Venison Steak Tartare

Steak tartare is a cold dish made of raw minced meat, fresh herbs and spices. It is usually prepared with beef and eaten on top of buttered, toasted French bread. I enjoy tartare most in the spring and summer. It's a light dish that only demands a good glass of red wine. There's also no cooking involved.

This tartare recipe is flavored by the usual suspects: minced shallots, Dijon mustard, parsley, lemon, and capers impart a fresh, tangy bite. It's the ground juniper berries that set this recipe apart from traditional tartare-- a spice that can complement and highlight that "wild" taste in certain meats, if that makes any sense. If you're looking for a carnal, unfiltered experience with venison, eating it raw is as close as you'll get. 

Egg yolk or no egg yolk, I've had tartare both ways. The yolk is a must in my opinion. When broken, it creates a custard-like sauce that complements the leanness of venison so well. However, it's important that you use fresh eggs. Ring up those neighbors who keep their own laying hens or take a trip to your local farmer's market. Tartare is not a dish to be skimping on ingredients.

At this point, some of you are probably thinking "ew." Tartare isn't for everyone. For others, a little raw meat every once in awhile adds excitement to our lives. 

This recipe was also a fun opportunity for me to photograph the woodland violets I collected in the woods last spring (photo below). We've been doing lots of morel mushroom hunting and woodland violets are a common sight this time of year. They don't taste like much, but they do pretty up dishes and salads nicely.  

Of course, there are always risks when eating raw eggs and meat, but if your ingredients were properly sourced and handled, you should be fine.
I used Hank Shaw's recipe as a base for mine, and he offers helpful insight on making venison tartare here:

The main takeaways: 
  • Never use venison from a deer that was shot in the gut. 
  •  Do not use venison that might be cross contaminated, e.g. dirty knives, equipment, hands or and in contact with other meat, such as raw chicken. 
  • Always make tartare from a solid piece of loin or roast; do not use meat that you ground up beforehand and then froze and thawed.  
  • Keep ingredients cold at all times. 
  • Keep your hands and work surfaces clean throughout the entire process.
  • Prepare and consume tartare at your own risk. 

Servings: 4 appetizers
Prep Time: 40 minutes
- 1/2 pound venison loin
- Kosher salt
- Half a shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon of juniper berries, toasted and ground
- Sea salt, to taste
- Coarse ground pepper, to taste
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce 
- 1-2 teaspoon of coarsely chopped capers
- Grated zest of half a lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- Sliced French bread, buttered and toasted


1. From frozen: Cover frozen meat liberally with kosher salt. Let the meat sit on the counter for about 30-40 minutes to slightly soften. 

From fresh/thawed: Cover meat liberally with the kosher salt and set in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. 


2. Meanwhile, soak minced shallot in red wine vinegar. 

3. When frozen venison is soft enough to slice into (it should still be icy) or when fresh/thawed venison is firm, rinse salt off with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off all silver skin, fat and brown/gray/discolored areas on the loin or roast. Then finely dice the meat. Transfer meat to a bowl. 

If you start with meat that is still fairly frozen, it should keep cold on the counter and thaw completely by the time you're ready to serve. But do check on it-- if the meat thaws before you're ready to add the other ingredients, transfer it to the refrigerator. 

4. Drain shallots (discard vinegar) and combine with minced meat, ground juniper berries, sea salt to taste, coarse ground pepper, chopped parsley, capers, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. 

The ingredients listed are just suggestions. You can mix in whatever herbs and spices you like. What's more important is the quality of the ingredients. 

5. Divide meat into two serving bowls or small plates (two appetizer servings per bowl) and make a depression into each pile of meat. Carefully lay an egg yolk into each depression and garnish with lemon zest. Serve with capers and thinly sliced buttered, toasted French bread. 



  1. Looks great, but I'm afraid I'm with Rick on this one.

  2. Interesting looking dish, but it appears 20 minutes is nowhere near enough time to actually kill bacteria. Tests indicate three days is the minimum time required -- up to three weeks.

    Personally, I'd only do this with backstraps, as they're the only part of the animal I'm totally confident of removing without bacterial contamination (possibly parts of the neck or front shoulders too, although even that can get dicey).

    1. There's always inherent risk in eating anything raw-- those who eat tartare and raw eggs do so at their own risk. It's a small part of the appeal.

      We did use backstrap in this recipe -- loins are backstraps. But we've also used meat from the quarters. We're pretty clean and careful when butchering our deer, but it depends on how confident a person is with their workflow.

      I read the article, but I'm not sure that it pertains to this recipe. The article talks about brining, which is a water-down solution of salt. Yes, I would be very careful about using the correct brine ratio and time for canned foods that might sit on your shelf at room temperatures for months. But this isn't the same technique here. The salt we used to cover the meat -- which is 100 pure salt-- is just to help kill surface bacteria, which will be consumed soon after. An argument can be made that 20 minutes probably isn't enough time. You can go an hour or several if you want to, but definitely not three weeks. By that time, the texture and color of the meat would've changed so much that you're better off making charcuterie. The longer the salt sits, the more moisture it will draw from the meat.


Post a Comment

Feel free to post any questions or comments.