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Braai'ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe

Whether you cook it around a smoldering campfire or over a charcoal grill, this Braai'ed Deer Heart Recipe is a good one to add to your after-the-hunt rituals.

Braai'ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
After you try this aromatic, tart and sweet venison recipe, you’ll never leave your deer hearts in the gut pile again. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
Print Recipe

“Braai” is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roasting,” and in South Africa, cooking over an open fire is not just for special occasion, it’s also a way of life. A braai is as much about the social gathering of people in the outdoors as it is about the food. It’s an essential part of the African bush experience, and I wanted to try to capture a little bit of this spirit at home.

Prepare the sauce for this grilled deer heart recipe at home to bring to deer camp. Then once a deer is field dressed, clean the heart and marinate it. Celebrate your spoils the following night by the campfire.


Deer heart is best prepared as freshly as possible. This blood-rich organ oxidizes quickly compared to other muscles on a deer, and once that happens, livery flavors may become more prevalent. If you can’t cook the heart right away, get it on ice, vacuum seal and freeze as soon as possible.


Serves: 2
Prep time: 4 hours or overnight
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 deer heart
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Marinade:

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons crushed dried mushrooms
  • ¼ teaspoon of MSG, optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup quality ginger beer

A couple of notes on the marinade ingredients:

Use any dried mushrooms you like but choose something more aromatic. Find a small package of dried mushroom medley at the store or use your own foraged and dried mushrooms.

Contrary to popular belief, MSG is not harmful in small amounts. It’s a useful seasoning in any kitchen. With just a tiny sprinkling, MSG can provide so much flavor and umami to dishes.

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine all marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Take off heat, allow the sauce to cool completely and transfer to a bowl or zip-top bag.
  2. Cut open and unfold the deer heart so that the muscle lies as flat as possible; I prefer to begin the cut along the artery that runs diagonally across the outside of the heart. Slice off fat, remnants of the aorta, arteries and any connective tissues. Wash thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels.

    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    Begin the cut along the artery that runs diagonally across the outside of the deer heart. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    Slice the deer heart along the artery. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    Remove any fat, remnants of the aorta, arteries and connective tissues from the deer heart. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    Deer heart prepped and ready for braai sauce (marinade). (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
  3. Add the deer heart to the cooled marinade. Cover and refrigerate the meat for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. Flip the meat halfway through. Take the meat out of the refrigerator 2 hours prior to cooking for it to come up to room temperature.

    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    This braai sauce was adapted from a traditional South African recipe. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
  4. Prepare the grill for direct, high-heat cooking. Lightly grease the grates with vegetable oil, and when hot, grill the meat 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare – the thinner part of the heart will cook faster than the thicker part. Season the heart with freshly cracked pepper and more salt to taste.

    Braai’ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe
    A side of grilled asparagus pairs well with this Braai’ed Deer Heart Recipe. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
  5. Take the heart off the grill and allow to rest, tented in foil, for at least 5 minutes. Slice grilled deer heart thinly against the grain and serve.

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