Like most things in life, there’s a passable way and a proper way to cut venison steaks. Clean-cut, uniform chunks of meat will simply freeze better, cook more evenly, and taste better. I always preach the deliberate approach and attention to detail when butchering, and that is especially valuable when making steaks.
The best steak cuts from a deer come out of the hindquarters, also known as hams. Remove the hindquarters from the carcass and then break them down from the inside by following sinew lines between the individual muscles. A flexible boning knife like the Meatcrafter by Benchmade is really nice for this. There’s a lot of good meat in the ham, but the two particular muscles you’re looking for are the sirloin and the round.
Even if we’re going to cook them as steaks, some of the MeatEater crew choses to freeze these muscles whole then cut them up right before they hit the grill. That exposes less surface area to potential drying and freezer burn. But it can be helpful to steak them up in advance if you’re giving the meat away to friends.
Either way, cutting a perfect steak all comes down to proper knife work. Once you’ve removed those thick, meaty muscles, lay them on a flat, clean surface and make sure your knife is very sharp. You want a relatively long, sturdy blade. The goal here is to make one, smooth cut cleanly through the muscle. If you’re sawing back and forth a bunch, you’re doing it wrong. Likely your knife is too dull. Sawing creates more surface area and more knife nicks, which means that more meat is exposed to air and bacteria that can compromise the final product.
The proper form is to place the tip end of the knife on top of the muscle at your first cut point, then push forward and downward to break through the surface tension and cut smoothly through the meat. When you reach the hilt, draw backward while still pushing down. You should reach the cutting board with these two clean slices.
You want all your steaks to be the same thickness so they cook in the same amount of time. You can measure that width with your fingers or knife blade and hold that mark by placing your knuckles against the flat of the knife blade for the second cut to make sure it’s parallel with the first one. Take your time to really think about each cut. Continue the process until you’ve rendered your whole sirloin and round into nearly identical steaks. If you’re going to freeze these steaks, either wrap them in good freezer paper or use a quality vacuum sealer and bags to make sure they’re still delicious when you thaw them to eat.
I like to season my steaks in advance then cook them low and slow over the barbecue. If you follow these steps, you’ll have a product that survives the freezer, cooks perfectly, and wows your guests who eat it.