Have you ever been to a carvery-style restaurant where the chef cuts you perfect slices of meat from a whole venison leg roast? When I was a kid, we went to a place like this for Mother’s Day. It was a buffet, but at the end of the food line, there was the chef in whites and a proper hat, carving each dinner a choice slice of perfectly roasted whole hip of beef.
For my childhood self, this was the ultimate in culinary luxury. Because of this experience (or the strong possibility that my ancestors did the same thing around a slow fire in a cave on Saturday nights), deep pleasure is released inside of me when I carve a whole leg for my family. I suspect this is the combination of pride in hunting success and the sense of accomplishment that comes from literally feeding your family. Every hunting season, I keep at least one whole leg of Whitetail deer, antelope, or black bear. They all roast up perfectly.
PLAN TO SAVE A LEG
Plan ahead when you hunt and anticipate a feast with family and friends. The time to save a whole leg is when you butcher. If you butcher your own animals, here is what you need to do to secure a whole leg for smoking or roasting. Cut through the seam between the leg and the loin muscles and carefully separate the femur from the hip socket. There’s no need for a saw, just use your knife carefully and with some persistence.
Once the full leg is severed, separate the lower leg at the knee joint. Trim the roast up, leaving some fat on the outside of the leg. Many hunters talk about how important it is to remove all the fat. I disagree. A fall boreal forest black bear will be berry-delicious and a Whitetail that has been munching acorns or clover will be perfectly delightful. The fat is tasty, and it bastes and protects the meat while roasting.
Put away a leg or two this hunting season and make plans to share a whole-leg feast with family and closest friends.
- 1/4 sheet pan or a roasting pan (I prefer a sheet pan for the smoker with a shallow rack to catch the drippings)
- A suitable smoker or oven
- Cutting board
- Boning knife
- Meat fork
- Meat slicer/knife
- Saucepan for gravy
Ingredients / Venison Roast Recipe
- 2-4 lb Venison Leg Roast
- 50-50 mix of coarse salt and coarse black pepper
- All-purpose flour
- Dijon mustard
- 35% whipping cream
- 2 whole bulbs of garlic
- 3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
- Rinse the thawed or fresh leg in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Four hours before you plan to cook the leg, sprinkle the whole surface with equal parts coarse salt and coarse pepper. Let the mix absorb into the meat.
- Place the roast on a rack over a quarter-sized or half-sized sheet pan, depending on the size of the leg. Slice two whole bulbs of garlic into three chunks, insert into roast with small cuts crosswise, and add 3-4 springs of fresh rosemary. Return the pan to the fridge.
- Remove the roast from the fridge an hour before you plan to cook and let it rest at room temperature while your oven or smoker comes up to temperature.
- At the appointed time, put your roast in the oven or smoker. I started the smoker at 250˚F to begin. If I was using an oven, I would have used 325˚F.
- Place the roast pan in the middle of the smoker and add enough water to the bottom of the pan to keep the juice from burning. (A cup or two should work just fine) Check the roast every 35 to 45 minutes with an internal thermometer or use a probe to track the roast’s internal temperature progression. Add more water as required. The cook/temperature schedule for this roast was 45 minutes at 250˚F, 2 hours at 325˚F, then 30 minutes at 275˚F. I pulled the roast at an internal temperature of 140°F. Cover the roast with plastic wrap and a tea towel. The roast will likely cook another 10° F. (My roast finished at 150˚F—medium. If you are cooking a bear leg, ensure the internal temperature hits 160˚F.)
- Make gravy from the drippings, thickened with roux, and finished with heavy cream and Dijon mustard. When the roasting is complete, I make gravy from the drippings and rendered fat. Strain the juice from the roast when the cooking is complete. Skim the fat off and save for gravy. Mix equal parts fat and all-purpose flour, cooking it over medium heat for a few minutes to make a roux. Cooked roux should be the consistency of cookie dough. Use a tablespoon or two of this to thicken the juice that came off of your roast to make gravy. Add 1/4 cup of heavy (whipping) cream and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.
- Once all the sides are prepared and dished up, gather your guests at the carving (We served truffle mashed potatoes whipped with duck fat and condensed chicken stock, steamed green beans and roast vegetables, a combination of red and yellow onions, carrots and radishes cooked in duck fat.)
- Gather your guests at the table to carve. There are three main muscle groups in a venison leg and the grain of each one is oriented differently. The goal is to cut the meat slices across the grain. Arrange the slices on a serving platter while your guests watch the whole process.
- Immediately seat your guests and place the platters of food on the table and enjoy.
Every time I cook a whole venison leg roast like this, my guests rave about the meal. Carving a whole leg is visually impressive. And a whole leg roasts up tender and juicy. Now, back to the celebrating!
Did you enjoy this article? Check out more – like our Venison Backstrap recipe!