The other day, I received the following e-mail from Wild Chef reader SMC1986, who put forth a pretty good argument that I think gets lost in today’s food-obsessed world: it’s not the knife that makes the chef, but the hand holding it.

Like SMC1986, I got my first grill in college, a Weber Kettle I bought on clearance at Target for $10. Almost 20 years later, I still have that grill and use it often. I’ve cooked the best barbecued chicken I’ve ever eaten on that Weber, and perfected my technique for smoking a whole elk backstrap with it. SMC1986’s e-mail struck a chord with me, and I think some other readers will also find a little bit of themselves in these words:

“In the fall of 2006 I got my first grill from Walmart in Morgantown, W.Va., for $99. It was a birthday present from my parents to help outfit my new house. I was attending WVU and back then all I needed was beer, college football, and meat. I lived with numerous roommates (too many to count at some times), but was the only person in the whole house who cooked. This grill would follow me through college, back home to my parents, back out on my own and to my current house. It has been strapped in the back of pickup trucks and taken to tailgates in numerous states, stuffed in a storage unit, cleaned with a pressure washer and cooked food after multiple hurricanes when we didn’t have electricity.

The entire time I had the grill I hunted and fished. In college, we ate mainly venison and even today most of the red meat my family eats is venison. Throughout the last eight years I have made countless burgers, pork chops, backstraps, bacon-wrapped everything and even a few hot dogs. I’ve included some of these things with this e-mail. The last picture is my grill today. It has rust everywhere, the grates are falling apart, and the handle to lift the lid has pulled through the lid so many times I can’t fix it with a bigger washer anymore.

I guess the point of writing this is to show that you don’t need a fancy grill or any fancy utensils to make delicious wild game. Sadly, I will be replacing this great grill with something new in the near future. I will probably buy something of much higher quality that I will have for a decade. But I will keep with me all the lessons I learned on that little $99 two-burner special.”

Venison Burger