Deer meat, or venison, can be butchered into many of the same cuts that shoppers commonly find in pork and beef at the market, including boneless or bone-in. Before the meat is processed into a final product---steaks or sausage, for example---it is first butchered into wholesale cuts such as neck, shoulder, fore shank, brisket, ribs, flank, loin, tenderloin, rump, round, sirloin tip, round and hind leg shank.
Neck and Shoulder
Meat trimmed from the deer's neck is typically diced for mincemeat, cubed for stew, sliced into strips for jerky, or ground for burger. Ground venison is also often mixed with beef suet or pork fat and made into bologna or sausage. The connected shoulder, or chuck, can be cut into steaks or roasts, used for stew meat, burger or jerky, or ground. Roasting and stewing are the most appropriate cooking techniques for tougher cuts of venison, like the shoulder and neck.
Brisket, Ribs and Flank
The ribs section is best used for spareribs. The brisket, which separates the ribs from the front leg shank, is typically cut into stew meat, or may be ground. On large animals, the flank, which is located between the ribs and the rear leg, can be cut into steaks. On smaller animals, the flank is usually cut into stew meat, ground or made into jerky.
Loin and Tenderloin
The loin, or backstrap, like a pork loin, can be cut into chops or roasts, or sliced thin for sandwich steaks. The tenderloin is the most tender portion of the deer and is most suitable for steaks. The tenderloin can be cut into butterfly steaks or cooked whole, while the loin can be cut crosswise or lengthwise. Meat from tender areas, like the loin, can be fried, grilled or broiled without becoming tough.
Sirloin Tip and Round
The sirloin tip and round are cut from the rear leg area of a deer. The football-shaped sirloin tip muscle is best for roasts. The round is comprised of three large muscles of the upper thigh—the top round, bottom round and eye round—similar to beef cuts. The round can be cut into roasts or steaks.
Rump and Shanks
The rump is often cut into a roast, but can also be ground or used for stew meat. Shanks, which are the meat from the lower front and rear legs, can be cut into stew meat or ground into burger. Cuts like the rump, flank and shoulder are typically not as tender as the loin, but if the deer was a fawn, all the meat may be tender enough to be used as steaks.
Katherine Ritz Hahn is a writer from the Greater Philadelphia area. Since 1993, her articles have appeared in “The Southern Berks News,” “Parents Express” magazine and NEWS-Line Communications medical trade magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in visual and apparel merchandising from Albright College.