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    Cooking with Deer Fat: Yes or No?

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    As hunters there is nothing we love more than wild game. The satisfaction that you have used blood, sweat, and occasional tears to fill your families table gives you a sense of pride that is nigh unmatched. Every time you bag a buck, you give yourself a rousing pat on the back, clean it, and load it up to be taken home anticipating all of the delicious meals it will make along the way. For any type of game, there are given rules for prepping these delicacies that have been passed from parent to child for generations: double check to make sure you got all of the feathers, don’t overcook your game etc. Yet it seems sometimes those rules are made to be broken. For as long as we can recall, we were informed that you should always trim deer fat. We were under the assumption that deer fat had a bad flavor and went rancid quickly, therefore fat should be either left for wild animals to claim or used in some other manner. However, after stumbling across an article by David Draper on the Field & Stream blog, we began to wonder: Does deer fat make the meat taste gamey?

    In order to help us answer this question, we sought out the blog post by Hank Shaw that inspired Draper’s post. In Shaw’s article he explains that, as with all game animals, there will always be a variation of flavor based on both the region and that specific animal’s dietary preferences. That being said, Shaw goes on to explain that since deer are ruminants they have a much narrower diet than many game animals; causing their flavor range to be narrower as well. While the flavor range will be narrower, however, a deer that eats more acorns or lives in an area with a larger variety of grains will taste better than one in an environment with a sparser food supply (Shaw, 2014).

    In Shaw’s post, he explains that while he will use the caul (the fat surrounding the intestines) in certain recipes, he does not use the suet (the fat surrounding the kidneys). He explains that the fat in areas where there are little working muscles is much harder than the fat over top the working muscle groups. Luckily for us, birds love suet and it also makes amazing candles and soaps. Shaw does use the fat in muscular areas (like the hind quarters) to cook with. He explains that deer fats are very high in Omega 3’s, thanks to their diet, and are also thought to have the highest level of stearic acid in any food animal. Deer fat has a higher amount of saturated fat than you would find in deer, pork, or lamb, which initially may worry people. Yet, there are different types of saturated fats, and the saturated fat found in deer is the healthy type. Plus, the stearic acid decreases bad cholesterol levels and might even increase good cholesterol levels; though the latter has yet to be proven (Shaw, 2014).

    Shaw does go into detail about how the deer must be treated in order for the fat to taste good and to prevent it from going rancid (essentially, it has to be below freezing; otherwise the Omega 3s cause the fat to oxidize, which makes it go rancid quickly). He also has a check list to follow to ensure your deer fat is tasty. The one drawback Shaw mentioned was the fact that the stearic acid causes the fat to coat your mouth; which can be off-putting (Shaw, 2014).

    Using Shaw’s guidelines, we decided to test out whether or not leaving deer fat on worked for us. In order to try this, we enlisted the help of one of our staff members who loves to cook. She opted to make a venison roast as “it’s chilly out and that’s some darned good comfort food,” and here is what she decided.

    1. We did trim the fat to a point, so that we wouldn’t have an overly fatty roast. When it was cooking it smelled amazing.
    2. The fat did give a really nice flavor to the roast, it definitely classified as one of the best roasts I’ve made yet. My husband thought it was absolutely fantastic and went back for seconds.
    3. The stearic acid definitely left a flavor coating in your mouth. Shaw mentioned in his article he sometimes uses red wine to help with that, and luckily we had a nice Malbec on hand. It did help somewhat.

    So in conclusion, we have decided cooking with deer fat does have a huge impact on the flavor. Overall the flavor is fantastic if the deer comes from an area where there are good, flavorful things for it to eat. However, our staff member did say that while her husband had no issue with the feel the fat left in his mouth, she really was not a fan and would likely trim the fat for that reason. What are your thoughts on this? Are you guys pro deer fat or con deer fat?

    Literature Cited:
    1. Draper, David. “Do You Eat Deer Fat.” October 31. 2014. The Wild Chef. Field and Stream Blog. Website: http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/the-wild-chef/do-you-eat-deer-fat
    2. Shaw, Hank. “Demystifying Deer Fat.” October 13. 2014. Honest Food Blog. Website: http://honest-food.net/2014/10/13/cooking-deer-fat/

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