does elk taste like deer?
Although many people might think of deer and elk meat as being similar, they actually taste quite a bit different.
If you are new to wild game haven’t tried both, the best thing you can do is taste them to see which you prefer.
Just like you might prefer chocolate over vanilla (or vice versa), everyone’s taste is unique.
In this article we are going to highlight the differences in the following:
- Fat Content
Elk (also known as wapiti) are one of the largest animals you can hunt in North America.
They are found primarily in the western half of the U.S. and are among the most popular animals to hunt.
Elk are vegetarians (herbivores). They travel far and wide to mostly eat grass and woody browse depending on the time of year.
Elk are much larger than deer, weighing anywhere between 300 and 1000 pounds.
So, if you are fortunate to enough to get an elk and haul it out, prepare to have a lot of meat!
What does elk meat taste like?
Elk tastes very similar to high quality beef.
Enough so that many hunters prefer the taste of elk to beef.
This is likely due to the fact that wild game is not treated with any sort of hormones or antibiotics like a lot of domestically raised cattle.
Wild game has the advantage of eating what nature intended.
They are not treated with any sort of medicines and are not exposed to the same level of diseases that many farm raised animals are.
Pros of Elk Meat
So, what’s all the fuss about?
Well, to be frank, elk meat is delicious.
Elk is high in protein and low in fat.
It tastes similar to beef and is about the same difficulty to cook it.
Elk meat is also really versatile, as we will discuss below.
You can make steaks, ribs, burgers, jerky, and much more.
Cons of Elk Meat
I’ll be honest…
There aren’t many negatives when it comes to elk meat.
The only con I am aware of is that it can be a bit pricey if you are purchasing it.
If you are hunting elk yourself, be aware that processing and elk is a lot of work.
It will take the better part of a day and you will need the right equipment like a good vacuum sealer for packaging all the meat.
Best Cuts of Elk
So, let’s say you want to give elk a try.
What cut should you eat?
The most tender and flavorful cut of elk is going to be either the loin (backstrap) or tenderloin.
Both are easy to cook and are perfect for grilling or searing in a pan like you would with any other high quality steak.
Elk Meat Recipes
Elk meat is extremely versatile.
The number of dishes you can prepare with elk is far to long to list here.
You can make elk steak, elk burgers, …
These are a few of my favorites:
- Barbecued Backstrap
- Elk Burgers
- Elk Meatloaf
If you are going to be harvesting and eating wild deer or elk, I highly recommend you get the book Buck Buck Moose.
It is an incredible resource filled with excellent recipes for both species.
Alright, now that we have covered elk meat, lets move onto…
In case you aren’t aware, there are quite a few different deer species.
In the United States, the most common species are mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.
The black-tailed and mule deer are primarily found in the western half of the U.S. while the white-tail deer are found in the eastern half.
Other species around the world include fallow, sika, chital and red deer in New Zealand.
Deer are smaller than elk. Depending on the species they range anywhere from 100-300 pounds.
Just like elk, they are herbivores and eat many of the same foods. You may have heard deer eat corn, but they are the healthiest when the eat alfalfa, oats, woody browse, and other natural food sources.
What does deer meat taste like?
Well, just as you may have heard…
Venison has a much stronger flavor than most red meat.
Many describe it as tasting “earthy”.
This can also be interpreted as “gamey”.
Unless you have actually tried it, there isn’t really a better way to describe it.
There is no denying it, the taste of venison isn’t for everyone.
I have personally found that many people are not found of venison the first time they try it.
But, after eating a few times they become more accustom and come to love the meats unique flavor.
Pros of Deer Meat
Venison has a number of benefits.
It is full of nutrients and vitamins like vitamin B-12, K, zinc, and choline. The liver is even more packed.
Deer is also more lean than other red meat like beef and is very high in protein.
Many cuts of the deer are great for making sausages, jerky, and salami.
Cons of Deer Meat
In addition to its gamey flavor, another trait of venison that turns many off is that it can be tough depending on the cut.
I don’t care how good a piece of meat tastes…
No one likes chewing a tough steak.
The other tricky thing about deer is that it can be difficult to cook well.
I find many people tend to overcook it which makes the meat tough and not enjoyable to eat.
Best Cuts of Deer
Just like elk, the best cuts of venison are the backstrap (loin) and the tenderloin.
These are the premier pieces of meat on the deer.
They are lean, full of flavor, and fairly easy to cook (just don’t overcook).
My favorite way of cooking deer is to either barbecue or pan sear the backstrap.
I simply use a bit of oil, coat the meat in salt and pepper, and cook the meat fast and hot.
You can also cook it using a sous vide cooker like I did here.
This gets the meat to the perfect temperature.
Once it is ready, give it a quick sear in a pan and it is ready to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions About Deer and Elk
How does an animals diet affect the taste of the meat?
Like the saying says, “You are what you eat”. Wild game that has a poor diet is not going to be good as a well balanced diet the animal is intended to eat.
Is elk or deer meat more expensive?
Prices can fluctuate but generally Elk costs slightly more than Venison. Expect to pay more for both than beef you will find at your local stores.
Where can I buy elk or deer meat?
Some areas will have local markets that sell venison and elk meat. Try calling around to a few places. Usually someone will be able to direct you to a good source. If you can’t find a local source, there are many websites online selling wild game meat.
You can even find some high quality sellers of venison on Amazon.
Wrapping Up: Deer vs Elk
Whether you are a hunter trying to decide what to hunt, or just someone who wants to eat wild game as a part of your diet, deciding between elk and venison is going to come down to personal taste.
Hopefully by using the information in this article, you will know what the differences are and will have a better idea which you are likely to prefer.
Don’t be afraid to swap out your beef for some wild game on occasion. Field dressing and processing wild game may seem daunting, but with a little experience you may come to enjoy it.
If you happen to prefer deer or elk, the best way to store it in bulk is to use a vacuum sealer.
- Venison tends to be more gamey tasting, likely due to the higher fat content of the meat.
- Elk meat is leaner than venison, and has a more mild gamey flavor. The average person is likely to prefer elk meat over deer.