This pan seared venison tenderloin with garlic herb butter is one of our favorite venison recipes. Tender and juicy fresh venison steaks are seasoned simply and seared to a perfect medium rare in a cast iron skillet. There are no gamey venison steaks here when you use this fool-proof cooking method!
In my opinion, venison tenderloin is equal to or better than beef tenderloin. And often works perfectly in a recipe where beef is called for – like my Venison Wellington! This simple recipe for venison steak that is cooked in a cast iron skillet is just another example of how good deer steaks can be!
Ingredients for this recipe
- Venison Tenderloin
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Salted Butter
- Fresh Rosemary
- Fresh Thyme
Tender Venison Steaks
The tenderloin is a cut of venison that comes from the back area of a deer, near the spine. These steaks are very similar to backstrap, though not exactly the same.
Both cuts however, are some of the most tender cuts of fresh venison. Because of this, you need only to season and cook it properly to enjoy a tender steak that practically melts in your mouth.
How to Cook Venison Tenderloin
- Season the tenderloin. I do this by liberally sprinkling the dried cuts with Kosher salt and black pepper a day before cooking.
- Mix the garlic herb butter. So much flavor!
- Sear the tenderloin. In a screaming hot cast iron skillet with a high smoke point oil.
- Baste with butter. This adds fat and flavor to the deer.
- Let the meat rest. This is imperative to keeping the tenderloin juicy!
Why do you salt meat before cooking?
Salting the venison tenderloins in advance of cooking is imperative to this recipe. In fact, it’s imperative to cooking most red meats.
Salting the meat in advance helps to tenderize the steak, making it juicier and more flavorful!
When the salt is sprinkled onto the meat, it releases its natural juices. This moisture then dissolves the salt. The dissolved salt and juice is reabsorbed into the steak. This process tenderizes the protein by breaking down muscle fibers in the meat.
Properly seasoned steaks will also be dryer on the outside, reducing the amount of steam while cooking. Less steam equals a better sear and that crispy, brown crust that’s so delicious!
- Backstrap – you can substitute venison backstrap for the tenderloin in this recipe for a near seamless match! You can also enjoy my perfectly grilled a backstrap recipe, too.
- Table Salt – in all my recipes I call for Kosher salt. I prefer it because it has larger, coarser grains and sticks beautifully to meat. Because of the size difference, if you’re using table salt, you only need to use half the amount. So for this recipe, about 1 tablespoon.
- Unsalted Butter – if all you have on hand is unsalted butter, feel free to use that but adjust your seasoning with Kosher salt accordingly!
- Dried Herbs – If dried rosemary and thyme are all you have on hand, that’s a-ok! Simply use half the amount of the dried herbs in place of fresh. So, 1 ½ teaspoons of dried herbs will suffice.
Pan Seared Venison Tenderloin with Garlic Herb Butter
- Cast Iron Skillet
For the Venison Tenderloin
- 1 ½ pounds fresh venison tenderloin, cut into two equal pieces
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt, more or less to taste
- 2 teaspoons Freshly cracked black pepper, more or less to taste
For the Garlic Herb Butter:
- ½ cup salted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, for cooking
- 24 hours ahead of time, pat the tenderloin dry with paper towel and season liberally on all sides with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper.
- 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 tenderloin warms, mix together ½ cup room temperature salted butter with 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves, and 1 tablespoon minced thyme leaves. Set garlic herb butter aside.
- When ready to cook, place a cast iron pan over high heat and allow to heat for 2 minutes. Add in 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or another high heat oil, such as avocado) and heat until shimmering. Add the tenderloin pieces to the pan, being sure not to touch, move, or disturb the meat (this is how you get a lovely crust on the meat). Cook tenderloin for 5 minutes and flip. Add a generous dollop of garlic herb butter to the top of each piece of venison.
- Cook for another 5 – 8 minutes more, depending on how done you like your tenderloin. As the venison cooks, the butter will melt around it.
- During the last two minutes of cooking, carefully tilt the pan so the butter gathers in one area of the pan. Continually spoon the melted butter onto the tenderloin to baste it, being sure to get all those good bits of garlic and herbs onto the meat.
- Remove the venison from the pan and allow to rest on a plate for five minutes before slicing and serving. If desired, drizzle even more of the pan drippings and flaky salt onto the sliced venison!
- If you don't have 24 hours to season the tenderloin in advance, 12 hours will suffice. And 1 or 2 hours will work in a pinch.
- Refer to post for ingredients substitutions.