Tips for Butchering Backstrap, Plus a Recipe for Juniper Roasted Venison Loin

Topped with a rye whiskey cream sauce

The backstrap seems to be everybody’s favorite cut of venison. If you Google “backstrap recipes,” you’ll get about 292,000 results. It is a versatile and easy to use piece of meat, and it’s usually very tender. Because it’s a whole muscle there’s not a lot of connective tissue inside it, which makes it ideal for grilling or roasting. Every hunter I’ve met seems to have their own method for cooking or cutting this prime cut, and I’m no different.

MAKING THE CUT

When cutting the backstrap from the deer, I have seen many people carve down on either side of the spine and work their way out from the spine to remove the strap. I prefer to start out on the rib and work my way in. By cutting in from the ribs, you can follow the ribs into the spine, using the rib bones as a guide. Once you get down to the spine you can work up to the back. Either way works, but I like to come in from the ribs because I find I get more meat that way.

venison backstrap
Freshly cut backstrap.Jamie Carlson

TRIMMING

The next step would be trimming the backstrap. We’ve all seen that giant piece of silver skin that covers the top of the backstrap. I like to remove it before I package it, and the easiest way to do that is with a fillet knife. Starting on the thickest end, lay the backstrap flat with the silver skin on the cutting board. Then, much like skinning a fish, you can cut that silver skin away.

PACKAGING

Many people cut the backstrap into chops, but I like to leave mine in larger pieces. On smaller deer I cut the backstrap into two pieces; on bigger deer I cut it into three. I leave them in larger pieces because I find they’re easier to cook that way. When I cut them into smaller chops, I have a tendency to overcook them—it’s more challenging to keep them in that rare to medium-rare zone that I like to eat my venison.

One of my go-to recipes for backstrap involves roasting it whole with juniper and garlic, and serving it with a whiskey cream sauce.

oven roasted backstrap
Roasted backstrapJamie Carlson

Juniper Roasted Venison Loin with Rye Whiskey Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1-pound piece venison backstrap

6-8 juniper berries

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp black pepper corns

1 tsp salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

METHOD

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, mash together the garlic, juniper, salt, black pepper, and oil. Rub this mixture onto the venison loin and let sit for 30 minutes.

  2. In an oven-proof pan over medium-high heat, sear the loin for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a 375 degree oven and roast for 6-8 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 125.

  3. Take the loin out of the oven and remove it from the pan to let it rest for 5 minutes. The internal temp will continue to rise to about 135.

  4. Slice the loin and serve with cream sauce and a side of your choice (I like roasted potatoes).
whiskey cream venison backstrap
Juniper roasted venison backstrap with rye whiskey cream sauce.Jamie Carlson

For the cream sauce

Place the pan you roasted the loin in back on the stove top over medium heat and deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons rye whiskey (bourbon, brandy, cognac all work, as well). Add 1 cup heavy cream and reduce sauce until it thickens up, then salt and pepper to taste.