Two of my favorite liquids on the planet are bourbon and maple syrup. I can pour either in a shot glass and pound with fire in my eyes, or casually sip with a stupid grin. Typically, when two things taste great and they’re of similar color, they can be mashed into a killer recipe. I pulled a venison roast out of the freezer one morning with plans to grill it over hardwood charcoal and wood chips, but I wanted to do something different than my standby mesquite rub with that fine hunk of deer. Next thing I knew, I had ventured into the unknown and created an injection that resulted in one of my best venison recipes to date.
Injecting meat is a great way to go if you want to add flavor and moisture throughout. There’s really no “wrong” way to do it. Just choose a flavored liquid that tastes good to you, inject it in your chosen cut of meat and get on with it. However, injecting some of the “tougher” cuts of meat is always a smart way to go. If you don’t take all the necessary steps to tenderize hindquarters or other classically tough cuts of deer, there’s a good chance they’ll end up drier than desired—especially if you plan to stick ’em on the grill.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 venison roast (approx. 3 pounds from hindquarter)
2 cups bourbon
1 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons mesquite rub (Olde Thompson is great!)
Putting It All Together
Start by reducing bourbon in a small pan on the stovetop. I know it’s painful to kill the alcohol from perfectly good bourbon, but in this case it’s acceptable. Once you feel enough of the alcohol has been boiled off (usually just a few minutes at medium-high heat), add the soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of the mesquite rub. Let this concoction simmer on low for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and pour in the maple syrup. Run this wicked infusion through a strainer to remove the flakes of mesquite rub.
Fill a marinade injector with the delicious liquid. Inject your venison evenly with every drop. Remove excess moisture from the outside of the meat with paper towels, then coat the entire roast with the remaining mesquite rub.
By now, your grill should be ready to rock. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on a Camp Chef Pellet Grill/Smoker, you’re really missing out. All you need to do is turn it on the “high smoke” setting and let it roll until its digital meat probe reads 140 degrees, then cover the meat in tinfoil (this will help retain moisture during the final cooking process). Once it hits 160 degrees, you’re in business. If you’re using a charcoal grill, do yourself a favor and use some natural hardwood lump charcoal. Follow David Draper’s instructions for turning your grill into a smoker. Regardless of how you do it, just don’t heat your meat above that 160 mark. Finish it with a glaze of maple syrup during the final minutes.
You can enjoy your maple-bourbon smoked venison fittingly with a lowball of bourbon, or pair it with a rich craft beer. I tossed my finished product in a YETI Hopper and hopped over to Northeast Minneapolis to share with friends at Indeed Brewing Company. I brought the meat, they brought the beer. Fair trade.