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Backstrap vs Tenderloin | Where They Are and Which Is Better

The backstrap and tenderloin are quality venison cuts known for their tenderness, leanness, and flavor. Thus, many people tend to interchange them. However, there are differences between the two, such as location in the carcass, application, and length or amount.

The backstrap is the venison cut found parallel to the spine and exterior to the rib cage. Meanwhile, venison tenderloin is situated on the interior side, between the ribs and the pelvis. Both are known to be tender meat cuts; however, the backstrap is often deemed superior. 

Venison backstrap and tenderloin are often thought to be one and the same. However, the two have critical differences, as you’ll discover in this article. 

A montage of backstrap and tenderloin cuts of meats

About Backstrap

Venison is typically lean meat, often associated with deer. However, the term may also apply to meat from other antlered animals, like moose or elk. Like other meats, it can be divided into different cuts, one of which is the backstrap. 

Backstrap, also known as loin, in venison refers to the boneless meat cut comprising the Longissimus group of muscles. They are found beside the spine but exterior to the ribs. Although it can be isolated easily, others prefer cutting it with the ribs attached to make chops. 

Is Backstrap a Good Cut of Meat?

Some people consider backstrap as the most superior meat cut in America. For example, Ben Westfall from the National Deer Association states that backstrap is the most superior meat cut in the country. While this may sound like hyperbole, their claims aren’t entirely baseless. 

Backstrap is a good cut of meat due to its tenderness. The Longissimus muscles aren’t used much during the deer’s lifetime, so they do not become tough and remain tender upon harvest. This quality, along with mild flavor, versatility, and distinct leanness, make the backstrap sought after. 

The backstrap also contains nutrients, especially when the source deer is free-ranging and organic. These are some such nutrients you can get from this meat cut:

  • Fat 
  • Protein
  • Iron 
  • Potassium
  • Zinc 
  • Niacin 
  • B-Vitamins 

Versatility is also a trademark of backstrap as there are many ways one can cook or prepare it, including:

  • Loin medallions 
  • Roasted loin
  • Butterflied steaks
  • Grilled kebabs
  • Steak tartare 
  • Fajitas

Related 11 Best Tasting Types of Meat in the World.

Is Backstrap Filet Mignon?

In the beef world, filet mignon is the superior and most expensive cut. It is incredibly tender and lean and has an amazingly mild flavor. But is it the same as a venison backstrap? 

Backstrap isn’t filet mignon. However, venison backstrap’s quality is on par with that of beef filet mignon. Both are remarkable for their tenderness, leanness, and distinctly mild flavor. However, location-wise, it’s inaccurate to state that the backstrap is the filet mignon of deer. 

A filet mignon steak on a plate

Another reason filet mignon is associated with backstrap is the misconception that backstrap and tenderloin are the same. According to an article that was published in Midwest Outdoors,  filet mignon is taken from the tenderloin, which is a fact. 

However, they also stated that the backstrap is the tenderloin, making filet mignon a part of the backstrap. But, as I emphasized above, the two are different. 

How To Remove the Backstrap 

Removing the backstrap is easier because it is on the carcass’s exterior side, especially once all the external fat and skin are removed. Moreover, hanging the body when removing the backstrap is recommended, but that’s optional. 

Here are the steps to removing the backstrap:

  1. Insert your knife at the top of the backstrap. If the carcass is hanging with the head at the bottom, then the place of insertion would be where the rump or hip begins. Stick the knife as close to the spine or backbone as possible. 
  2. Slide your knife downwards – parallel to the spine – until you reach the junction of the shoulder and spine. This is where the other end of the backstrap is. 
  3. Continue sliding the knife close to the spine until the cut reaches just right against the rib cage. The ribcage is the other boundary of the backstrap. 
  4. Once you’ve gotten as deep as the rib cage, go back to the top. Make a perpendicular cut at the top (side to spine), then start slicing with a scooping motion to detach the meat from the rib cage. 
  5. Work your way down with your knife and scooping motion carefully. Pull the detaching backstrap a bit as you work farther to make your work easier. 
  6. When you’ve reached the other side of the backstrap, cut in a perpendicular motion to remove the backstrap from the body. 
  7. Once the backstrap is off the body, you can trim excess fat or silver skin to get a lean cut. 

Related Best Knife for Processing Deer | Hint: You Need Two.

For a better visual guide, you can also watch this YouTube video: 

About Tenderloin 

The tenderloin is a more familiar cut of meat than the backstrap. It is present in nearly every animal carcass – beef, poor, lamb, and deer. 

The venison tenderloin consists of the psoas major muscle. It is accessible from the interior side and can be found inside the body cavity, between the ribs and the pelvis. They are often covered by fat but are incredibly lead and tender once you remove the fatty covering. 

Is Tenderloin a Good Cut of Meat?

If you want the best cut of beef, tenderloin is the hands-down winner. It is incredibly tender and lean, which are qualities of great meat. However, is venison tenderloin as good as beef tenderloin?

Venison tenderloin is a good cut of meat because it is much more tender than others. That’s because the muscles comprising this part of the deer aren’t used much, so they are less tough. However, tenderloin is often shorter than backstrap. 

Tenderloins are of such good quality they are best enjoyed as plain steaks, with nothing more than salt, pepper, and butter to give additional flavor. However, you can explore other ways to enjoy this meat, like smoking or using the cut for mini wellingtons. 

Is Tenderloin Filet Mignon?

Venison tenderloin is considered to be the filet mignon of deer. That’s because, location-wise, the two meat cuts are analogous or located in the same relative position in the animal’s body. The two are also treasured for the meat’s distinct tenderness, leanness, and flavor. 

Moreover, the filet mignon in other animals is taken from their respective tenderloin. This only enforces venison tenderloin’s close relationship with this treasured meat cut. 

What Is the Difference Between Tenderloin and Filet Mignon?

In venison, tenderloin is seen as the equivalent of filet mignon. But there is a slight difference for those who want to be technical. 

The difference between filet mignon and tenderloin is the portion. Filet mignon is taken from the tip of the tenderloin, making it a part or portion of this meat cut. The tip is very lean; thus, the filet mignon is prized for its incredible lean meat. 

However, many aren’t too particular or technical about this definition. That’s because the whole venison tenderloin, not just the tip, can be treated as the filet mignon. 

How To Remove the Tenderloin

Because it is on the interior side of the carcass, the tenderloin is trickier and takes more time to remove than the backstrap. But it’s possible and certainly worth the extra effort.

Here are the steps to removing the venison tenderloin:

  1. Expose the tenderloin. 
  2. Locate the spine and the first end of the tenderloin. If the carcass hangs with the head down, the first end would be near where the legs start. 
  3. At that end, start your scooping motion from the spine into underneath the tenderloin, just so you can detach it from the carcass. 
  4. Work your way downwards by continuing that scooping motion carefully. The further you go, the easier it is as gravity pulls down the meat. 
  5. Once you’ve reached the other end of the tenderloin near the ribcage, slice away to detach the meat. 
  6. Trim away silver skin to have a lean meat cut. 

There’s a YouTube video that better depicts how the tenderloin should be removed, so be sure to watch it through this link: 

Backstrap vs. Tenderloin: What Is the Difference?

Tenderloin and backstrap are often interchanged, but there are significant differences. To make it easier for you to remember the differences, I have made a summary table of their qualities:

BackstrapTenderloin
Side of the carcassExteriorInterior 
LengthLongerShorter 
LeannessVery leanVery lean
FlavorMildMild
TenderVery tenderVery tender
Contains filet mignonDoes not contain the filet mignonContains the filet mignon 

What Is Considered the Best Cut of Venison?

Not all meat cuts are equal. Some are leaner, while others are fatter, tougher, or more tender. Thus, knowing which is best is essential information, especially for hunters.

The best cut of venison is the backstrap. It is very lean and tender because the muscles comprising it weren’t used much while the animal was alive. The flavor is also mild and incredible. The qualities make it versatile, so the cut can be used for various dishes. 

Tenderloin is considered just as good as venison. However, as it is shorter, you’ll have less of it to use and explore. Moreover, they are more challenging and messier to detach from the body, which is a hassle for newbie hunters or those in a hurry.

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