When my husband first started hunting large game over a decade ago, I wanted nothing to do with the gut pile. Now? I’m rummaging through it trying to find all the good, often overlooked cuts of meat, and put as much of that animal to use as possible. This includes the almighty venison liver.
When it comes to nutrient-dense organ meats, the liver is the next logical step after trying venison heart. While the heart is very mild in flavor and most reminiscent of a really good steak, the liver takes a bit of a stronger palate and a more acquired taste. But, there are plenty of ways to make the often pungent flavor of the liver much more mild and worth the effort.
Historically, hunters would sautee the heart and liver at deer camp, eating the nutrient-dense organ meats before they ever left for home. But, today, that doesn’t happen as much. The liver, however, is arguably one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, full of essential nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin B, copper, folate, and iron. But because of its often pungent flavor, it’s often overlooked.
Preparing Venison Liver
The liver is full of blood vessels, which gives it a pretty pungent flavor. This is especially true for large animals, but if you’ve had calves liver, or pig liver and enjoyed it, you’ll probably like deer liver.
The flavor profile for liver is pretty iron-like and a bit bitter, this is especially true of older bucks, while the flavor of younger bucks (less than 2 years) and does flavor is a bit milder from the start.
While the flavor in and of itself can be enough to turn some folks off from it if it’s prepared correctly you can turn any liver hater into someone who enjoys this nutrient-dense food.
So, how do you prepare it properly? To begin, you’ll want to simply remove the liver from your deer. While most animals have a bile duct you need to worry about and remove, deer actually don’t possess a gallbladder, so all you need to do is remove it. Once removed, you’ll want to thoroughly rinse it with cool water.
Next, you’ll want to slice or cube your liver. Not only will this increase the surface area for soaking out some of that pungent flavor, but it will also enable you to remove any gristly bits and veins from the liver tissues.
Then, you’re on to soaking. I recommend soaking your liver for 12-48 hours, changing the liquid at least once. For the mildest flavor, I recommend soaking the liver in milk, but you can also use saltwater. Saltwater doesn’t seem to pull out as much flavor as milk, though.
Of course, you can just eat fresh liver without soaking it, soaking it isn’t a safety concern, but a taste concern. We usually harvest, rinse, and soak it and eat it the next day, but it’s really a personal choice.
The longer you soak it, up to two full days from harvest, the more mild the flavor. What you use and for how long you soak is up to you, but if you’re trying deer liver for the first time, I suggest soaking it for at least 12 hours in milk or buttermilk before cooking it.
After soaking, you’ll simply remove the liver and rinse it off. I pour mine in a colander and rinse it under cool water until the milk is off and pat dry.
Cooking Venison Liver & Onions
After you’ve soaked and rinsed the liver, it’s just a matter of frying a little bacon, slicing up some onion, dredging the liver in seasoned flour, and frying it in butter in a cast-iron skillet.
Begin by dicing up bacon and frying it in a couple of tablespoons of butter. Once crispy, remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to dry, leaving the grease in the skillet.
Meanwhile, combine flour, seasoning salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to make your dredge.
Dredge the liver pieces in seasoned flour, coating each side well. Continue until all of the pieces are well coated.
Slice onion into thick rings and brown them in the hot skillet of bacon grease over low heat.
Once the onions are nice and browned, move them to the side of the skillet away from the heat. Melt more butter and add your liver to the skillet, being sure not to crowd the skillet.
Brown the liver slices to a golden brown, over medium-high heat, for about four to five minutes for each side and remove to a plate lined with paper towels, until you’ve finished the entire batch, adding more butter as necessary.
The trick to flavorful, tender liver is to allow each side to brown, flipping the liver as little as possible, while not overcooking it (which results in tough liver).
Add all of the liver, onions, and bacon back to the skillet and toss together until mixed thoroughly.
Tips for Cooking Deer Liver
- Soak the liver for a minimum of 12 hours to remove the bitter flavors. Whole milk works well, or you can try salt water or a buttermilk soak.
- Keep the onion slices large, you want them similar in size to a bite of liver.
- Don’t overcook your liver. To keep it tender, you’ll want to cook it until there’s still a tiny hint of pink in the center.
- Pull the liver out of the refrigerator, drain, rinse and leave out while you prepare the rest of the ingredients so it’s warmer when you cook it.
- Cooking this dish in a cast iron skillet will yield the best results, but if you don’t have one any large skillet will work equally well.
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Venison Liver & Onions
Venison liver is fried in bacon fat and butter and paired with onions to turn any person into a liver-loving convert.
- 1 LB Venison Liver (soaked in milk or saltwater)
- 4 Strips Bacon
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Seasoned Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 large Onion
- Butter (copious amounts)
- Rinse the fresh liver under cool water. Slice or cube it, removing any gristly bits. Place slices in a large bowl and cover with milk and soak for 12 hours, changing the milk out once.
- Rinse the liver and pat dry. Salt and pepper it generously, leave it out while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Mix your dredge by combining flour, salt, pepper,r garlic powder, and paprika in a shallow dish and set aside.
- Dice bacon into pieces and fry them in a large skillet with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Once crispy, remove the bacon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Slice onion into thick rings and separate. Add a bit more butter to the bacon grease and saute on medium until they begin to soften. Push them to one side of the pan, away from the direct heat.
- Turn the heat back to medium-high, melt more butter. Dredge liver slices in flour mixture until well coated. Add half of the slices to the hot skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, just until barely cooked through, there should still be a tinge of pink.
- Remove liver from pan to a paper towel-lined plate and continue frying in batches until finished, adding more butter as necessary.
- Once all the liver is cooked, add the liver and bacon back to the skillet. Stir to combine. Serve hot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 171mgSodium: 1431mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 45g
Other Venison Recipes to Try:
Saturday 5th of November 2022
Well, what the heck, I haven't eaten liver for probably 10 years or more, I just hunted/harvested a Whitetail and decided to keep the heart and liver. I just started butchering on my kitchen table and decided to eat some FRESH deer liver! Saw your recipe and I used a large sweet onion to help smother/mask the pugnent/wild taste along with bite-size bacon, my own style of seasoned flour, and a cast iron pan. To my surprise, without any prolonged soaking (just some repeated rinsing/kneading/squeezing and paper towel pat drying) [lots of blood to expel in a fresh liver] it was a very delightful meal!! My version of my go-to seasoned flour : lemon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and basil. Thank you.
Saturday 5th of November 2022
So glad you were able to enjoy the liver, your seasoned flour sounds delicious.