meat on a stick

Meat on a Stick

Scott Leysath |

I spend a great deal of time talking to people about how they cook their fish and game. They send me pictures of what their deer looked like after they cooked it. Men really like to set things on fire. I’m not saying that women don’t, but based on my own casual observation, it seems like the behavior is more male than female. Couples often tell me that the wife does most of the cooking, but the husband does all the grilling.

Spearing a hunk of meat on a stick and holding it over an open flame gives you something to do with the hand that isn’t holding a cold beer. Not having to use utensils is another upside to stick cookery. You pull the meat off the stick with your fingers, throw the stick back in the fire and wipe your mouth off on your shirt sleeve. Makes perfect sense to me, at least when it comes to camp cooking. Of course, backyard grilling requires a little more finesse.

Any grilling recipe that calls for skewering meat on a wooden skewer will tell you to soak them in water for 30 minutes to prevent setting them on fire. It’s been my experience that the thin skewers are going to burn anyway, maybe just not as much. If wooden skewers are all I have on hand, I usually skewer them after grilling. No burnt skewers to deal with and they slide right off easily. Metal skewers are the better alternative. You can also find reusable heavy wire skewers that will curl up easily into a marinating container or plastic bag.

Skewered venison recipes are best done with the better parts of the animal. Since cooking time is quick grilling temperatures are relatively hot, you won’t get good results from tough muscles. It’s best to test a small piece of the meat in a skillet. Season it with salt and pepper and cook to medium-rare. If it’s tough, you’ll need to tenderize the remaining portion by lightly pounding it with a mallet or heavy skillet.  Start with a 1-inch thick chunk of well-trimmed venison and pound until it is about half as thick throughout. If the cooked meat sample is off-tasting or just bland (but not spoiled!), it can use a good marinade that enhances, not disguises, the flavor. Here’s a favorite of mine.

Venison Skewers with Tomato-Olive Marinade

4 – 6 appetizer servings

1 pound venison from the loin, tenderloin or hindquarter, trimmed of all silverskin

peppers, cut into large pieces

Marinade and Dipping Sauce

4  large tomatoes

2  large onion slices, about 1/2-inch thick

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

pinch or two kosher salt

1. Prepare sauce. Slice two of the tomatoes into thick slices. Place tomato and onion over a well-lubricated grill over medium heat. Grill tomato for 3 to 4 minutes each side. Grill onion until browned on both sides. Allow tomato and onion to cool. Halve remaining two tomatoes, remove seeds, roughly chop and place in a medium bowl. Chop grilled tomato and onion and add to bowl with garlic, capers, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and chopped olives. Stir to blend. While stirring, add olive oil in a thin stream. Add pepper and season to taste with salt.

2.  Cut venison into 1-inch wide strips, about 1/4-inch thick. Place in a plastic, ceramic or glass bowl, season with salt and pepper and pour half of the marinade over. Reserve remaining marinade for dipping sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove from marinade and place meat on skewers with peppers.

3.  Cook over a medium-hot grill until browned on all sides, but preferably not past medium-rare. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.