Hello, my deer!
This hearty, easy ground venison recipe for stew makes a nourishing dinner loaded with herbs, vegetables, and a splash of red wine for tons of flavor.
Ground Venison Recipe for Stew: the Background
Let’s be clear. I am not a wild game “person,” per se. I do not hunt. I do not really know people who hunt. My meat comes from the grocery store or, as needed, the butcher — generally in the form of chicken, fish, and beef.
Last week while in the grocery store, though, I noticed that the meat section was stocked with packages of ground venison. (I guess it’s deer hunting season?) Remembering New Year’s resolution number 18…or was it 19?…to try new things, I thought, Sure, why not!
Venison is comparatively lean, so that eliminated burgers. But a nice ground venison stew, perhaps? With its long cook time and layers of flavor to tone down any overly-gamey notes, stew was just the thing.
How to Cook Venison to Make It Tender and Flavorful
A common complaint about venison is that the meat is stringy, tough, and strong-flavored. And no wonder: It’s a very lean, wild animal with minimal body fat. But when handled correctly, venison can taste great.
Using ground meat in the venison stew already helps eliminate the stringy, too-tough quality. The key here is to 1) salt the venison in advance, 2) brown it, and 3) break it up a lot when cooking. This will make your venison tender.
- Salting the meat helps tenderize it. Do this up to (but no more than) 24 hours in advance.
- Browning the ground venison adds flavor, just like you get in a nice chargrilled steak.
- Breaking up the meat into small pieces helps with the overall tenderness and texture of the finished stew.
Ground Venison Recipe: What Does Venison Taste Like?
Venison tastes somewhat like beef — if that beef was a wild animal constantly on the move. In other words, it’s red meat, but with an earthier flavor and lean texture.
Further, you can greatly minimize venison’s potential gamey flavor and chewy texture. Here, instead of eating plain venison, the deer meat is cooked for a good amount of time with vegetables, herbs, broth, and red wine. This leads to a tender stew with layers of different flavors that all come together.
Is Venison Healthy?
Yes. Venison is generally considered very healthy and more sustainable with a lower carbon footprint than beef.
According to the Cleveland Clinic’s article on deer meat: “Venison’s health benefits are many. For starters, it’s one of the leanest, heart-healthiest meats available — low in fat, high in protein and packed with zinc, [heme] iron, and vitamin B.”
Can I Substitute Venison With Beef in This Ground Venison Recipe?
Yes and yes! Because it has enough similarities, you can substitute ground venison with lean ground beef (choose 90 percent lean).
In terms of other substitutions for this ground venison stew recipe:
- Feel free to swap out red wine for white, or eliminate it entirely (though it’s better with wine)
- You can use beef stock instead of chicken stock
How to Make This Ground Venison Stew Recipe: Step by Step
- Generously salt the ground venison.
- Heat a 3-quart pot with oil over medium heat. Add the beef. Break it into large chunks and let it brown on both sides. Remove the meat onto a plate. It does not have to be cooked through.
- Add the carrots, celery, onion and herbs to the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste. While that’s happening, break the venison meat into small pieces.
- Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping all the good brown bits. Add the meat back in, plus the stock, salt, pepper, and potatoes.
- Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until thickened into a stew. Taste for seasoning.
Enjoy your hearty and deeply flavorful bowl of venison stew.
Love a good, meaty stew? You’ll also love these warming dinner recipes:
Hearty Ground Venison Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground venison
- 5 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 stalks celery, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large sprig rosemary, leaves minced (discard the stem)
- 1 large sprig thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 quart unsalted chicken or beef stock (I use Swanson's)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal), or to taste
- 12 turns fresh-ground black pepper
- Generously salt the ground venison on both sides and let stand for at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate up to 24 hours.
- Heat a 3-quart pot with olive oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the venison to the pot. Break the meat into chunks, covering the entire surface of the pot. Let the meat brown for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. The venison does not have to cook all the way through. PRO TIP: Do not stir the venison as it cooks on each side or it will not brown. TIP: Once the meat browns, you can break the chunks into smaller pieces if you'd like, though I like a fairly chunky texture.
- Remove the meat with a large spoon and set aside on a plate. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and herbs (rosemary, thyme, and bay).
- Add red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping and stirring up all those good browned bits. Add the meat back in, along with the potatoes, stock, and about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt and the black pepper. Stir. PRO TIP: I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, but if you use Morton's, dial the salt back. Morton's has a very high sodium content.
- Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and let cook, partially covered, for about an hour. Stir occasionally.
- Fish the thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the pot and give everything a final stir. Taste for seasoning and serve hot, maybe with some good crusty bread and the rest of the red wine.