Skip to main content

HUNTING's Guide to Better Backstraps

HUNTING's Guide to Better Backstraps
Print Recipe

backstraps_1Backstraps, loins, chops, or venison ribeye€¦whatever you call it, this is the money cut on a deer. The part we all bring out to celebrate the hunt. Other than the sacred tenderloin, normally eaten by only the hunters and those they love most, the backstrap is the tenderest part of the whole deer. Except when it isn't.

If you've eaten venison for any length of time, you've bitten into a medallion of seemingly lovely backstrap only to find it, well, chewy — sometimes really chewy. That's a sad moment.

Mind you, I'm not talking about overcooked meat here. I'm talking about nicely cooked meat that's still damn tough.

There are a few reasons why this happens. It isn't always easy to predict whether a piece of venison is tough or not, but there are a few tips and tricks to cook any piece of backstrap successfully.


Tenderness starts with the animal. Obviously, younger animals will be more tender. That's a given. Then factor in the animal's life. Did this deer scratch out a living on an arid mountainside in coastal California or living on an all-alfalfa diet in Iowa? This matters. We all know that the harder the life of the animal, the tougher the meat.


Once the animal is down, game care affects tenderness, too. Hanging your deer is a good thing. Aging meat relaxes it and gives a particular set of enzymes time to break down the proteins in the muscle. It also dries the meat slowly, which concentrates flavor. If you can keep the temperature between 33° F and 40° F, you can hang your deer for days to weeks. Even if you don't have those conditions, let your roasts and steaks hang out in the fridge for a few days before freezing. This is important, as the enzymes die when frozen.

How to butcher your backstrap? Style is a factor here, as some people like chops, some a boneless backstrap. I choose the boneless route because, frankly, it's a hell of a lot easier to process myself. No saw needed. Chops are a valid option, but I like them only if they are more than an inch thick. Why? Thin chops are very hard to cook properly. A better choice is to take a cue from lamb butchers and section the chops into foot-long pieces so you can cook the whole section at once and then slice the chops off when you serve.

Bone-in or boneless, backstraps of small deer should always be portioned into large serving pieces, which are much easier to cook rare to medium. Little medallions, which most people cut, have too much surface area exposed to the fire and tend to get overcooked very quickly. Better to sear the big piece and then slice off medallions when you serve.

Old animals should be treated the same way, but for different reasons. Backstraps from an old deer, elk, or moose should be thought of more like a leg roast. There's a good chance they will be tough, and once cooked you can combat this by slicing it thin like roast beef instead of thick like steaks. Always slice tough meat thin and against the grain.


Remember to remove the chain, a thin strip of the backstrap running alongside the main muscle. I can't tell you how often I see people slice steaks with a white line of sinew running through part of it. That means the chain was not removed. Unless it was a yearling, the connective tissue separating the chain from the main backstrap will get stuck in your teeth when you eat it. Silverskin is your enemy. Remove it all. Be relentless, and you will be rewarded with the best backstrap you've ever had.

But what about a nice venison steak? I love them as much as the next guy, but a great venison ribeye really needs to come from a larger animal — ideally a big, fat, young buck shot over a grain field, a moose, or an elk fattened on forage. Larger steaks from the backstrap, cut at least an inch thick (two inches is better), can be cooked just like a beef steak. Oh, and should you be lucky enough to get such an animal, keep the fat. Not all venison fat is bad, and it adds to the whole ribeye experience.

Finally, if you forget everything else in this article, remember to never, ever, ever cook your backstrap past medium. Anywhere from rare to medium is fine, but once it passes that mark, find the dog.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber? Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong Optics

3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong

Tony J. Peterson

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.

The famous gunmaker – Springfield Armory – stakes its first flag in the hunting world with the new, feature-packed Model 2020 Waypoint bolt-action rifle.New Springfield Model 2020 Waypoint Rifle is a Must-See Guns

New Springfield Model 2020 Waypoint Rifle is a Must-See

Petersen's Hunting Staff - September 29, 2020

The famous gunmaker – Springfield Armory – stakes its first flag in the hunting world with the...

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

See More Trending Articles

More Recipes

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair. Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat? Recipes

Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat?

David Draper - October 19, 2020

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair.

 A good camp cook will have several on hand.Cast-Iron Dutch Oven: A Camp Essential Survival

Cast-Iron Dutch Oven: A Camp Essential

Michael Pendley

A good camp cook will have several on hand.

A Dutch oven over an open fire is the perfect way to cook this hearty bean dish.Dutch Oven Venison & Apple BBQ Camp Beans Recipe Recipes

Dutch Oven Venison & Apple BBQ Camp Beans Recipe

Michael Pendley

A Dutch oven over an open fire is the perfect way to cook this hearty bean dish.

Instead of using traditional dough or pastry, this venison pot pie recipe calls for layered sheets of phyllo and butter. The result? A flaky, light crust that doesn't overwhelm the warm, flavorful filling.Elk Venison Pot Pie Recipe Recipes

Elk Venison Pot Pie Recipe

David Draper - December 03, 2020

Instead of using traditional dough or pastry, this venison pot pie recipe calls for layered...

See More Recipes

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now