How to Cook Deer Tenderloin in the Oven

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Roasted venison tenderloin topped with chanterelles.
Roasted venison tenderloin topped with chanterelles. (Image: monica-photo/iStock/Getty Images)

The most reliably tender muscle on any meat animal is the tenderloin, a small oblong located beneath the spine near the hind leg. It contains little connective tissue and is low in fat, especially on already-lean animals such as deer. That combination of leanness and tenderness makes it a premium cut, whether you get your venison farmed from the butcher or wild from the field. It can be cooked at high or low temperature in the oven, depending on your personal preference.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Salt and pepper, and other seasonings as desired
  • Heavy skillet
  • High-temperature cooking oil
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Cutting board
  • Aluminum foil

Low-Temperature Method

Trim any visible fat or silverskin -- a thin sheath of leathery connective tissue -- from the surface of your tenderloin with the tip of a sharp knife. If the tenderloin still has a second strip of muscle running all the way down one side, the rope-like "chain" muscle, remove that and set it aside to make stew or ground venison. Season the surface of the tenderloin with salt and pepper, or other spices as desired.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. While it's heating, place a large, heavy skillet on your stovetop and bring it to a medium-high temperature. Pour in a few drops of grapeseed, canola or other high-temperature cooking oil, and sear the tenderloin for 1 or 2 minutes per side so it's well browned.

Transfer the skillet to your preheated oven and finish cooking it there. Depending on the size of your tenderloin, it should take 6 to 9 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 115 to 120 F, for a rare to medium-rare end result. Cook longer if you prefer your venison well done. Consult Warnings for a full discussion of the risks of cooking wild-caught venison rare.

Remove your tenderloin from the oven, transfer it to a cutting board and cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting it into slices or medallions and serving it.

High-Temperature Method

Remove any visible connective tissue and fat from the surface of the tenderloin, and cut away the chain muscle if present. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper, or other flavorings and marinades as desired. If you marinate the venison, remember to pat it dry before cooking with clean paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 425 F. While it's coming to temperature, heat a heavy skillet at high heat on your stovetop. Add a few drops of high-temperature cooking oil, such as grapeseed, canola or avocado oil, and sear the tenderloin for no more than 30 seconds on each side.

Transfer the skillet to your preheated oven and roast the tenderloin quickly at 425 F for 4 to 5 minutes. When tested with an instant-read thermometer, it should show an internal temperature of 115 to 120 F.

Remove your tenderloin from the oven and place it on a cutting board. Let the venison rest for at least 5 minutes under a loose covering of aluminum foil before slicing and serving it.

Broiling Method

Remove the chain muscle from your tenderloin, if it's present, then use the tip of a sharp knife to peel away any surface fat or visible connective tissue. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper or other flavorings, as desired.

Arrange the racks in your oven so the venison will be six inches from the broiler element. Close the oven, and turn on your broiler to preheat.

Place the tenderloin on your broiler pan and slide it into the oven, centering it beneath the broiler element. Be careful not to let the blast of heat from the newly opened oven door scorch your face.

Broil the tenderloin for 3 to 4 minutes per side, using a pair of long tongs to turn it midway through the cooking time. Remove it from the oven after the second side is cooked and transfer it to a cutting board.

Rest the venison for 5 minutes under a loosely tented cover of aluminum foil, then slice it and serve.

References

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