How To Smoke Deer In A Smoker


You can’t get any more organic or Non-GMO than wild game meat. Deer meat has a unique, rich flavor on its own, but a dose of smoke can take it to another level. So if you have some deer meat in your deep freeze, thaw it out and fire up your smoker. I asked some of the world’s best pitmasters how they smoke game meat and learned the best ways to smoke deer tenderloin, shoulder, and neck.

When smoking the neck or shoulder, set your smoker to 225°F and cook the deer for 4-5 hours uncovered. Then wrap the meat in foil and cook for another 2-3 hours. The deer backstrap and other leaner cuts are best cooked for around 2 hours at 275°F and served medium to rare with an internal temperature of 130°F. Prior to cooking, remove all the silver skin from the meat because this will give the meat a strong game taste.

How To Make Deer Taste Less Gamey?

Some people find that wild game meat can have an unpleasant taste, but this can be for various reasons. The way the animal was killed has an immense influence on the taste of the meat. When handled and prepared correctly, deer has an amazing flavor.

One of the most important steps when smoking venison is removing the silver skin and external fat because this is what will give the deer meat a strong gamey flavor. The silver skin, or sinew, is a tough fibrous connective tissue that can be removed with a sharp knife when preparing the meat. This will minimize the strong gamey taste.

Deer Marinade

Another way to deal with the gamey flavor is to marinade the meat prior to cooking. A marinade will penetrate the outer layers of the meat and mask any unpleasant flavors. A marinade will also tenderize tough parts of the deer meat. There are dozens of venison marinade recipes online, and they are fairly straightforward.

What’s The Best Part Of The Deer For Smoking?

Most people can grill a lean deer steak, but the tougher parts of the animal are perfect for smoking. For low and slow cooking, the best parts of the deer would have to be the shoulder and the neck. You can smoke the rump and tenderloin, however these leaner parts of the deer can dry out easily and should only be cooked for a few hours.

How To Add Fat To Deer

You may have seen cooks wrapping deer meat in bacon or pork fat. This is because deer meat is very lean and can dry out when cooking low and slow. The fat from the bacon or pork will baste the meat and add extra flavor. This technique works particularly well for deer backstraps. If you don’t want to use bacon or pork fat, the best tasting fat from the deer is the fat covering the entrails. Mix this fat in with the meat while cooking and it will add moisture and flavor to the meat.

Smoked Deer Shoulder

The shoulder is a hardworking part of the animal, so this meat contains a lot of tough connective tissue. As with beef or pork, the best way to break down the connective tissue is by cooking the meat at low temperatures. The best way to approach a deer shoulder is the same way you would smoke a pork shoulder (Pork Butt). Cover the meat with a thick layer of rub, then smoke at 225°F for 3 to 4 hours, the spritz and wrap once the meat hits a 150°F internal. Then continue cooking the meat until the meat is tender and falls off the bone or pulled apart easily.

How To Smoke Deer Shoulder: Step-By-Step

  1. Apply a decent covering of your favorite barbeque rub to the shoulder
  2. Set the temperature of your smoker to 225°F.
  3. Pecan goes wonderfully with deer, but use any of your favorite smoking woods.
  4. Cook venison shoulder uncovered in the smoker for about 3 hours.
  5. Spritz the meat every 30 minutes.
  6. Once the deer shoulder has a firm bark and the internal temperature is around 150°F, remove the meat from the smoker.
  7. Wrap the venison in aluminium foil. Spritz with broth before closing.
  8. Continue cooking the deer for a few more hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone-tender.

Smoked Deer Backstrap

The backstrap is probably the best-tasting part of the deer. However, this part of the deer is very lean and would dry out if you cooked it low and slow. Most barbeque experts I’ve talked to will cook deer tenderloin at a higher temperature and serve the meat medium to rare. Keep in mind, when cooking at the higher temps, you’re not going to get as much smoke flavor as you would low and slow.

When smoking the backstrap, first remove the silver skin because this will give the meat a strong gamey taste. Set the temperature of your smoker between 300°F to 350°F and it should take 30 minutes to 1 hour. Test the internal temperature of the meat with a thermometer and remove the meat once the internal temperature reaches about 130°F. Since the tenderloin is lean, some people like to either wrap the deer meat in bacon or cook with pork fat.

Smoked Deer Neck

The neck has some of the most flavorful meat of the animal, but the neck can be a pain to debone if you’re not a butcher. Smoked deer neck is a great option for pulled meat that can be used in tacos or sandwiches.

Smoking a deer neck will need a long time at a low temperature (225°F). Depending on the size of the neck and the temperature of your smoker, it should take between 8 to 12 hours to slow smoke a whole neck roast. After spending the day in your smoker, the meat should be so tender it will fall off the bone.

Most people find it difficult to work a knife in and around the vertebrae, so they will just hack out as much meat as possible and make curry or a casserole. If you can debone the neck, a boneless neck roast will go well in your smoker. If I were smoking a boneless neck, I would first tie some twine around the roast to keep it intact. However, the easiest way is to smoke the neck as a bone-in roast.

How To Smoke Deer Neck: Step-By-Step

  1. Set the temperature of your smoker between 225°F and 250°F.
  2. To prepare the neck, apply your favorite barbecue rub.
  3. Use any mix of smoking wood such as apple and hickory.
  4. Position the neck on the grill or place the neck in a foil pan to prevent the neck from drying out. Place the roast in a foil pan, add some broth and cook uncovered.
  5. Cook for about 5 or 6 hours uncovered, then another 5 hours covered in foil.
  6. Shed the meat for sandwiches or venison tacos.

Smoked Deer Neck Pastrami

We normally make pastrami from either beef, lamb, veal or turkey. The meat is brined, seasoned, then smoked and served as cold meat. If you have the time to put in the effort, smoked deer neck pastrami is a great way to use the neck meat.

To make deer pastrami, first the meat needs to be brined for a few days. Then the meat needs to be soaked in water, seasoned with a rub, then smoked. Below is a quick rundown of how you can make deer pastrami. I highly recommend reading this article over at Amazing Ribs.com and apply the same principles to deer pastrami.

How To Make Deer Neck Pastrami

  1. Remove the bone from the venison neck.
  2. Prepare brine mixture using kosher salt, and curing salt Prague Powder #1. For more information on how to brine meat correctly, check out this article for step-by-step instructions on barbeque website Amazing Ribs. Although this recipe I for beef, it can apply to deer.
  3. Soak the venison neck in the brine for 5 days
  4. After 5 days, remove the neck from the brine
  5. Roll up the neck meat like a spiral roll, and then tie twine around the outside to hold the roll together.
  6. Set your smoker to 250°F
  7. Smoke the venison pastrami for about 5 hours.

The Rub For Deer Neck Pastrami

A pastrami rub typically contains black pepper, coriander powder, and brown sugar. I always use a homemade rub recipe from Science of Barbeque author, Meathead Goldwyn. Meathead’s pastrami recipe is about as close as you will get to the famous pastrami found in a New York deli.

Meathead’s Pastrami Rub Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon whole yellow (white) mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder

How To Smoke Deer Pastrami In A Smoker

  1. Set the temperature of your smoker to 225°F.
  2. If you are using a charcoal smoker, set up your smoker for 2-zone indirect cooking.
  3. Choose your favorite smoking wood and get some nice clean smoke rolling.
  4. Place the venison pastrami on the cool zone (indirect) side of the grill.
  5. Cook the meat for several hours until the meat forms a nice crust. Once the crust has formed and the internal temperature reaches between 150°F and 160°F, then it’s time to wrap the meat.
  6. Wrap the venison in two layers of aluminium foil.
  7. Continue cooking the meat until the internal temperature reaches 200°F.
  8. Alternatively, after wrapping the meat in foil, remove from the smoker, refrigerate, then steam before serving.

Smoked Deer Sausage

One of the best ways to use offcuts of the animal is to make sausages. If cooked right, smoked deer sausages are absolutely delicious. Sausages need a lot of fat, otherwise they won’t taste anything like sausages. Since deer is lean, use all the fatty parts of the animal such as the neck and run the meat through a grinder. Mix in some fat from the entrails, otherwise use beef or pork fat. The neck can be difficult to extract the meat because of the complicated bone structure.

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.

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.

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