Seared Venison Heart with Whiskey Butter Recipe

Celebrate your next successful hunt with a memorable meal that is easy and delicious. With just a handful of ingredients, you can serve a meal that’ll make you wish ungulates had more than one heart.

Here at MeatEater, we believe that heart is the perfect cut to enjoy after a pack out. You don’t have to worry about rigor mortis setting in and making the muscle tough; it’s naturally a tender piece of meat. It’s also a great way to honor and celebrate the animal.

If possible, make the coffee rub in advance. You likely have most of the ingredients in your pantry. If not, you can probably find this stuff kicking around your deer camp.

The hardest part about this recipe is trimming the heart. You will want to cut it open and lay it out flat into two steaks. For detailed instructions, check out my How To Clean A Heart 101 for a visual demonstration.

Serving size


Time to make

10 minutes


Coffee rub

2 tsp. fresh ground coffee

1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 1/2 tsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. dried thyme


1 heart (From a deer, antelope, elk, etc.)

2 tbsp. whiskey

2 tbsp. butter

Neutral flavored Oil with high smoke point for cooking (Canola or Grapeseed)

Also works with

Venison backstrap, tenderloin, steak, or duck breasts

Special equipment

Cast iron skillet


Coffee Rub

  1. Mix ingredients for the rub in advance. This yields about 2 tablespoons worth of spices, you might only use about half for this recipe, depending on how big the heart is.


  1. Wash the heart out with water and pump out any coagulated blood. Use a sharp knife to trim the valves and fat around the top. Make a slice down the main coronary artery that runs along the outside of the heart to open one side out flat. Cut this small piece off. You will be left with a cone shaped piece of muscle. Make another cut down the middle to open and lay flat. Trim any fibrous tendons on the meat. You should end up with two flat pieces that look like steaks. One will be thick, the other thin.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the venison heart with the coffee rub. Reserve a couple of pinches for the whiskey-butter sauce.
  3. You can cook on a camp stove or build a small fire and burn the wood down to coals. Place a cast iron over the medium-high burner or on top of a grate over the fire. Once hot, add a tablespoon of oil and sear the heart on both sides until cooked through. You should treat it as you would a steak and serve with it still pink in the middle. The thin flap will only take about a minute or two per side, while the thicker steak could take up to 3-4 per side.
  4. Remove the heart to a cutting board and let it rest.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the whiskey, scraping up fond (the cracklings and brown bits) at the bottom of the pan with your tongs. Let the alcohol boil off for a few seconds, then add the butter and a couple pinches of coffee rub to season. Swirl the pan around until it melts and emulsifies. If you over-heat the butter, it will start to brown and separate; remove it from heat if you see that start to happen. Pour the whiskey-butter pan sauce over the heart and serve. The ideal presentation is served around a campfire and eaten with fingers.