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Grilled Venison Tenderloin is a simple and easy venison recipe that highlights how tender and juicy fresh deer meat can be. Seasoned simply with my favorite venison rub and grilled to a perfect medium rare there’s no gamey venison to be found here!
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Venison tenderloin is truly one of the best cuts of deer around. Every year during hunting season I look forward to stocking my freezer with the fresh venison my husband gets for us. We always celebrate a successful season with a great venison tenderloin meal!
More of our favorite venison meals include delicious grilled venison backstrap or a gorgeous pan seared venison tenderloin with garlic herb butter. And let’s not forget red wine venison stew and venison spaghetti!
Ingredients for this recipe
- Venison Tenderloin – fresh or thawed from frozen
- Venison Rub – the perfect blend of delicious herbs and spices for deer meat
- Butter – salted and room temperature
- Flaky Salt – bonus points if it’s smoked flaky salt
Why do you season meat before cooking?
Salting the venison tenderloin well in advance of cooking is one of the most important steps of this recipe. It helps to make the steak juicier and more tender. Here’s how that works:
When salt is sprinkled onto meat, it releases its natural juices. This juice in turn dissolves the salt. The dissolved salt and juice are reabsorbed into the steak. This process tenderizes the meat by breaking down muscle fibers and connective tissues.
And this process takes time! I like to season my venison tenderloin a day before we plan to eat them so the rub has enough time to really get into the meat and do its thing.
Properly seasoned steaks will also be dryer on the outside, reducing the amount of steam while cooking. Less steam helps to create those gorgeous grill marks we’re looking for with grilled tenderloin!
Seasoning Deer Steaks
If you don’t have a jar of venison dry rub in your cupboard (which you should!) you can use the following ratios to season 1 pound of venison tenderloin:
- ¾ - 1 tablespoon kosher salt (more or less, to taste)
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (more or less, to taste)
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. dried rosemary
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme
- pinch of smoked paprika
Tips for Perfectly Grilled Venison Tenderloin
- Pat the tenderloin dry. This will get rid of any old blood that can make the deer taste gamey as well as ensure the seasoning will properly stick to the steak.
- Season the deer steaks in advance. At least 12 hours ahead, up to 24. I use my favorite venison dry rub, but I’ve provided alternative seasoning above.
- Let the steak warm up. After refrigerating overnight, be sure to remove the steaks 1 hour before cooking. You do not want to put cold protein onto a hot grill.
- Cook hot and high. I set my Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900 DLX to 500 degrees to ensure I’m getting a good sear on the outsides of the tenderloin.
- Let the meat rest. After grilling place some pats of butter on the tenderloin and tent with foil for five minutes so the juices can redistribute.
Grilling Venison Tenderloin
If you’re like me, when grilling deer tenderloin you want it medium rare. And for good reason! Medium rare tenderloin is going to be ridiculously tender, juicy, and not at all gamey! Here’s how to achieve a perfect sear on the outside of your steaks with that red, delicious inside:
Using a Pellet Grill – One of the reasons I am so absolutely obsessed with the Rider 900 DLX is because of the Pit Control 2.0 system that offers dual-sensor temp control for unparalleled temperature accuracy and control while cooking.
All I have to do is make sure the grill is in “Sear” mode, set the temperature to 500 degrees, and let the high-torque PowerFeed system feed my applewood pellets into the grill. I get real wood-fired flavor in a matter of minutes!
Using a Gas or Charcoal Grill – If you don’t have a pellet grill or cannot automatically set the temperature of your grill, you’ll want to be sure you’re cooking your venison tenderloins over hot, direct heat. This is how we get a good sear on the outside without overcooking the steaks on the inside.
On a Grill Pan – Very similarly to my pan seared venison tenderloin, if all you have is a grill pan you want to make sure that it is screaming how and that you’re using a high smoke-point oil such as grapeseed or avocado to prevent the oil from burning while grilling the tenderloins.
How long to grill venison steaks
Tough, overcooked steaks are the worst! No one wants that! But all tenderloin are not created equal and will vary in thickness. Thickness impacts cooking time.
When photographing this recipe, the tenderloin I used was about 1-inch thick in the center, tapering off at the end. That’s about average for the tenderloin we have, though you may encounter thinner or thicker steaks.
For 1-inch-thick venison tenderloin: Grill at 500 degrees for 2 – 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
For thicker or more well-done tenderloin you’ll want to grill for 4 – 6 minutes per side.
No matter how long you grill your deer steaks though, you’ll want to be sure you let the meat rest after cooking so the juices can redistribute. Immediately cutting into a steak will give you a first bite that is juicy and delicious, followed by remaining mouthfuls of dry hunks of bland protein.
While these venison tenderloins are the stars of the show and I like to serve them with just a sprinkle of flaky salt and a garnish of fresh rosemary and thyme, you’ve got to have a side or two to enjoy along with them. Even if it’s just a simply dressed mixed greens salad.
Potatoes – buttery mashed potatoes, buttery and crispy smashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes with mustard and rosemary are all excellent options for a carb to go with your protein. We enjoy all of them in our “meat and potatoes” household.
Vegetables – garlic sauteed green beans are so “steakhouse” with a grilled tenderloin, as is creamed kale. Bacon-braised Brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction make things extra fancy. You can even slice the tenderloin and serve it on top of a shaved Brussels sprouts Caesar salad.
Tender and Juicy Grilled Venison Tenderloin
- Pellet Grill (or other grill)
- Tin Foil
- 1 pound fresh venison tenderloin
- 2 teaspoons venison dry rub, more or less to taste
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
- Flaky sea salt, for serving (optional)
- Fresh rosemary, for serving (optional)
- Fresh thyme, for serving (optional)
- Up to 24 hours ahead, pat the tenderloin dry with paper towel and season liberally on all sides with 4 teaspoons of venison dry rub.
- Leave the tenderloin uncovered and place in the fridge overnight.
- An hour before cooking, remove the tenderloin from the fridge. (It is important to allow any meat you’re cooking to warm slightly before cooking to avoid it becoming tough.)
- While the meat comes up in temperature, preheat your Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900 DLX to 500 degrees, making sure the heat baffle is set to “Sear.”
- Add the tenderloin to the preheated grill. Close the lid and cook for 2 – 3 minutes before flipping and cooking for another 2 – 3 minutes for medium rare.
- Remove the steak from the grill and immediately top with 2 tablespoons of butter and tent with foil. Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, fresh rosemary, and fresh thyme.
- If you don’t have 24 hours to let the tenderloin sit with the rub on it, 12 hours will work. Even 1 - 2 hours in a pinch.
- Refer to post for instructions on how to use a charcoal or gas grill or grill pan for this recipe.
- Refer to post for seasoning substitutions if you don’t have venison rub.
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