5 Tips for Preparing Wild Game

As wild game like boar and pheasant becomes popular in the U.S., it's essential for chefs to understand how to prepare these undomesticated animals.

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July 25, 2016 4 min read

Wild game refers to those animals that are hunted almost exclusively for consumption. That encompasses a wide array of creatures, from quail and boar to deer and bison. Though not everyone’s an avid hunter, game meat has grown in popularity in recent years, with a slew of restaurants nationwide serving up these unique slabs of meat.

“A number of wild game restaurants have opened up across the U.S.”

It’s not hard to see why wild game is so popular: It’s a delicious and healthy alternative to mass-produced meat that is often treated with steroids. antibiotics and other chemicals. If you’re enrolled in culinary academy, now is a perfect time to learn the ins and outs of preparing wild game:

1. Takes all kinds
Game is loosely defined as any wild bird or animal. The most commonly hunted and cooked beasts include:

  • Antelope
  • Beaver
  • Ducks
  • Elk
  • Geese
  • Raccoon
  • Turkey
  • Squirrel
  • Young pigeon (squab)
  • Bear
  • Muskrat
  • Pheasant
  • Alligator

2. Rely on hot water
There is no one definitive way to cook game meat. However, one preferred approach is the sous vide cooking technique. Here, the meat is cooked in a large bin of water, which allows you to more accurately control the internal temperature. Game is almost always best served slightly pink – or around 135 degrees Fahrenheit – and it’s hard to overcook with sous vide because the meat can never exceed the water’s temperature. Sous vide machines can run a little pricey – some go for as much as $400 – but Instructables has several great do-it-yourself models for those who can’t make that sizable investment just yet.

3. Keep on cooking
It’s safe to say that not everyone has experience preparing and eating animals like beaver or squab. As such, it can be slightly confusing to go about preparing these unique animals. As the Art of Manliness explained, it’s often best to treat these cuts just like you would cow or pig. That means using the meat to make similar dishes, including burgers, chili, steak and much more. As such, it’s essential that the wild game be seasoned in similar ways. Add-ins like salt, pepper, vinegar, garlic, onions and soy sauce to bring out the flavor without overpowering the meat itself. If ever you’re in doubt, just consider raccoon meat to be like that of cow or other popular cooking animals.

4. Choose wisely
If you don’t kill the animals yourself, it’s important to have a good relationship with a hunter or vendor. That way, you can expect better prices overall and perhaps even get access to a wider selection of game. When actually buying the meat, the BBC said that it’s important to be on the lookout for a few specific elements. If you’re securing bird like grouse or partridge, you almost always want to go for the carcasses, complete with feet and head attached. That way, you’ll know the bird is of the highest quality. Venison, meanwhile, is a lot like beef, and you want something that’s pretty lean and not very gamey. It’s just as vital to pay attention to the specific cut. For birds, that’s almost always the breasts or loin. The best cut of meat, meanwhile, is almost always the loin.

5. Avoid rookie mistakes
Even though wild game can be cooked like more popular forms of meat, American Hunter explained that there are a few important mistakes to avoid. Wild game should always be allowed to age, as the process activates certain enzymes that can improve the flavoring. Just as essential is the brining or marinating process; an extended soak – with a ratio of 4 cups of water to 2 tablespoons of salt – enhances the meat’s juiciness. To ensure you always have tender, juicy cuts of meat, avoid overcooking. Less fat content means that wild game cooks faster, and it’s important to avoid foul tasting meat. Finally, keep your dish simple. A little bit of salt can help, but if the meat’s prepared and cooked properly, you won’t need much else to enhance the experience.

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