How to Cook Chinese Water deer on the BBQ

Chinese Water Deer is a real delicacy and I was delighted to be given a haunch as a birthday gift from a friend who knows that such things constitute the perfect present in my carnivorous eyes. But how to cook it? How about using it as the centrepiece to a barbecue feast.

barbecued Chinese Water Deer

You might not even have heard of them. They aren't native to Britain but after a few somehow got out of captivity early in the last century and now they can be found in enclaves across the country.

Many consider the meat superior to all other deer species. I count myself in that number although it does taste very similar to the slightly more easily acquired muntjac.

The season runs from the 1st November to March 31 but you'll probably have to find a specialist game butcher to source it. It freezes well hence why I was cooking my meat on a BBQ in June.

Chinese Water Deer haunch has slightly more fat on it that muntjac but pretty much any recipe which calls for muntjac can be used. Unlike the stronger tasting venison, the meat has a delicate flavour so you don't want anything which would overpower that.

I experimented with a haunch of muntjac last weekend wanting something more interesting on my BBQ than burgers and bangers. I was wary as I usually roast it wrapped in bacon and worried the BBQ would dry it out but it was pink and moist and perfect.

The key I think is a good marinade, try and avoid actual flames, don't overcook and make sure you allow for a resting period after cooking. Having achieved success with the muntjac I decided to give the Chinese Water Deer a go on the barbecue for a special guest we had visiting for the day.

table set for barbecue


I made a marinade with a TSP each of oregano, thyme and rosemary (fresh if you have them), 1 cup of olive oil, 1 TBSP red wine vinegar, a clove of garlic chopped and a TSP of either Dijon or wholegrain mustard. 

olive oil can pouring oil into marinade

Marinade the meat in a covered dish for at least an hour. Obviously if you can leave it overnight that would be even better.

Chinese water deer in marinade

If you are not using a gas BBQ ensure all flames have died down from your barbecue. I use sustainable charcoal as I think charcoal gives a better flavour than briquettes.

Whatever you use, wait until the fuel is white giving off a good heat. Cook the meat, preferably with the lid closed if you have one, for between 20-30 mins, turning every five mins or so. Quell any flames using a water spray but be aware dampening the coals will reduce the temperature and may extend cooking time.

Test the meat by inserting a sharp knife. The meat should "give" quite easily and a little reddish liquid is fine but if the meat is very bloody add another ten mins intel it only oozes a little when pressure is applied around the cut. Basically, it's like cooking beef or lamb. 

If you don't like pink meat, extend the cooking time but I really would advise against overcooking as the meat will be dry and lose a lot of the flavour.

Resting will cause the meat to contract and it will suck those flavoursome juices into the fibres of the meat making it tender and tasty.

Give it at least ten minutes and as long as 20. We cooked the Chinese Water Deer first and let it rest while we cooked the rest of the barbecue meat. 

Finally, carve and serve.

Barbecued Chinese Water deer recipe


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