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Cast iron and Dutch oven cooking

How to | Make fantastic, tasty chicken fried venison steak

How to | Make fantastic, tasty chicken fried venison steak

When it comes to hunting camp cuisine, fast and simple  is good. This philosophy also applies to feeding teenagers, especially when they’re athletes and absolutely starving after a day at school followed by a hard workout. This recipe for venison steak  covers both bases.

by Leon Pantenburg

A major benefit of deer and elk hunting is the superb meat. (Pantenburg photo)

Even if I wanted to quit elk and deer  hunting – which I don’t – I’d still have to come up with venison. My family was raised on wild game meats, and there are some dishes that just don’t translate as well when you use domestic stuff.

Chicken fried elk or deer steak is one of those family favorites. The “chicken fried” part of the name comes from, I’m assuming, the idea of frying a steak like chicken. Variations of this dish are a mainstay in many southern states when it comes to converting a tougher piece of meat into gourmet eating.

My daughter requests chicken fried steak it at least once a week, generally after a long run. The recipe is a perpetual favorite at hunting camp, where the backstrap from a deer or elk  is traditionally dedicated to an all-you-can-eat venison meal.

The recipe can be done very nicely on my Camp Chef double burner propane stove in a cast iron Dutch oven. That is generally what I use to cook this dish with, since my off grid cooking gear stays set up outside year round.

If there is time, I will  marinade the meat in a combination of milk, an egg and various seasonings as the mood strikes me. I let the meat soak for half an hour to an hour, or whatever time permits. If you have a prime cut of backstrap or a tenderloin, no marinading is necessary.

The traditional side dishes are mashed potatoes and gravy, blackeyed peas and biscuits. And if that’s not southern comfort food, I don’t know what is!

Chicken Fried Venison Steaks

1 to 2 pounds of venison, tenderized with a meat hammer. Marinade if desired.

1 to 2 cups of all-purpose flour, salt and pepper

canola oil

Slice the meat to pieces about one inch thick. Pound the meat flat  with a meat hammer, put in the marinade in a gallon Ziplock bag, and place in the refrigerator. If I think of it, I’ll periodically remove the meat to knead the marinade into the meat. This probably is not necessary, but little things combine to make a great dish.

Put the flour in a paper bag. (It has to be paper, according to my mother-in-law, Ethel Pickens. Ethel, from Vicksburg, MS, makes the best southern fried chicken and chicken fried steak in the world. She says a plastic bag will make the breading gummy and sticky.)

Remove the meat from the marinade, put in the paper bag with the flour, and shake it until the meat is thoroughly coated. Put on a plate. Put the meat on the plate in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will make the breading “set.”

Put about one inch of oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven and heat until it’s hot. (You want the oil to be heated to the point where there is an immediate sizzling effect when you put the meat in.)

Fry on the first side until the blood comes to the surface, then quickly turn. The bottom should be browned, and keep frying the meat on medium heat until it is done to your satisfaction.

Make a lot. This will be very popular.

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Cast iron and Dutch oven cooking

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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