Barbecue culture runs deep in the Lone Star State. My ties to this cuisine led me to try replicating Texans’ beloved smoked beef brisket with a venison roast. With a little care and a whole lot of time, you can produce some of the best barbecued meat you’ve ever had.
Quality meat, smoke, and time are the secrets to a successful product. It might sound simple enough, but smoking this cult classic with wild game presents a real challenge. The lack of fat means that it can quickly dry out. So, you have to adapt.
There are three ways to combat moisture loss: The first is to season the meat with salt and pepper well in advance. Second, you should keep the temperature inside the smoker very low. Third, embrace the “Texas crutch” by wrapping the meat.
Traditionally, Texans smoke meat for several hours and then cover it in pink butcher paper or aluminum foil when it starts to sweat, causing evaporative cooling that keeps the internal temperature from rising. In other words, it just stops cooking. I choose to wrap mine pretty early in the process, and it has nothing to do with the stall. Covering helps to mitigate moisture loss.
Set aside a weekend and fill a cooler with some cold ones. Defrost a bunch of roasts from the freezer and smoke them all at once. Enjoy your venison sliced with a side of potato salad and chop the leftovers for tacos.
Time to make
8-14 hours to smoke, 1-2 days to cure
2 venison roasts (2-3 lbs. each)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. yellow onion, minced
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp. water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. coarse black pepper
Also works with
- Heat a small pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the butter and onions, then sauté until translucent. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and bring it to a soft boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce. Transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and purée until smooth. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the sauce and dilute it with a 1-2 tablespoons of water to use for mopping.
- Trim the silverskin on the outside of the roast and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48.
- Prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions using your choice of wood or pellets. Set the temperature around 180 degrees.
- Place the venison on the top rack of the smoker if possible. Place a container or foil tray filled with water on the bottom rack directly underneath the meat to release steam. Smoke for 30 minutes until the outside is dry and tacky and then mop the surface with the barbecue sauce. Continue to mop every 30 minutes for 2 -3 more hours.
- Generously baste the meat with the barbecue sauce again, then wrap it tightly in either pink butcher paper or aluminum foil.
- Return the meat to the smoker, and increase the heat to 200 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. You should be able to feel the tenderness of the meat when pricking it. Pull the meat when it reaches about 180-190 degrees internally. Don’t let it get past 200 degrees. This might take anywhere between 8-12 hours to achieve, depending on the size of the roast.
- Finally, rest the venison for 30 minutes, wrapped in an additional layer of foil and placed in an oven or cooler to keep warm. Slice it into thin pieces and serve with barbecue sauce, coleslaw, potato salad, pickles, and onions.
Notes An optional step is to inject the meat in several places using a syringe filled with venison or beef stock. This helps to combat dehydration when smoked.
Using pink butcher paper will keep some moisture in, but it is breathable, absorbs smoke, and creates a bark. Foil traps steam and is better at keeping the meat juicy, but gives it a subtle braise-like texture.
The smoke times called for in this recipe are based on the cut of meat and the size. I used a 2 ½ pound outside round, or bottom round. It is the large muscle covering the outside of the hind quarter. If using bear, don’t trim any fat.