Venison bacon is a sweet and smoky formed bacon made with a mixture of ground venison and pork fat which is seasoned, cured, and smoked.
This recipe has been on my to-do list for a long time. Venison bacon is a very popular treat in hunting circles, but I never could find any recipes to make my own, just pre-made cure mixes that had to be purchased. For those of us who take a lot of pride butchering our own deer and processing everything from scratch, that wasn't acceptable. So I set out to create this recipe.
Venison bacon is made with ground meat, rather than a whole cut such as pork belly in traditional bacon, and is sometimes more accurately called formed ground bacon. It is prepared and cooked like venison sausage, but loaded with bacon seasonings and thinly sliced.
Does Venison Bacon Taste Like Bacon?
Venison has a distinctly different flavor than pork which will be reflected in the bacon. However, venison bacon does have the same traits as traditional bacon - wonderfully sweet, smoky, and salty!
Equipment Needed for Venison Bacon
The list of equipment needed for making venison bacon includes affiliate links, allowing you to quickly and easily purchase the same equipment I use from Amazon.
- Smoker - You can make venison bacon in a traditional oven, but you will get the most flavorful bacon by smoking it. In particular, I recommend electric smokers when making any type of sausages because they allow for more precise temperature control as you gradually step the temperature up during the cooking process.
- Deli Slicer - You can use your chef knife to thinly slice the bacon when it is done smoking, but it is far quicker and easier to have a deli slicer on hand. Plus, you can use it to thinly slice my smoked rump roast recipe too!
- Meat Grinder - Since this is a ground and formed bacon, you will need to grind your venison trimmings with a meat grinder. For tips on grinding venison read my How to Butcher a Deer tutorial.
Venison Bacon Ingredients
If you don't regularly make bacon or sausage, there are a few ingredients you need for venison bacon that you don't likely keep on hand.
- Cure - Cure is required because you are cooking the meat for extended periods of time at very low cooking temperatures. The cure keeps the meat safe to eat by preventing dangerous bacteria from breeding while the meat cooks. There are multiple different cures you can purchase, always read the label to ensure you use the recommended amount.
- Dry Non-Fat Milk Powder - This ingredient can be found at any grocery store. It is added to sausage to act as a binder, reduces shrinkage during cooking, and retains moisture.
- Brown Sugar - Sweet and smoky is the classic bacon combo. The brown sugar lends a wonderful sweetness to the meat and creates a sticky glaze on the exterior. Feel free to add/substitute maple syrup as well.
- Ground Venison - I make venison bacon with a combination of ground venison and pork fat. 80% lean meat and 20% fat is a good starting point, but you can go up to 30% fat if desired. Don't go too much leaner than 20% fat or your bacon will taste dry and less flavorful. If you had your venison processed by a butcher you can ask them what fat ratio they used.
How to Make Venison Bacon
Venison bacon is best smoked at a low temperature that is slowly stepped up to allow the meat to soak in the smoke flavor before fat starts rendering from cooking. I recommend setting your smoker to 130 degrees and added mild-flavored wood chips, such as apple wood. Every hour the temperature can be raised 10 degrees until the smoker reaches 180 degrees. The bacon is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160.
- 7 pounds ground venison
- 3 pound pork fat (ground)
- 2 cup non fat dry milk powder
- 2 cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 5 teaspoons black pepper
- 6 tablespoons kosher salt
- Pink Cure (use recommended amount per package instructions - typically 2 teaspoon per 10 lbs of meat)
- wood chips for smoking (such as apple wood)
- Add milk powder, cure, and all seasonings to a dish and mix with water.
- Add ground venison and pork to a large bowl and pour water & seasoning mixture over the meat. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Line multiple baking pans or disposable baking tins with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and press meat mixture evenly into each pan so it is 2 inches thick. Cover meat and set in the refrigerator overnight.
- The following morning remove meat from the pan and let rest while you start the smoker.
- Preheat smoker to 130 degrees and add wood chips.
- Place formed bacon on smoker racks and increase the smoker temperature 10 degrees every hour until the smoker reaches 180 degrees. The bacon is done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Remove bacon from the smoker, let cool, then thinly slice. The bacon is fully cooked and can be enjoyed as-is, or fried in a skillet like traditional bacon.