Venison backstrap recipe that makes a tender melt in your mouth cut of deer meat that will rival any filet mignon. This recipe is based on a pellet smoker but you can make it following the instructions with another kind of smoker or in the oven.
Smoked Venison Backstrap
As a hunter’s wife, one of the first lessons I learned was that the backstrap cut of the deer (or loin) is one of the tastiest and most sought-after cuts of meat – fit for a king! When cooked properly, it melts in your mouth with a filet mignon quality that will make you kiss your local hunter.
The down side is that venison backstrap is also one of the most difficult cuts of meat to cook. The super lean structure can dry out quickly and become tough, ruining the entire experience. I would not recommend cooking a tenderloin in a pressure cooker unlike the venison steak or for hours in a crockpot. Don’t do it! In our household, the favorite way to prepare a vension backstrap is on a good pellet smoker using a blend of hardwood pellets. The smoker allows us to electronically control the heat and the smoke settings.
What if I don’t have a smoker? Can I make this recipe in the oven?
Yes. If you don’t have a pellet smoker, you can cook this dish in your oven or with any type of smoker.
Spring is here and the hubby is off work. Today is the day that we’re going to show one of our favorite venison recipes, our best ever smoked venison backstrap recipe. First things first. In order to ensure your greatest chance of success, I recommend you purchase a digital thermometer, like this one from Amazon. It will give you precise temps, so you can pull your perfectly done backstraps off the grill at the “just right” moment.
What is deer backstrap?
In case you didn’t know what a backstrap actually looks like, here it is, my friends. Backstraps are located along the spine at the top of the deer’s back. There are only two per animal, but each one can be up to five pounds on a mature whitetail. If your macho man didn’t process the deer himself, a local butcher will normally cut them into smaller chunks for easier consumption. We cook 1.5-2 pounds for our family of six.
When you’re using venison, make sure to trim off any excess silver “skin” (it’s actually a layer of fat) that is attached to the meat. Unlike the fat on beef, when cooked, the silver skin of venison can emit poor flavors into the meat and make it tough. Trust me, it’s better to lose a few ounces of tenderloin than to have to chew through tough silver skin!
Smoked Vension Seasonings
Next, you’ll want to season the meat. You can do this for a couple of hours before cooking or overnight in the fridge. There won’t be much difference with this cut of meat. For seasonings, try to choose spices that are earthy and mild because you want the natural flavors of the tenderloin to shine. Here is our go to seasoning recipe:
- 1 tsp of celery salt
- 1 tsp of garlic salt
- 2 tsp of Spanish paprika
- 1 tsp of onion powder
- 1 T of brown sugar
I generously sprinkled this mixture over the top and bottom of the meat and placed it in the fridge for a couple hours.
Why add bacon to the smoked venison backstrap?
Finally, to add a final “oomph” of flavor…BACON!!!! I placed some halved strips of thick cut bacon over the top of the backstrap using broken toothpicks. There are two reasons to do this. First, as I already mentioned, bacon adds some flavor to the meat. Secondly, as the bacon cooks, the fat renders out and flows over the backstrap and into the pores of the meat, helping to keep it moist. I have seen others wrap the entire backstrap with bacon (like a cocoon), but that prevents the smoke from penetrating the meat and it doesn’t allow the sugar in the spice mix an opportunity to caramelize. A small strip is all you need.
Do I need to bring the backstrap to room temperature before cooking?
Let’s get cooking! You don’t have to let your backstrap come up to room temperature before cooking, but if you do, make sure to reduce your cooking time. Set your smoker (or oven) temperature to 225 degrees. Whether you use a smoker or an oven, the secret to tender meat is to cook at a low temperature for a long time (90+ minutes here). We don’t want the moisture to evaporate out of our meat before the temperature has had a chance to rise.
What temperature do you cook deer backstrap to?
After your first 45 minutes of cooking, you’ll want to check your internal temperature. Check again every 15 to 30 minutes until you reach the desired internal temperature of 140-145 degrees. I’m almost there in this picture. You might have to babysit the meat for the last 5-10 minutes, but it’ll be worth your time! When there, remove it from the grill promptly.
While it may be tempting to slice into your meat, HANDS UP! A great cut of meat like the backstrap (really, any cut of meat) needs time to rest before cutting and serving. I usually wrap it in tin foil and place it in a cooler for 30 minutes. The cooler helps the internal temperature come down slowly, while the foil allows the juices from the meat to collect and be reabsorbed. I forgot to take a picture of this, but you can envision it, I hope!
After the meat has rested, you’re ready to slice and enjoy! Sometimes, people will make a chutney or sauce to serve alongside the meat, but we prefer just a small sprinkle of salt and that’s it. I take my bacon off, but others eat it too. I wish you could taste how incredible this meat is. My hunter husband always says that savoring the tasty creations from a great harvest takes him back to the hunt; helps him remember how God provides for all our needs. And I, the hunter wife, am thankful for the amazing fruits of his labor – tender, melt-in-your mouth smoked tenderloin backstrap. This is a meal fit for a king.
Venison Backstrap Recipe Tips and Notes
How much backstrap per person? We cook 1.5-2 pounds for our family of six which includes 4 children.
What is the best wood for smoking venison? We prefer a blend of hardwood pellets.
What temperature do I cook the backstrap to make it tender? You’ll cook your backstrap to an internal temperature of 140-145˚F.
Do I need to let the backstrap rest after cooking it? Yes. Let rest for 30 minutes wrapped in foil and placed in an empty cooler.
More Venison Recipes
Smoked Venison Backstrap Recipe
- 2 pounds venison backstrap or tenderloin, fresh or thawed
- 5 oz. thick cut bacon
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- Trim off any excess silver “skin" on the backstrap. Season all sides of the meat with the salts, paprika, onion powder and brown sugar. Rest the meat for at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
- Before cooking, halve your bacon and place the strips on top of the tenderloin using toothpicks pieces.
- Set your smoker (or oven) temperature to 225 degrees and place your tenderloin in the center.
- After the first 45 minutes of cooking, check your internal temperature. Check again every 15 to 30 minutes until you reach the desired internal temperature of 140-145 degrees. (You''ll want to check the temperature every 5 minutes when you're getting close to temperature.) When at temperature, remove the backstrap from the grill promptly. Wrap the tenderloin in tin foil and place it in a closed empty cooler for 30 minutes. After the meat has rested, you’re ready to slice and enjoy!