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Updated: Apr 23

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This smoked venison heart is hand down the best deer heart recipe that I've ever eaten. Venison hearts are known as the gateway offal and for good reason. The texture is somewhat reminiscent to that of a "normal" cut of meat, unless you overcook it. And the flavor is very mild unlike its offal cousins liver and kidney.

Smoked Venison Heart Recipe
Photo By Larry White

The best piece of advice that I can give you is to not overcook the heart. When it comes to cooking the hearts to the proper internal temperature, things are a little subjective. It comes down to what you like in the texture department. If you like a tender piece of meat with a mild taste, then medium rare is for you.

If you like a little bounce in the chew and stronger flavors, medium to well done is your ticket. For this heart recipe, I like to cook mine to around 140 degrees F. The texture is tender, yet firm enough to resemble something like a perfectly cooked pork ham.

I'd be willing to bet that this recipe will convert almost anyone who claims that they don't like venison hearts into a believer. The color is gorgeous, the flavor is sweet, smoky and delicious, and the texture rivals your highest quality pork ham. And to top it off, venison hearts are healthy!


Filet the deer heart open creating a flat piece of meat so that it resembles a “steak”. Deer hearts don't have any silver skin as with backstraps (loins), but they do contain other connective tissues and veins. With a knife remove all visible veins, webbing and connective tissue from inside the heart.


Roll the heart tightly with butchers twine into one solid piece. A tightly rolled heart allows for a more evenly cooked piece of meat. Tie the heart tightly in 2 inch sections with butchers twine. This will give you one solid mass, which is what you want so that the heart can remain in the smoker for as long as possible before reaching the final internal temperature.

How to Prepare Venison Heart
Venison heart tied securely with butchers twine

Looking for other wild game recipes? These are some of my favorites:

Lastly, if you make this smoked venison heart recipe, be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! Also, tag me on Instagram with some of your creations. I thoroughly enjoy hearing feedback and checking out the photos of recipes that you've made.



Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 4 to 6 Hours
Yield: 1 Venison Heart
Author: Larry White


For The Heart

1 venison heart (deer, elk, moose or antelope)

For The Heart Brine

  • 2 quarts - water

  • 3/4 cup - kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup - sugar

  • 1/2 cup - maple syrup or sorghum

  • 2 teaspoons - pink salt (Instacure # 1) Optional Ingredient

  • 1 bunch fresh thyme

  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon - juniper berries, crushed

  • 2 - bay leaves

  • butchers twine



  1. Combine all of the the above ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir to make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat, let cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

  2. Submerge the heart into the brine weighing down with a dinner plate if necessary.

  3. Cover and refrigerate for five days.

  4. Remove the deer heart from the brine. Rinse the heart under cold water and completely dry off with paper-towels.

  5. Place on a wire rack with a drip pan underneath in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. This allows heart to completely dry off and to develop a pellicle. The pellicle is that the smoke adherers to during the smoking process.

  6. To achieve maximum smokiness, I recommend cold smoking the heart for up to 4 hours if you are able to do so. I know that everyone doesn't have the equipment to cold smoke. So as mentioned below, do the best you can to hot smoke between 150 and 200 degrees F if you're unable to cold smoke. You're basically looking to have the heart in the smoker for as long as possible (up to 4ish hours) before approaching your desired internal temperature (140 to 150 degrees F).

how to cook venison hearts
Venison Heart Brine

Step Two: Smoke The Heart

Important Note Before You Begin: If you can't reach cold smoking temperatures, simply hot smoke your heart between (150-200 degrees F) until the center of the meat reads a 140 to 150 degrees F internal temperature (depending on your preference). Once you reach your desired internal temperature, skip ahead to (step 4). It won't have the same smokiness as with cold smoking, but it will still be tasty.

  1. Fire up your smoker and try your best to achieve a "cold smoking temperature", which is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place a pan of ice on a rack that sits below the meat in your smoker to help lower the temperature. You can also try leaving the smoker door cracked a little to help lower the temperature as well. Cold smoke your heart for 4 hours.

  2. Raise the temperature of your smoker to approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke the heart until you reach an internal temperature of around 140 to 150 degrees F. I like the texture that a 140 degree F internal temperature gives. This can take around 1 to 1 1/2 hours of smoking.

  3. Remove the heart from the smoker and let rest for around 15 minutes while you heat your oven or smoker.

  4. Using either your smoker or oven, get the temperature to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

  5. Glaze the ham with your favorite glaze (mine is listed below) and cook for around 5 minutes. Apply one more coating of the glaze and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

  6. Let the heart rest for at least 15 minutes and then slice thinly.

My Simple Venison Heart Glaze

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup

  • 1/4 red wine vinegar

Recipes for Venison Heart
Smoked venison heart sandwich with a fried egg, mayonnaise and johnny cakes

1 Comment

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I've made this before and it was great, but don't have a lot of hearts this year. Would it work with venison or pork tongue perhaps as well to make full use of the brine and smoker?


Meet Larry White

Chef Larry White

Hey folks, I'm Larry. The recipes you'll find here are inspired by my years as a chef, travels as a hunter, and being a father. I cook from these experiences, so my food ranges anywhere from fun and creative to traditional and to what somewhat family style comfort food.     

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