Deer Heart on a Stick
How the heart got on a stick
A few days ago, I helped a good friend of mine, Nate, track a buck deep on public land. As we located the arrow, buried in the dirt, covered in bright blood, we became optimistic. It was a full pass-through shot. The blood trail went from spotty to heavy within 50 yards of the stand, and the small bubbles in every drop of blood forecasted good vibes. We found the buck a little over 100 yards from the stand, in some of the thickest cover imaginable. After a short celebration, the work began. As he field dressed the buck where he laid, we couldn’t help but notice the triangles the perfectly placed broadhead had left in each lung. It was an ethical, humane kill to be proud of. As I explained to my 5-year old the anatomy of the inside of a deer, he pointed and said “What’s that dad?” He had spotted one of the more underappreciated cuts in the deer hunting world. As Nate cut the heart free, I explained to him that the heart was coming with us. My son carried the heart to the edge of the river as we dragged the buck. After a few photos, the canoe ride was the easiest and most relaxing part of the recovery.
The next morning, I processed and marinated that heart as a lunchtime snack to eat after the hunt. After a fruitless hunt that morning, as we trudged up the muddy river bank, my stomach was growling. We changed clothes, started the GMG Davy Crockett, and began to skewer meat. This recipe is a modified version from several cookbooks, including some written by Hank Shaw, Steven Rinella, and Michael Ruhlman. A “seat-of-the-pants” recipe that we found delicious. We ate every piece quickly, reminiscing that morning a couple of days ago. Enjoy!
1 deer heart
6 wooden or steel skewers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon Italian Herb Mix (Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, etc)
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
A pinch of crush red pepper flakes
Preparing the Heart
Place heart on a cutting board. Cut the top of the heart away, removing many of the tough connective tissue and arteries. “Similar to coring a bell pepper”, as Hank Shaw would describe. I also like to trim the fatty white tissue from the outside of the heart. Next, make a single cut from top to bottom to open the heart. At this point the heart should lay flat, like a steak. Take note of the swirling muscle grains. Do your best to cut 1/3” slices against the grain. After slicing, I generally cut the slices in half to make them more manageable. Mix your marinade well in a separate bowl. You will then toss the heart pieces in the marinade, being sure to get uniform coverage. You can either leave them in the bowl to marinate or place them in a quart freezer bag for transport to the parking lot party. I shoot for at least 12 hours in the marinade, but if time is short, two hours will do.
Cooking the skewers
Bring your Green Mountain pellet grill to 450F. This can take some time, which is when I skewer the meat. As you skewer the pieces, try not to crowd them. I usually leave space between each piece, to allow for a little more char. Place the skewers on the grates in a quick fashion for an even cook. Cook for 2-3 minutes a side, then check each skewer for doneness. Remove the skewers before they feel done and let them rest, they will cook for a couple more minutes when removed from heat. Overcooked heart is a loss and will ruin the texture. I cook mine to a medium-rare at most. These are best enjoyed in an outdoor atmosphere with good friends, perhaps a public land parking lot, and eaten with your fingers.