Smoked Bone-In Whitetail Hindquarter
A buddy of mine was fortunate enough to harvest a whitetail doe in a game damage hunt in Montana this year. When we were butchering her, we had two other deer we were doing at the same time. Call it laziness or call it a bold attempt at something new; but, we decided to leave one of the hindquarters whole and cook it, bone-in, for the Super Bowl. The result was a meal that subsequently developed a new rule for me with deer – I will always keep a hindquarter whole for this very recipe.
1 bone-in deer hindquarter
2 sticks of butter
2 tablespoons of pickling spice
2 dried Shishito peppers (any pepper will work, just don’t get it too spicy; if you want heat, put it in the rub)
1 teaspoon of juniper berries
1 tablespoon of thyme
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 tablespoon of basil
1 tablespoon of marjoram
1 tablespoon of rosemary
Canola oil spray
Make sure the hindquarter is completely thawed and trim away any exterior fat and any of the silver skin that you can see. (It's worth noting - on this experiment I didn't trim away ALL of the silver skin and fat - I wanted to see how a low and slow cooking process would handle some remaining bits) I can tell you that it didn't impact the finished product too terribly; but, in the future I will trim them completely. Fat will give the meat a gamey flavor and should be trimmed away as soon as possible when butchering the meat if the meat is to be stored.
Rinse the meat and pat dry.
In a saucepan, slowly melt the two sticks of butter. NOTE: It’s imperative the butter doesn’t boil!!
Add the pickling spice, juniper berries, and dried peppers to the butter once it’s completely melted. Set it to a low heat on your stove so it won’t boil and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes.
While the butter and spices are simmering, combine all of the other spices in a mixing bowl. This will be the rub you apply to the meat once it’s ready.
When the butter is done, inject it liberally throughout both sides of the meat. It’s important to make sure each whole muscle is injected several times at different angles.
Once the meat is thoroughly injected with the seasoned butter, spray a light coating of canola oil on it. (Some people will swear by mustard; but, because you really want the flavor of these spices in the rub to penetrate the meat while it’s cooking, applying it directly to the meat with a thin layer of oil is preferred).
Liberally coat both sides of the hindquarter with the spice mixture you combined in the mixing bowl.
Now you’re ready to put it in the smoker.
I use a Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone and absolutely love it. I chose it over similar pellet grills because of its construction (it weighs 152 pounds compared to around 100 for the other brands in its class) and its ability to cook at 500 degrees – critical for searing meats. I set my pellet grill to 225 and for this recipe, I used pecan pellets. I don’t mind other types of wood when cooking red meat, usually opting for mesquite when grilling steaks. However, with a long smoke, I like to select milder woods like fruit woods and nut woods, pecan being my favorite.
Once set to 225 and up to temp, place the meat in your smoker. If you don’t have a smoker with a built-in meat probe, it’ll be almost impossible to attempt this without a reliable instant read meat probe. If you’ve made it this far through this article/recipe, you’re fairly serious about smoked meat, so if you don’t already have a meat thermometer, stop reading and go buy one.
My grill has one built in, and it’ll readout on the display without opening the grill, which is an awesome feature because as the old saying goes, if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’. I always try to put the probe in the thickest part of the meat and close to the bone, when applicable. The goal is to make sure the entire piece has made it to your target internal temperature, not just the outer bits.
My target internal temperature for this project was 150 degrees. I can’t underscore this enough – if you want fork tender meat that’s falling off the bone, pick a low cooking temperature (225 is my go-to) and a target internal temperature and DO NOT compromise. I hear a lot of people say, "Cook it for 26.7 minutes per pound." That's bogus. Don't worry about the time, just let it cook at your temperature until you hit your target internal temperature and don't change anything, even if it means being late. I was thirty minutes late to the party because I wouldn’t take the hindquarter off early and I wouldn’t raise the cooking temperature to speed the process.
I'll now candidly admit that with this being the first time I've done an entire hindquarter in the smoker, I was terribly afraid that it was going to dry out and turn into an inedible protein mass. Because of this, I wanted to make sure I had some suitable alternatives and loaded the smoker up with some chicken legs and some boneless bites for the last few hours of the process. You'll notice the trimmed chicken skin in there crisping up nicely - they make great appetizers for the not-so-health-conscious folks in your life.
Once you’ve hit your target internal temperature, 150 degrees in this example, pull it out of the smoker and wrap it to rest. During the resting period, some magical stuff happens on a molecular/chemical level that basically lets the meat get super juicy. I used to wrap the meat in heavy duty aluminum foil and then in a few towels for insulation. I found that doing this always caused the “bark,” or crust that develops on the outside of the meat during a long smoke, to get kinda chewy and moist. For the last few things I’ve smoked, I’ve wrapped them in butcher paper and then in towels and the difference is night and day. The bark will still be incredible once you open it, regardless of how much sweating the meat does during the rest.
I like to let my meat rest for a minimum of thirty minutes – an hour if time allows. What I will not do is sacrifice the rest in order to eat sooner. Again, be late, miss the kickoff, show up halfway through her dance, etc. It doesn’t matter, don’t skip the rest period after cooking.
Once your rest is done, it’s pretty simple – open it, cut it, and eat it.
I don't like to brag, honestly; but, this one turned out so good that it was worth documenting and sharing so others can enjoy.
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