It’s the same old story, time and time again. People I meet are always telling me that they don’t like venison. They had it when they were kids when uncle so-and-so made it, and they thought it tasted gamey. Or, they’ve never even had it and they just don’t like the thought of eating deer.
Well here’s the real scoop on venison. It’s healthier for you than beef, because it has a lower fat content. Here in Indiana, it’s basically a corn and grass-fed protein powerhouse. It is also technically organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO. So folks, it’s time to give it a fair shake!
Using it in chili is one of my all time favorite ways to introduce people to venison. MOST people have some sort of stand-by chili recipe in their back pocket. If they don’t, their aunt or grandma or cousin does. And every single one of them is different. My chili has a ton of flavor without the gamey taste, because there are five things I always do to make it amazing. The best part is, you can do everything else the way your family likes it. Want Texas style chili? Go right ahead. Want three different kinds of beans? Make it happen. Want five alarm chili that burns a hole in your esophagus? Be my guest. Just do these five simple little things if you are using venison instead of beef. Trust me, your entire neighborhood will be lining up to find out your secrets.
First things first- use fresh ingredients
I’m talking fresh tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. A can or two of diced tomatoes is ok in addition, but if you can at all use fresh, do it! Just cut fresh tomatoes in pieces small enough to fit in your food processor and dice them up. Same goes for whatever peppers you like, and fresh chopped garlic over the jarred stuff. Wild game really does benefit from the added freshness.
Even if you don’t like onion, cook it with the meat
If I’m using two pounds of ground venison, I use at least a whole large onion diced. Onion is famous for taking the gamey flavor out of many wild meats, and it works best if you cook them both together. Do not wait until the meat is cooked to add in the onion. They play nice together, really they do.
Always drain the meat
Once the meat and onion is thoroughly browned, drain that bad boy! Yes, I know that venison has less fat, and there may not be much there. However, what IS there is loaded with gamey flavor. And that just needs to go. No need to go rinsing anything, that’s not necessary at all. Just make sure the vast majority of liquid that collected while cooking is drained off.
Simmer simmer simmer
A beef chili, once the ingredients are all incorporated, can be served immediately. But if you notice, many of the chili cook-off winners let their concoction simmer for hours. And there’s a reason for that. Flavors need time to blend to meet their full potential. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that busy lives do not usually allow for dinner to take hours on the stove. I simmer mine for approximately forty-five minutes, and that’s usually a happy compromise between flavor and the hungry family staring me in the face.
Last but not least
The final weapon in my flavor packed arsenal is beef broth. It may sound kind of quirky, but it works. You don’t need a lot, generally a quarter to half cup is enough. Just that little hint of real beef flavor is enough to tip the scales in my favor and turn any anti-venison skeptic into a believer. I will give a word of caution on this though. Broths are usually pretty heavy in salt, and if you don’t keep that in mind and just season your chili like normal, you may end up with way more than you wanted.