Video smoking a deer shoulder

Recipes, cured, smoked

2020 – 2022 Kjell Hedström

This recipe is a keeper. Before I went down this path, I used to save the front quarters for the grinder. No more of that! Using this recipe, your venison shoulders will be transformed into a delicious, tender treat that will make your kids ask for thirds and gain the praise of your dinner guests. I have found, through experimentation, the secrets to getting this right and practically foolproof. If you follow this procedure, you can add another trick to your venison cooking prowess.

Using Equilibrium (EQ) Curing, which is popular with bacon and charcuterie makers, your “dry brine” will be exactly what you want it to be. Leaving it in for a longer time will not make the meat too salty. Equilibrium Curing will give you a repeatable process with minimal risk of failure. There is a downside to EQ curing, however, as the minimum time for a cure is two weeks. The upside is that you can leave it safely in the fridge until you are ready to smoke it. Just like charcuterie, the longer the meat is cured stays the more tender and flavorful the end result will be.

Smoke it low and slow, and as venison doesn’t have fat to protect the moisture and flavor, I prefer to pull it out of the smoker when it’s between 130 – 140F. A digital meat thermometer with an alarm setting is a necessity.

Due credit to Hank Shaw’s “How to smoke a deer ham”.

Before we go into the details, I want to give credit to Hank Shaw’s “How to smoke a deer ham”. This recipe was what originally put me down the path to start smoking deer meat. The recipe was so close to what I wanted, yet not exactly what I was looking for. I needed a deterministic, repeatable process with exactly the right saltiness and amazing tenderness. After going through several deer, experimenting, and fine-tuning the process with my family and friends, I feel like I finally got it right!

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The best starting point is a properly aged shoulder of venison. The one shown here was aged for 40 Cdg in my dry-aging and curing space. If you don’t have a way to dry-age, you can skip this step and butcher the deer after rigor mortis has passed. Just go straight to the cure preparations, and it will continue to age, develop flavors and tenderize as the meat is EQ curing inside the protected cover of the vacuum bag. For non-aged deer, I’d recommend doing the EQ cure for a minimum of 4 weeks in the fridge cool temperature.


Some spontaneous comments I have heard when serving this meat to friends, both hunters, and non-hunters.

“Amazing. Is this really a front quarter from an adult deer?

I am surprised it is not tough and stringy. I really like this. Was it a full-grown doe, you said?

What about the deer fat? What did you do to avoid that nastiness?

This tastes amazing! It is the best deer meat I have ever tasted, period!”

Following this process, there will be no more guesswork, and you can dial in the sweetness, saltiness, and spice level exactly to your liking. A repeatable process that removes all the guesswork.

What about Wet Brining instead?

Absolutely, just remember to use the combined weight of the water and the meat for the % calculations of the salt, sugar, cure #1, and spices. I am not sure how much this will speed up the process, but I would guess that it would take 5-7 days, in the fridge, until equilibrium is reached. I’d recommend using a syringe also and saturating the meat with the brine. As long as the wet brine is using the EQ method, it cannot get saltier than the % salt you chose.

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I would not recommend doing the speedy wet brine method unless the deer was aged at least 40Cdg. We really want to get this to be the most tender as possible, right?

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>