Adventures in Venison Grilling

November 16, 2011

grilled venison wrapped in bacon

I grill…a lot.  But when it comes to grilling venison I think I can count the times on a single hand and perhaps even a single finger.  That all changed, however, when a kind coworker whose family is full of hunters brought me in a sweet looking venison tenderloin.

Now comes the hard part.  One tenderloin means one shot at success or failure so I had to have a rock solid game (no pun intended) plan going before I hit the grill.

First, I knew that venison in general is quite lean so hot and fast was the way to go in order to avoid drying it out.  I could also add moisture by brining the loin but I decided that a bacon wrap would add a nice flavor to the meat (or any meat for that matter).

Now, do I keep the tenderloin whole or cut it in to medallions?  That decision was easy since a whole loin would allow me more time on the grill to get a nice sear while the interior would remain juicy.  Medallions, on the other hand, would have very little surface area and would most likely cook through to the middle before both sides were colored, thereby heightening the risk of dry meat.

Now on to the flavor profile.  I vaguely recalled from my last venison meal that the overall taste was in line with lean beef with just a slight gamey taste.  I decided to enhance the flavor with a marinade that combines a little sweet with a little heat and just enough salt.  At this point I was all in so I decided to really play off the venison flavor.  I really enjoy using coffee based rub on grilled beef and the thought of combining coffee and cocoa with this lean, slightly gamey cut seemed like a natural.  So the coffee-cocoa rub below was born.  Now it was time to bring it all home…

All said and done, I couldn’t have been more pleased.  The flavor balance was perfect, the meat had a smoky richness on the exterior and a moist, still pink center.  That’s how we get it done at!  Got any other types of meat you’d like me to try?  Post them below and I’m happy to give them a shot.

Bacon Wrapped Coffee-Cocoa Venison


1-2 lb venison tenderloin

12 strips of bacon

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup soy sauce

4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp minced jalapeño

½ tbsp. ancho chili powder

2 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup brown sugar

Coffee-Cocoa rub (recipe below)



Mix canola oil, Worcestershire, jalapeno, chili powder, garlic and brown sugar together in a zip top bag, add tenderloin and shake to coat well. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours.  Remove tenderloin from marinade and pat dry.  Coat the loin liberally with the coffee-cocoa rub.

Construct a weave of bacon on a sheet of parchment paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil by laying 5-6 slices of bacon side by side horizontally then weaving an additional 5-6 slices vertically by alternating them over and under the horizontal slices to create a square (see image below).

venison in bacon weave

Lay the tenderloin on one end of the bacon weave, dust with more coffee-cocoa rub, and roll the loin in the bacon to create a tight cover.

Play the bacon wrapped tenderloin on a grill over high heat with the seam of the bacon weave on the bottom to prevent it from pulling apart.  Grill tenderloin uncovered, turning every 2-3 minutes until it reaches 135-140 degrees internal temperature for medium rare (factoring in some additional residual heat once it comes off the grill).  Remove from the heat, tent loosely with foil, and allow to rest approximately 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Coffee-Cocoa Rub

¾ fresh ground espresso

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 tbsp ancho chili powder

¼ cup salt

2 tsp ground black pepper

grilled venison with bacon recipe

- By Clint Cantwell, Guest Editor

Related Topics: Bacon | Bacon Weave | Clint Cantwell | Cocoa | Coffee | Exotic Meat | Extreme Winter | Game | Gamemeat | Grilled Venison | Venison

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