Tips & Tactics

Venison Confusion: Backstraps vs. Tenderloins

Venison Confusion: Backstraps vs. Tenderloins

By Tim H. Martin

Backstraps and tenderloins: Are they the same thing? The answer might surprise you if you’re a hunting newbie, and it even might be news to some of you old-timers!

The answer is no, backstraps and tenderloins are two different things, although the terms are often interchanged in conversations about venison.

There is a widespread misconception that tenderloins are the long cut of meat that runs alongside a deer’s spine on TOP of the animal. This is incorrect, and I’ve mistakenly called them that, myself. It’s just what I’d always heard growing up.

In reality, this arm-length cut is the backstrap, not the tenderloin.

True tenderloins are found INSIDE the deer’s abdominal cavity, and they are delicious.

Much smaller than backstraps — only about 10 to 12 inches — tenderloins are located beneath the spine, making them more difficult to reach.

The only way to reach tenderloins is by field-dressing the deer and cutting them out. This can be messy, so hunters who are in a hurry too often discard them.

This amazing morsel is worth the few extra seconds it takes to extract them.

Whether you call them weenie loins, tenderloins or breakfast loins, they are arguably the most tender and delicious part of the entire animal. If you have your deer processed, make sure to ask the processor to save them separately.

Many hunters traditionally eat their tenderloins the morning of the harvest, or just after, frying them to accompany a big plate of eggs, biscuits and gravy.

Remember this easy rule of thumb: Backstraps are on the deer's back; tenderloins are tender inside.

Print off these two tasty recipes, one for backstraps and one for tenderloins:

Cajun-style Backstraps
Cocoa-crusted Tenderloins

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