Intro: Venison Loin Cooked En Sous Vide
Venison, and other game meats, can be challenging to cook because they are so lean. I cook my wild-caught meat en sous vide, so I can make it perfectly rare every time. These venison loin medallions are seared on the outside, red on the inside, and juicy throughout. At lunch, coworkers were literally stealing them off of my plate!
It's about an equal split between vension recipes that include bacon and venison recipes that do not include bacon. When you have a piece of vension so gorgeous and lean you might mistake it for tuna, there's no need to cover it up with factory-farmed fat just to keep it moist. Sous vide cooking makes creating moist game dishes easy.
"Sous vide" is French for "under vacuum" and cooking en sous vide typically refers to vacuum packing ingredients, then cooking them under very strict temperature control. "Precision cooking" might be a more accurate term, but all gastronomical things tend to gravitate toward the French descriptions. When sealed in plastic, the aromatics cannot vaporize so flavors are more intense, and food can be cooked in water baths held at specific temperatures for long periods of time without the water soaking or otherwise changing the texture of the food. Sous vide is a food service technique that has been embraced by the world's best chefs, and with some equipment that is not outrageously expensive, you can duplicate some of their dishes.
My two favorite references for sous vide are Thomas Keller's Under Pressure and A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas Baldwin.
In this particular recipe, I cooked salted venison loin medallions approximately 3/4 of an inch thick at 130 F for 1 hour, and finished them with a blowtorch.
Since originally publishing this recipe, I've also cooked venison loin at 131 °F for 12 hours. Cooked this way, the venison is just as tasty, but even more tender. See Step 7 for more details.
Step 1: Cross Cut Venison Loin
Cut the venison into pieces 1/2 - 1 inch thick.
Step 2: Salt the Venison
I "rain" coarse sea salt down upon the meat.
Step 3: Vacuum Pack the Meat
The meat is still cold, and there isn't much liquid, so using a channel-type vacuum sealer shouldn't be a problem. See the Sous Vide Equipment step of my Sous Vide Beef Ribs Instructable for more information about the equipment.
Equipment update: since I purchased my equipment, Sous Vide Supreme has started making inexpensive all-in-one units designed for home use.
Step 4: Cook the Meat at 130 F for an Hour
130 F yields rare meat. I choose an hour roughly according to the charts at A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas Baldwin for my thickness of meat.
After an hour, the meat is cooked. If you don't plan to eat it immediately, it can be refrigerated while still sealed in the bag for around a week. If you do choose to store the cooked meat, be sure to cool it down quickly to less then 40 F. Just putting the bag in the fridge might not be fast enough -- I chill things by placing them in a bowl of ice and water.
Step 5: Sear the Meat
Once cooked, sear the outside of the meat to make it smell amazing. I used a blowtorch, but a grill or almost-smoking hot oil in a pan will do just as well. More information on searing at Sear the Outside of Sous Vide Beef Ribs.
Step 6: Thinly Slice and Serve
Thinly slice and serve.
Step 7: 131 F for 12 Hours to Tenderize
Cooking the venison for 12 hours melted more of the collagen and resulted in very tender, while still moist, meat. Because the meat would have plenty of time to reach the proper internal temperature, I bagged and cooked the full loins, and did not cut them into medallions. After cooking, I coated the outside with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and finished with a torch. I then sliced the meat as thin as possible and served. This is now my preferred method for cooking venison en sous vide.