If you’ve got some deer meat, don’t be afraid to fire up your Traeger because there are so many great venison recipes you can try on your pellet grill. I wanted to find out how all there is to know about smoking deer, from low-and-slow neck and shoulder roasts to hot-and-fast deer backstrap.
To cook deer meat on a Traeger grill, the temperature should be set to 225°F for shoulder or neck roast, and wrapped in foil halfway through the cook time of 7 to 8 hours. For deer backstrap, the temperature should be set to 350°F and wrapped in bacon or pork fat, cooking for 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 130°F. To make deer pastrami, the meat should be brined for 5 days and then smoked for 6 to 8 hours at 225°F. Deer sausage can be made by mixing ground deer meat with spices, forming into patties or links, and smoking for 1 to 2 hours at 225°F. Deer steaks can be grilled at high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, and deer ribs can be smoked at 225°F for 3 to 4 hours or until tender.
To cook deer meat on a Traeger pellet grill, follow these guidelines:
Deer shoulder or neck roast:
- Set the temperature to 225°F
- Slowly cook the meat
- Wrap in foil halfway through cooking and remove after 7-8 hours or when tender
- Set the temperature to 350°F
- Wrap the meat in bacon or pork fat
- Cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 130°F
- Brine the deer meat for 5 days
- Smoke for 6-8 hours at 225°F
- Mix ground deer meat with spices
- Form into patties or links
- Smoke for 1-2 hours at 225°F
Grill deer steaks:
- Grill at high heat for 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare
Smoke deer ribs:
- Set the temperature to 225°F
- Cook for 3-4 hours or until tender
Times and Temps
|Cut of Meat||Temperature||Cook Time||Notes|
|Deer shoulder roast||225°F||7-8 hours||Wrap in foil halfway through cook time; check for tenderness|
|Deer neck roast||225°F-250°F||7-8 hours||Wrap in foil after 4-5 hours; check for tenderness|
|Deer backstrap||350°F||2 hours||Butterfly and stuff with fat or wrap in bacon; remove at 130°F|
|Deer pastrami||225°F||6-8 hours||Brine for 24 hours before cooking; slice thinly to serve|
Deer Shoulder Roast on a Traeger
Cooking deer shoulder roast requires a low and slow method in order to break down the connective tissue. The process is similar to cooking a pork butt, but deer shoulder roast will require less time since it has less fat to render. Low and slow cooking at a temperature of 225°F allows the connective tissue to break down, resulting in a tender and flavorful roast. It is recommended to wrap the meat in foil halfway through the cook and remove it after 7 to 8 hours or when it passes the tenderness test. This method will yield a fall-off-the-bone tender deer shoulder roast.
How To Cook Deer Shoulder in a Traeger – Step-By-Step
- Set your Traeger to 225F.
- Select your favorite smoking wood. Pecan blends well with deer, but any wood flavor is suitable.
- Apply a generous layer of barbeque rub to the deer. To make it stick, apply olive oil to the meat prior to seasoning.
- Place the deer shoulder on the Traeger.
- Cook uncovered for 3 to 4 hours untouched.
- Begin spritzing every 30 to 40 minutes once the bark has set, and the rub fused to the meat.
- Once the internal meat temperature has reached 150°F, wrap the deer shoulder in aluminium foil.
- Before closing the foil, pour broth around the meat.
- Continue cooking for another 2 hours.
- Check the meat for tenderness. Remove once the meat is fall-off-the bone tender.
- Allow to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Shed or slice the meat and serve.
- If you’re not ready to serve, put the meat into holding by placing in a dry cooler.
Deer Neck Roast
The neck of a deer is a flavorful cut of meat that is often diced and used in dishes such as curries and casseroles. However, when slow-smoked with a low temperature, deer neck can be a delicious and versatile cut of meat that can be used in tacos or sandwiches.
To prepare the neck for smoking, it can be helpful to remove the bones, although this can be a challenging task unless you are experienced at butchery. An alternative method is to smoke the neck as a whole roast and then pull the meat off the bone once it is cooked, similar to how you would prepare pulled pork.
Deer Neck Roast in a Traeger: Step-By-Step
- Fill your pellet hopper with wood pellets and set your Traeger between 225°F and 250°F.
- Apply a rub to the neck, covering all sides.
- Place the neck directly on the grill, or place in an aluminum pan with bone broth.
- Cook uncovered for 4 to 5 hours.
- Wrap the neck in foil, then cook for 2 to 3 more hours, or until the meat is so tender, it falls off the bone.
Deer backstrap is a lean and delicious cut of the animal that can be challenging to cook because of its leanness. It is a long, thin cut of meat that requires only a short cooking time. You cook deer backstrap a few different ways on a Traeger.
One option is to butterfly the backstrap and grill it just like a steak. Another option is to wrap it in bacon or pork fat and cook it at a high temperature for about 2 hours. It’s best to serve deer backstrap medium to rare and to only cook it to an internal temperature of around 130°F. If you cook it any longer, the results won’t be as good.
How To Cook Deer Backstrap in a Traeger: Step-By-Step
- Set your Traeger to 350°F
- Season the meat with rub or seasonings.
- Remove the silver skin from the backstrap.
- Butterfly the backstrap and stuff the middle with fat from the deer entrails, or pork fat.
- Then wrap the outside of the backstrap in bacon.
- Cook for 2 hours or until the internal meat temperature reaches 130°F.
Deer Pastrami in a Traeger
If you’ve got the time, making Pastrami is a great way to cook your deer meat in your Traeger. Pastrami is meat normally served in delicatessens, and made famous in New York. The best part of the deer for making deer pastrami is the neck. Most people are don’t know what to do with deer neck, even though it’s such a delicious part of the deer. People mostly use the neck for curries or casseroles, but the neck makes amazing pastrami. However, first, you need to remove the bone, which is a difficult task on this part of the animal.
How To Make Deer Pastrami
- To make deer Pastrami, first you have to remove the meat from the neck bone. This can be tricky, but do the best you can with a sharp boning knife and try to keep the meat intact.
- Once the neck has been de-boned, roll up the meat like a jelly roll cake.
- After the meat is rolled up, the neck meat should be log shaped. Take some twine and tie it around the outside to hold it together.
- The next step is to soak the deer pastrami in the brine for 5 days. To make the brine, you need to use a special curing salt as you would if you were making bacon. The best curing salt is Prague Powder #1 and is sold on Amazon.
- Curing meat is fairly straightforward, even though it sounds complicated. I’ve always followed Meathead Goldwyn’s instructions and recipes when it comes to curing meats. Meathead is the author of The Science of Barbeque and has a great stet-by-step instructions for curing meat on his website. This article shows you how to cure pastrami.
- After the deer neck has soaked in the brine mixture for 5 days, the meat needs to be seasoned and have a rub applied. A pastrami rub usually contains black peppercorns and coriander seeds. As with the brine recipe, I have only ever followed Meathead’s pastrami rub recipe because it’s as close to a New York Deli pastrami as you can get.
Meathead’s Pastrami Rub Recipe
|Whole black peppercorns||2 tablespoons|
|Fresh coarsely ground black pepper||2 tablespoons|
|Whole coriander seeds||1 tablespoon|
|Coriander powder||1 tablespoon|
|Brown sugar||1 tablespoon|
|Garlic powder||2 teaspoons|
|Onion powder||2 teaspoons|
|Whole yellow (white) mustard seeds||½ teaspoon|
|Mustard powder||½ teaspoon|
For the Meathead’s full recipe instructions for pastrami, check out the article here.
How To Smoke Pastrami In A Traeger
- Set the temperature of your Traeger between 225°F and 275°F.
- Pecan wood goes well with pastrami, but use any wood flavor.
- Cook the deer neck for around 5 hours or until the bark has set. Pastrami needs a nice crust, so don’t wrap too soon.
- Wrap the deer once the bark has set and the internal temperature is between 150°F and 160°F.
- Return the meat to the Traeger and cook until the internal temperature is 200°F.
Why Deer Meat Tastes So Amazing
- Deer meat is considered a lean meat, with a lower fat content compared to other meats. This can make it a healthier choice for those looking to watch their fat intake.
- Deer meat is high in protein and essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and B-vitamins. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Wild game meat is generally free from added hormones and antibiotics, making it a more natural and potentially healthier option compared to conventionally raised meats.
- For those who are environmentally conscious, deer meat can be a sustainable choice. Wild deer populations are generally well-managed and hunting can help to control their numbers and prevent overgrazing.
|1||Set the temperature of your Traeger between 225°F and 275°F.|
|2||Pecan wood goes well with pastrami, but use any wood flavor.|
|3||Cook the deer neck for around 5 hours or until the bark has set. Pastrami needs a nice crust, so don’t wrap too soon.|
|4||Wrap the deer once the bark has set and the internal temperature is between 150°F and 160°F.|
|5||Return the meat to the Traeger and cook until the internal temperature is 200°F.|
Removing The Gamey Taste
- To avoid a strong, gamey taste in deer meat, remove all silver skin from the meat
- To remove the silver sinew, insert the tip of a sharp knife under the skin and gently cut away from yourself
- Soaking deer meat in a marinade before cooking can add flavor, tenderize, and add moisture to prevent drying out
Often you will hear people complain that deer meat tastes too “gamey”. This unpleasant taste can be avoided if you handle the animal correctly when hunting, but also in the cooking preparation. To avoid a strong gamey taste, remove all the silver skin from the deer meat. Deer meat has a lot of sinews, which is a silvery skin on the surface. If you leave this connective tissue on the meat, it will impact the overall flavor. The silver sinew is easy to remove. Take a knife with a sharp tip and inset the tip of the blade under the skin. Cutting away from yourself, gently work your way across the meat until the sinew has all been removed. Another way to make deer meat taste better is to soak the meat in a marinade prior to cooking. Not only will the marinade flavor the meat, it will also tenderize and add extra moisture so the deer won’t dry out.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.