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Chef John McGannon,
a Culinary Institute of America
trained Chef (Hyde Park, NY)
and an expert in the art of
cooking game,shares
some amazing secrets on
preparing and cooking wild game.

Venison’s Overlooked Gem of the Forequarter “The Brisket”

We’ve all experienced the robust flavors and intoxicating aromas from slow smoked beef brisket before. The brisket located on the lower chest area of the carcass just in front of the front legs, is actually two crossing muscles that would be similar to our human pectoral muscle. As a relatively hard-working muscle, it requires a long, wet cooking processes to break down and become tender. Traditionally, we season the beef brisket liberally and then, after being slowly smoked, we wrap and bake or we finish it in a full-flavored liquid,a process known as braising.

With beef we can get away with the slow low temperature of smoking because of the excess fat that comes with these domestically raised creatures. The beef fat that keeps the meat moist and juicy. With our wild game alternatives, however, while the flavor angle is equal, if not superior to beef, the game falls short on the fat content. For this reason, we need to adjust our cooking technique slightly.

I have found that trying to slowly smoke wild game at low temperatures for extended periods of time usually doesn’t give me the results I'm looking for. The lack of fat causes the meat to dry out significantly. There are alternative ways of creating a similar flavor profile using either liquid smoke or, better yet, what I have found to be very successful – Smoked Sea Salt. You’re going to need to salt your meat anyway, so why not add that with the smokey goodness we are looking for without subjecting the meat to drying out.

Smoke infused Venison Brisket

5 lbs. venison brisket (see our hunters meat map for location here: wildeats.com)
8 tbsp smoked sea salt or 3-4 tbsp liquid smoke
8 tbsp Juniperberry & Peppercorn Steak Rub from WildEats (low sodium)
Flour for dusting
3-4 oz. olive oil, butter, rendered bacon or beef fat
2 Onions, diced
1 bunch - Celery, diced
6 bulbs - Garlic, minced
½ bottle - Red wine, good hearty varietal – Zinfandel, Cabernet, Malbec, Petite Syrah
2 quarts - Stock – venison (preferably) or beef – and if you have no options - bouillon
6-8 Diced fresh tomatoes or a small can
Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves or whatever you have on hand to taste
Black pepper to taste


Take your dry aged, trimmed brisket and liberally season it with your rub, smoked salt (or brush some liquid smoke onto the meat). Rub the seasonings all over the meat. Place on a tray, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day take the brisket and dust it with the flour, shake off any excess. Get a large sauté pan over high heat pour in the olive oil or rendered fat. Brown the brisket on both sides until golden brown with a nice sear all over. Once seared place in a deep hotel or roasting pan. Do the same for the rest of the meat. Once the meat is done add the garlic, celery, and onions to the same pan. Sauté until slightly brown, then add the diced tomatoes and herbs. Continue to cook these aromatics for a couple of minutes then deglaze with the red wine. With a wooden spoon or plastic spatula scrape the residue on the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meat. Add the stock and mix all the ingredients well. Cover the pan with either parchment paper or plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Place this pan in a 325° F oven. Allow this to cook for 5-6 hours (depending on the size of the meat). If the meat slides off a knife but still a little firm, you can remove it from the oven. At this point I like to let the meat cool in the braising liquid for about 2 hours. This lets the meat absorb even more flavor from the sauce. Once it cools down remove the meat from the sauce and place in a refrigerate to cool completely. In the meantime, drain all the remaining braising liquid from the pan to a pot large enough to hold all the vegetable and liquid. Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat to a slow simmer, skim whatever fat or scum forms on the top. Reduce this liquid by half, strain and adjust the seasonings.

When you’re ready to serve, I like to slice the meat while it’s still cold. This keeps the meat from falling apart. My favorite garnish to this dish is the below listed Roasted Mushrooms. Cut the meat in 1/3-inch-thick slices, lay it in a hotel or roasting pan. Top with the roasted mushroom and pour the reduced sauce over the meat and mushrooms. Cover with foil and heat in the oven 350°F for about 15 -20 minutes or until hot.

Mushroom garnish

3 lbs. mushrooms – crimini, shiitake, chanterelles, oyster, morels etc. whatever you can get in your local market, washed, cut into uniform size
2 tbsp chopped fresh garlic
2 tbsp chopped shallots
Splash of virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional 2 tbsp truffle oil


Toss all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well. Lay out on a sheet pan and place in a 375° F for approximately 20 minutes, give or take depending on the size and variety of mushrooms. Remove from the oven and let cool.

This hearty, rich, flavorful rib sticking dish will hit every note on your pallet. I have made this dish with all sorts of wild game - deer, elk, antelope and even bison with the same results.

Yes, it takes some time to reach the end. That’s why you’ll want to make as much as possible. It freezes really well for many more meals down the road (without the extended cooking time).

PLAN AHEAD! The rewards will be VERY much worth your time!


Chef John McGannon, WildEats.com

Reprinted with permission - Thank you, Chef!

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