Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Most Underrated Deer Recipe Ever

Venison has saved my life. As I've said before, I am a college student who is almost always low on funds. When it comes to food, I feel like I have transformed into a bottom feeder, consuming unhealthy snackfoods,tv dinners, and whatever else I can get my hands on every week. After years of the same old college cafeteria food, I was in need of something more. Venison, however, has become an amazingly cheap and healthy alternative in my college experience.

I've noticed a trend in deer recipes within the past few years. Everyone seems to come up with their own amazing and intricate recipe every time. For example, take a jerky or sausage recipe...have you ever seen a simple or plain recipe for these? It seems like every person is trying to enter into a contest when they make it. You always find those with the "secret" recipe, as well. They guard their recipe cards with their life. One of the problems with these types of recipes is price. Making fancy marinades, utilizing a smoker, and even using an array of spices can become expensive. While I, like everyone else, have a few amazing and intricate recipes, my focus today is on simplicity: substituting ground deer in a Hamburger Helper boxed dinner.

These types of recipes have become some of my favorite recipes for deer. I tell other hunters this, and I often get that confused expression...as if I've just taken the sacred deer meat and tainted it with a civilian recipe. It's like I haven't honored the hunter's unspoken code of spending hours in the kitchen after a kill, concocting the next recipe that everyone will be begging for at next year's hunting get-together. I wish I had all the time and resources to do such a thing, but I must face the facts: I don't. I know that many hunters, especially those who hunt for meat alone, tend to find themselves in my shoes. This is a perfect meal for them, as well as anyone who is wanting something a little different for themselves and their families.

Obviously, what drew me into the Hamburger Helpers was the price. Go to the grocery store, and you'll see a box of this stuff costs usually around $1.50 a box. When funds are extremely short, I'll spring for some generic brands which usually stand under $1.00 per box and taste almost identical to the name brands. The second reason I go for this type: variety. These boxed dinners offer a huge selection of tastes and styles that can accommodate for anyone's palate. The third reason I choose this for my dinner: it is easy to make. You don't have to be a five star chef with a Master's in Culinary Arts to make this stuff. Follow the three-step directions on the back of the box and you'll have a tasty plate on the table in 30-40 minutes.

When I make this cheap delicacy, I make two boxes worth and mix in roughly a 1.5-1.75 pounds of meat. Deer meat, especially bucks shot during the rut, tend to have a "gamey" taste, so I like to mask the strong taste with two boxes instead of one. I'll throw in some mashed potatoes and Bisquick biscuits and have enough good tasting food to last me three days, or one night of feeding the other guys I live with. The boxed dinner has been one extremely successful way of introducing deer meat to others. Many people, especially those who don't hunt, are reluctant to sit down and take a big bite of a deer steak on their plate, but feel more willing to try deer in a Hamburger Helper. I've never had a bad review at the table with anyone who has tried it. Once, a vegetarian I live with (while drunk) decided he was hungry and tried some--he liked it so much, he ate the whole bowl!

When I first got into deer hunting, I did it mostly for the sport. I enjoyed the meat, but I never made my time in the woods about bringing home dinner. My thoughts as a hunter have completely changed for the better. When I pay my $27 for a deer tag in the fall, I'm looking to get meat I can live on for the following year. I process my own deer, so the cost is dropped even more. With the cost of milk and butter for added ingredients, I think I can get away with making three or four solid meals for about $5-$6. While it isn't the most prestigious way to cook your trophy, it is certainly a quick, easy, and tasty option.


  1. Great post! Marinades, smoking, and recipes that treat venison as a delicacy take too much time. This is a great reminder that venison can be easy and tasteful for the people who are short on time or money.

  2. Venison, is one of the most versatile meats around,(IMO) makes excellent tacos, spaghetti, meatloaf, chili, just to name a few, all of which are inexpensive and very tasty!I have used it many times in hamburger helpers of all kinds! Good post, and I really love your site!

  3. Great post and a nice site! I've done exactly the same thing the past 4 years of college. I guarantee deer meat has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, plus it tastes better in anything or by itself.