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Tried & true recipe for Venison Meatballs. Straight venison – no pork, beef or fat added. These meatballs are tender, juicy & loaded with flavor – perfect with a big pot of sauce!
Let’s Start It Off With A Few Words About Venison
Let’s talk about some misconceptions of venison.
The biggest – “venison tastes gamey.”
Well, it all depends on what you harvest, what time of the season and where. Go after that big old trophy buck when he’s jacked up with testosterone and chasing the girlies around during rut, and you might notice a slight gamey taste. Harvest yourself a doe or young buck grazing on corn and local crops – you’ll have good tasting, tender meat.
Summary : Age, sex, location, diet and timing will absolutely be a factor in venison taste and texture. If you are not familiar with this, please spend time to research and understand. There is an abundance of information on this online.
Side note : Not to say that we don’t eat meat from an older buck, because we absolutely do. I prepare it differently and make sure it’s clearly labeled when we package it. We butcher ourselves, so we often grind much of this meat and have a lot of it made into lebanon bologna, snack sticks & hot dogs.
Also a HUGE factor is a proper shot, proper field dressing, cooling and aging if necessary.
It’s important to know your butcher (if you do not butcher yourself) for a few reasons.
The worst tasting venison I’ve tasted was from a sloppy butcher. Careless or lazy knife work, loaded with fat, silver skin and connective tissue – will absolutely result in terrible tasting meat. Venison fat tastes awful & disgusting and it will ruin a meal. Tossing fat & silver skin into ground meat (instead of trimming and discarding) will result in all your ground meat tasting terrible. There are no shortcuts here, the butchering must be done properly.
Another reason to know your butcher & their practices. You harvest your deer and you expect to get your meat from your deer when you pick up processed meat…right?
Unfortunately some butchers have the poor practice of throwing scraps from numerous deer together to make ground. You don’t know what deer that meat is from nor how it was dressed & handled prior to butchering. Not cool.
Again, get to know your butcher and talk to other hunters for their recommendations.
Cooking Venison 101
I can’t tell you how often people ask me what to do with a freezer full of venison (whhhaaat…I know).
Anything you make with beef can be made with venison. Adjustments may need to be made, but it’s simple once you start cooking with venison regularly.
For the most part, treat good venison similar to lean beef. Preparation depends on the cut of meat. I could talk about this for hours (venison steaks, chops, roasts, ground) but I’m going to just focus on what we’re cooking here today – ground venison.
Treat ground venison just as any lean beef you may prepare. Or ground turkey. If you brown it, add a little olive oil or tallow to your saute pan.
Straight venison burgers – you sure can! We season venison a bit heavier than ground beef – but we throw it right on the grill with nothing other than seasonings & some Worcestershire sauce. Better than 75% of the beef burgers I get while dining out!
This recipe for venison meatballs uses straight venison – no other meat.
There are many venison recipes that add ground pork, pork fat, bacon or beef. That’s fine and I add pork & fats to venison in many recipes. Sometimes for fat, sometimes for flavor. Not this recipe, though.
This meatball recipe was developed for simplicity and out of necessity. If you’re a hunting family like us – there is always ground venison in the freezer. Dinner always needs to be made. Ground pork, beef or fats are not always around to add in.
It just makes sense to learn how to work with straight venison in as many recipes as possible.
Add panko, minced garlic, herbs & spices to a large mixing bowl. Mix it all together.
Throw in your venison and beaten eggs and gently combine everything. Gloved hands work best for this task.
Scoop out meat mixture and roll into meatballs. I use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop (like this one). However you choose to roll them – you’re aiming for them to be about walnut/golf ball sized. You’ll have about 24 – 30 meatballs.
Once you have rolled the venison meatballs, pour 1 cup hot water around meatballs on cookie sheet. Tent cookie sheet with aluminum foil. You want to cover the meatballs with foil to keep most of the steam in. You don’t want to smoosh the meatballs – so shape the foil so it’s not directly pressed on top of the meatballs.
This baking method steams the meatballs – resulting in a firm, but juicy meatball. Perfect to throw into a big old Dutch oven (here’s my favorite – Lodge) or pot of sauce!
These Venison Meatballs freeze well. I like to freeze them on a cookie sheet (clean cookie sheet – not the one used to cook). Transfer to a freezer bag once the meatballs are frozen solid.
- 2 pound ground venison
- 1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
- 3 cloves garlic minced/pressed
- 2 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- pinch black pepper
- pinch sage
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup hot water for baking (do not add to meat mixture)
- Remove ground venison from refrigerator about 15 – 20 minutes before starting.
- Prep a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and a spritz of cooking spray.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine panko/breadcrumbs, minced garlic, minced onion, salt, basil, parsley, oregano, pepper and sage.
- Gently mix in ground venison and eggs. This is easiest done by hand (disposable gloves are great) but also mixes well with a large fork.
- Scoop out meat mixture and roll into meatballs. I use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop – but you’re looking for them to be about walnut/golfball sized. You’ll have about 24 – 30 meatballs.
- Drop onto cookie sheet and repeat with remaining meatball mix.
- Pour 1 cup hot water around meatballs on cookie sheet. Tent cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Carefully remove foil off top of cookie sheet (steam). I use a slotted spoon and drop meatballs straight into pot / dutch oven of simmering tomato sauce.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for at least 20 -30 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. If time allows – I cook for an hour.
- Serve venison meatballs on top of pasta with lots of sauce or on fresh rolls topped with shredded cheese.
- These can easily be made ahead of time and thrown in sauce when needed. They freeze great too!