Thanksgiving may be the domain of the turkey, but we’re allowed a bit more leeway at Christmastime. Venison roast is a prime candidate for the big dinner. Problem is, many people have a hard time cooking one that doesn’t come out dry and unhappy. I’ll walk you through how to go about it.
You can serve your venison roast alongside anything you want, but I typically like to include some stewed greens like kale or turnip greens, the obligatory mashed potatoes and some homemade cranberry sauce. All are easy to make.
Now, about that roast.
First, you need to have your roast at room temperature. Room temperature meat cooks more evenly than meat that’s warming at the outside but is still ice cold in the center. Second, you want to coat the meat in oil or melted fat – I actually used melted duck fat for the roast in the picture, but you can use vegetable oil. Why? Science.
When you roast meats in an oven. The heat of the air hits the meat and causes the moisture at its surface to evaporate and cook. But the problem is that water boils at 212°F, which is pretty low when you think about roasting. Adding an oil barrier around the meat will allow the surface of the meat to get hotter, since oil won’t boil away for at least a few hundred degrees hotter. The bottom line is meat will cook better with a coating of oil.
Next, you want to go slow and low at first, then hot and fast. This is mostly personal preference. When you cook this way, getting the interior of the meat to a temperature approaching what you want at the end, you have less of a jump in carryover heat when you brown it later. If you switch and start hot and fast, you get more carryover heat and you need to deal with a very hot oven that needs to cool down a lot. Basically it is just mechanically easier to start cooler and finish hotter.
Finally, rest your roast. Resting allows the intense heat that is at the outside of the roast dissipate throughout the meat. This brings up the center temperature and allows the meat to retain more moisture when you slice it. Doing this for 10 minutes is good, but 15 is better.
Grind some black pepper, or whatever other spices you might want, slice and serve. A good pro tip is to drizzle some nice oil over the slices, too. I prefer walnut oil or good olive oil.
2 to 5 pound venison roast
Vegetable oil to coat
Salt and black pepper
2 cups cranberries
1/3 cup maple syrup
Zest of an orange, sliced into strips with pith removed
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon white pepper
Take the venison roast out of the fridge, coat the meat in oil and salt it well. Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Put the venison in a roasting pan and pop it in the oven. Cook until the interior of the meat hits about 115°F. This can take as little as 45 minutes for a small roast to 2 hours for a large one.
Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce. Put all the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Drop the heat to a simmer and cook the sauce together, stirring often, until most of the cranberries pop and the sauce cooks down and comes together as a sort of hybrid between a sauce and chutney. Turn off the heat and pick out the strips of orange zest. Cover the pot.
When the venison roast hits the target temperature, take it out of the oven. You can either jack the oven up to 450°F and brown the meat that way, or you can let the venison rest for 15 minutes, then sear it in a pan with a little oil. Either way works. Whatever you do, when the meat has browned, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest a solid 10 to 15 minutes before you slice it. Grind lots of black pepper over the venison as it rests.
When the venison roast is browning, make the mashed potatoes. Boil the potatoes in salty water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain. Put the potatoes back in the pot and set the pot over low heat. Let them steam a minute or so. Add the cream and butter and white pepper and mash the hell out of them. Add salt to taste and cover the pot until you’re ready to serve.