Smoked Haunch of Venison with Rosemary & Thyme

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching, so it's time to think about what you'll serve for holiday dinner. If you're keen on serving wild game this year, there's nothing quite like presenting a large leg roast at the dinner table. Venison haunch is an apt way to celebrate all the blessings and bounty of the past year, and to herald in the new one.

Choose hindquarter from a younger deer. We prefer 1½-year-old deer; they're old enough that you'll get a nice-size ham but not too old that the meat will be tough. Each hindquarter has two parts: the femur (rounds and sirloin) and the tibia/fibula (shanks). For this recipe, you will only use the meat on the femur. Save the shanks for osso buco or braising later. 

Unless your deer was small, chances are, you'll get more than 2½ pounds of meat per ham– trim and tie the meat as you see fit to accommodate your guest list size. Obviously, the bigger the roast, the longer it will take to cook. Figure about 20-25 minutes per pound at 275 degrees.

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To assemble the roast, remove the femur bone as neatly as you can, keeping all the meat in one piece. Then roll the meat back so that it as uniform as possible in thickness, and then secure it with kitchen twine. The more uniform the meat, the more even the cooking; we assemble our Easter leg of lamb this same way. If desired, sprinkle salt and spread herb paste on the inside of the roast before tying it for more flavor. 

When cooking any large roast this way, I always use a probe thermometer to take out the guesswork. The rest is fairly simple. If weather doesn't allow for smoking, follow the same steps for roasting in the oven. 

You'll notice that there are no measurements for the herb paste below– make as much or as little paste as you like. We go pretty heavy on ours. Though you can't go wrong with the flavors of rosemary, garlic and thyme during the holidays, feel free to make your own herb rub or paste. You can also wrap the roast in bacon.

Servings: 6 
Prep Time: 2 hours 
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes 
- 2½ pounds of de-boned venison hindquarter, minus shank
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil 
- Herb paste: bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, and several cloves of garlic

Special equipment: kitchen twine, probe thermometer


1. Salt the inside of the de-boned venison roast, and then roll it into a log that is as uniform in thickness as possible. Secure with kitchen twine. Generously season the outside of the roast with kosher salt, and then allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

2. Prepare smoker and set temperature to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. While smoker is preheating, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. When the oil begins to smoke, quickly sear the meat on all sides for a golden crust. 

3. Take meat off heat. To make the herb paste, remove leaves from thyme and rosemary and chop finely. Crush several cloves of garlic and combine with the herbs. Spread it all over the roast. Insert your probe thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, but not passing through to the other side. 

4. Smoke the meat at 275 degrees until the internal temperature reads 125 degrees, about 1 hour. Take the meat off the heat and wrap loosely in foil to allow the roast to rest and carry over to 135 degrees for medium rare. 

After the roast has come to temperature and has rested for at least 10 minutes, remove and discard kitchen twine. Slice and serve with cranberry or any dark berry-type chutney. This meal was delicious with roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding with gravy.