The deer-hunting season brings venison to the table in many households.
From a nutritional perspective, it's a good choice, says a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist.
Three ounces of deer meat contains 134 calories and only three grams of fat, said Tammy Roberts.
The same amount of beef can contain 259 calories and 18 grams of fat; three ounces of pork has about 214 calories and 13 grams of fat.
"As with all protein-based foods, it's especially important to handle venison with care to prevent foodborne illness," Roberts said.
"Eating fresh venison is not recommended because parasites and tapeworms are common," she said. Before eating or using to make sausage or jerky, freeze venison for at least 24 -48 hours (48 is better).
E. coli is present in the intestinal tract of deer and can survive in homemade jerky and fermented sausages like pepperoni. When making jerky, you should steam, roast or boil the venison to 160 degrees before drying.
Similarly, when cooking sausage, deer bologna, ground venison, chops, steaks and roasts, the meat should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Cook soups, stews, casseroles and meatloaf to 165 degrees. Make sure reheated leftovers also reach 165 degrees.
Some people find that venison can taste gamy, dry and tough, but there are ways to improve flavor, moisture and tenderness.
To decrease the gamy flavor, soak the meat in a solution of 2 tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water for an hour before cooking. To keep meat from getting too dry, rub the roast with some oil before cooking.
"Marinades are a great way to add flavor and tenderize the meat," Roberts said. She suggests trying French or Italian dressing, tomato sauce or fruit juice as marinades.
"Always marinate meat in the refrigerator and discard the marinade when you cook the meat," she said.
The longer you marinate, the more tender the meat will be, but you can get too much of a good thing. "Marinating for more than 24 hours can break down the meat fibers and make it mushy."
For more information on food safety from MU Extension, see www.MissouriFamilies.org/foodsafety.
For tips on making meat jerky and other dried foods, see the MU Extension publication "Quality for Keeps: How to Dry Foods at Home" (GH1563), available for free download at www.extension.missouri.edu/GH1563.