Cayley’s Balsamic Orange Venison Backstrap

I love balsamic vinegar. I marinate things in it, make reduction sauces out of it ( for salmon, halibut, etc), use it in dressings, heck, I would probably drink it, if it were a high enough quality. I ran out of my “good” balsamic, so I’m using a cheaper one from the local grocery store, but it works in a pinch.

Cayley’s Balsamic Orange Venison Backstrap


  • 2 pounds venison backstrap
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar aka sugar in the raw + extra for rub
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 package bacon
  • Cookshack RibRub
  • olive oil


  • Blend together the Kosher salt, turbinado sugar, orange juice and balsamic vinegar until there are no salt or sugar crystals remaining. From personal (messy) experience, I find that it's better to mix everything without the water, and then add the water once you're done. You can more vigorously whisk when you don't have a full bowl. Add the water and blend well.
  • Trim backstrap of all visible fat, gristle, and silverskin. I like to use a smaller knife, like a boning knife, and a paper towel to help pull the silverskin off, a lot like when you remove the membrane from a rack of ribs. This is important, no matter how lazy you're feeling, because a lot of the "gamey" taste that people don't care for is found in the silverskin, fat, and gristle, not in the actual meat of the deer.
  • Place trimmed backstrap in a large zip top bag and put bag into a bowl. Pour marinade into bag, seal, and refrigerate for 2 - 4 hours. Don't marinate it for too long, or the acids in the vinegar and orange juice will start to "cook" the meat.
  • Remove from marinade and rub liberally with an equal mixture of RibRub and turbinado sugar.
  • Wrap the backstrap with bacon so that that it is completely covered (I like to think of it as wrapping it like a mummy). This helps keep the moisture in the extremely lean deer meat Even though I added moisture in by marinating, it's still very lean and has a tendency to dry out without the bacon. While the venison cooks, the bacon fat will render down a bit and baste the meat, keeping it moist. Besides, what doesn't improve with bacon? You can just use cheap bacon, the fattier the better, you pitch it at the end anyway.
  • Smoke-cook with 2 ounces of apple wood at 225ºF for 45 minutes if it's "steaks" like I have, or 1 1/2 hours, if it's more of a loin, or until the backstrap reaches an internal temperature of 150ºF. I smoke them on the middle rack of my Cookshack Smoker.
  • Remove the bacon and heat a thin layer of olive oil in a hot pan and quickly sear the meat evenly, but not overcooked.


I'm more likely to cook the meat to an internal temperature of about 130 degrees, but I like mine on the rare side.

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