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When you smoke and reverse sear venison tenderloin the result is a tender, flavorful fresh deer steak! Kissed by the flavor of smoke, with a delightful crust on the outside, and a perfect medium rare inside, this is truly one of my favorite venison recipes.
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It’s my goal in life to figure out every method to perfectly cook venison tenderloin. So far I’ve perfected searing it in a cast iron pan with garlic herb butter, simply grilling it, enjoying it on a sandwich and in a Philly cheesesteak.
And now, I’ve nailed the method for smoking venison tenderloin and finishing it with a quick reverse sear!
Ingredients for this recipe
- Fresh Venison Tenderloin
- Venison Dry Rub
- Avocado Oil (or another high smoke-point oil)
- Salted Butter
- Flaky Salt
Seasoning and Prepping Venison for Cooking
This recipe starts the way all my venison recipes do – by patting the deer meat dry with paper towel.
This gets rid of any old blood and provides a cleaner flavor to the steaks.
Once the meat is dried it’s seasoned generously with my venison dry rub.
Tying the venison with butcher’s twine will help it keep its shape and ensure that the meat cooks evenly.
How to Smoke Venison Tenderloin
I love using my Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker for smoking venison. The gentle, continuous heat gives the tenderloin just a hint of smoky flavor without drying out the lean meat.
Begin by lighting your charcoal and letting it ash over in the drum of the smoker.
While the charcoal heats, soak a few handfuls of cherry wood chips or other fruit wood chips in water for 30ish minutes.
When the charcoal is ashed over and glowing red, add the soaked wood chips on top, assemble the smoker for use, and add the tenderloin to the smoker.
Using the Oklahoma Joe’s PitPro 2-Probe Wireless Remote Thermometer means I know when to start preheating my cast iron pan for searing and exactly when to remove the venison from the smoker to avoid over-cooking!
What wood for smoking venison?
Venison is red meat similar to beef (but, in my opinion, better!) so woods that are complimentary to smoking beef work well with venison.
Personally, I love using fruit wood chunks, chips, or pellets when smoking venison. The slight sweet flavor of smoke really compliments the distinct venison taste.
Apple and cherry woods are going to be the most readily available to use and will both be delicious in this recipe!
What does “reverse sear” mean?
Once the tenderloin comes off the smoker, it gets reverse seared to finish the cooking process. But what exactly does that mean?
“Reverse sear” means to cook meat at a high temperature for a relatively short amount of time to brown the outside at the end of cooking, versus at the beginning of the cooking process like a traditional sear.
In my red wine venison stew, classic venison stew, and red wine venison roast I begin the cooking process by searing the meat and then cooking it to completion, for this recipe we’re doing it the opposite way.
Keeping venison meat juicy and tender
Another reason I love the reverse sear method after smoking the venison is because it helps to keep the steaks tender and juicy.
Venison is an incredibly lean meat, with virtually no fat on it, and it can become dry and tough if overcooked.
By finishing the tenderloin in a screaming hot pan with some oil and butter, not only are we sealing those juices into the meat with a great brown crust, but we’re adding just a smidge of fat to provide more moisture and flavor.
Soaking the wood chips in water before adding to the smoker not only helps them to burn longer, but it also helps the meat to retain moisture during the smoking process.
Lastly, resting the meat before slicing keeps the juices sealed in! Make sure you do this with any and all meat you're cooking and thank me later!
Smoked and Reverse Seared Venison Tenderloin
- Drum Smoker
- Digital Thermometer
- Cast Iron Pan
- 1 ½ pounds Venison Tenderloin
- 2 teaspoons venison dry rub, more or less to taste
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Avocado Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
- Fresh Rosemary optional
- At least 3 hours before cooking, sprinkle the venison tenderloin with 2 teaspoons venison dry rub, gently rubbing into the meat with the back of a spoon. Tuck the ends of the tenderloin in and wrap the entire piece of meat with rounds of butcher’s twine to secure. This will help the tenderloin cook evenly and hold its shape!
- Set the tenderloin in the fridge for 2 hours, even overnight.
- When ready to cook, remove the meat from the fridge while you preheat your smoker.
- Add two handfuls of cherry wood (or other fruit wood) chips to water and allow to soak for 30 minutes. While the woodchips soak, fill the charcoal basket of your Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker with lump charcoal and begin preheating it. (I like to do this by nestling a Firestarter into the center of the charcoal pile and lighting it.)
- When the charcoal has ashed over and is glowing red, carefully scatter the soaked wood chips over the top of the coals. Return the grate to the smoker, close the lid, and adjust airflow so the smoker maintains a temperature around 225 degrees.
- Insert a temperature probe from the PitPro 2-Probe Wireless Remote Thermometer into the center of the tenderloin, setting the alert for 110 degrees, and place the tenderloin in the center of the grate and close the lid, adjusting the intake and exhaust valves as necessary to maintain temperature.
- When tenderloin has reached 110 degrees (about 10 minutes), place a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat (either on an outdoor burner or inside on the stove) and add 1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil (or another high smoke-point oil) and heat until shimmering.
- Remove the tenderloin from the smoker once it has reached 120 degrees (about 12 – 15 minutes total) internally and transfer to the preheated skillet.
- Sear the smoked tenderloin for 1 – 2 minutes per side (you’ll notice that during smoking, the tenderloin settles to have three sides). Add 2 tablespoons of salted butter to the pan during the last minute or two of cooking, using fresh rosemary leaves to baste the melted butter over the tenderloin.
- Remove the tenderloin from the pan when it reaches 130 degrees, or higher, internally. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Carryover cooking will bring the tenderloin up to 135 – 140 degrees. (If you prefer your tenderloin more done, sear for a minute or two longer, per side.)
- Remove the temperature probe and snip the butcher’s twine before slicing. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve the tenderloin with your favorite sides!