Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Ice Chest in the Kitchen: Idiot-proof Method for Cooking a Perfect Venison Roast

Field & Stream recently had an interesting article on cooking wild game in a cooler or ice chest. The article went into a bunch of history and the French roots of the method.  This all sounded rather prissy yet while the French are, in general, really crappy at defending themselves, they CAN cook.

Always up for something different, I thought I'd give it a try.  To say it exceeded my expectations would be an understatement.

Most venison roasts I have prepared are tasty but tend to either (i) fall apart whether it was over indirect heat on the grill (wrapped in foil) or in a crock pot (excellent for stew however) OR (ii) are dry and tough.  Hitting the perfect middle ground consistently has alluded me.

Below is the general overview of the procedure, as modified in typical A Man in the Woods style.  Recipes, like instructions and most traffic laws, should be viewed as mere suggestions so feel free to experiment as you see fit.  My mother along with a good friend from Louisiana (where all men cook) taught me to cook more by feel than anything.

0.  Find, kill, gut, butcher and process one (1) deer.

1.  Place a thawed, ~2 lb venison roast in a large bowl.  I used a roast from a doe hindquarter my daughter killed last year.  A backstrap would be excellent too.

2.  With a very sharp, thin bladed knife, stab the roast 50+ times like it tried to jack you in a drug deal gone bad.  One of the multi-tined, thin bladed meat tenderizers would work well but you'll have less fun that way.

3.  Add the following marinade ingredients to the bowl:
  • Several (8-10) splashes of soy sauce
  • Several (8-10) splashes of Worcester sauce
  • Some (~1/4 cup) of Italian dressing (this one was shiitake mushroom)
  • A couple (1-2 tablespoons) of Adam's Best Rib, Roast & Steak Rub (but anything along these lines will do)
  • Some (4-5) splashes of Heinz Tarragon vinegar
  • Some (4-5 splashes) of smoked Tabasco sauce (my personal favorite)
  • A little (1/2 teaspoon) of ground ginger

4.  Spoon / slather marinade on both sides of roast, ensuring that it soaks into the stab wounds.

5.  Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature for several hours.  If you have a horrible dog named Dixie who is prone to counter-surfing and stealing food, MOVE IT BACK FROM THE EDGE!

6.  Sear, on high heat, (the roast, not the dog) on a BBQ grill for ~8-10 minutes a side.

7.  Place roast and marinade in a large Ziploc bag and seal it with as little air as possible.  The original F&S article suggested vacuum sealing it which would obviously work.

8.  Put a large pot (~gallon) of water on stove and set to high (to bring it to a boil).

9.  While the water is heating up, add ~ 1 gallon on HOT tap water to a small cooler.  My tap water peaks out at 114F.  Add boiling water to bring up the cooler water temperature to ~150F.  The F&S article called for 140F but I wanted the roast a tad more done than medium rare.

10.  VERIFY the water temperature with a digital meat thermometer.  Don't guess or you'll just waste your time.  You can get a digital meat thermometer for $10-$20 from 1,000s or sources.  It is well worth the investment and will give you years of service.

11.  Place roast/bag carefully in water bath, making sure top of bag is out of the water in case it is not perfectly sealed.

12.  Close lid.

13.  Threaten family to not open cooler lid and let the heat escape!

14.  Sit back and wait!  F&S said to let it go for 1.5-4 hours.  I let it go overnight (probably 8 hours) just because I started it at night and it was time to go to bed.  The beauty of this method is you really can't overcook it.  That MAX the inside of the roast will get is ~145F or so.

15.  Slice thin and enjoy!

A few notes:
  • F&S said to sear the roast afterwards in a hot pan with some oil.  I did it beforehand on the grill.
  • The roast was firm but totally moist inside.  Nice and pink.  I assume it had an internal temp of ~140F for several hours.  It looks and tasted quite a bit like perfectly cooked roast beef.
  • I started off at 154F and the water temp had dropped to 136F in the morning.
  • This would be great to set up in the morning and "cook" while you are at work and then whip up some sides when you get home or even better, set it up over lunch at the hunting camp and return that evening to a hot meal!
  • I plan to try this with ducks too very soon.  


A Man in the Woods and occassionally, the Kitchen


  1. This sometimes referred to as Redneck Sous Vide.

  2. I had NEVER heard of it before. It works so well and is beyond easy!

  3. I saw this in F&S too...will be giving it a try if I get a deer