Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: August 19, 2022

I’ve been on a carnivore diet for more than a decade, and I admit, eating the same cuts of meat gets tiresome after a while. That’s why I started to include game meat in my diet. Kangaroo, boar, pheasant, venison… you name it, I’ve tried it.

Game meat is a great way to get variety in your meals, but the main issue is cooking. You can’t cook game the same way you’d cook traditional meat. I’ve perfected cooking wild game over the last couple of years, so today, I’ll explain everything you should know about cooking wild meat.

Quick Summary

  • You should follow certain steps before you cook wild meat and prepare it correctly.
  • Game is much leaner compared to traditional meat, so it’s easy to dry it out when cooking.
  • The best cooking method for game is slow cooking for very tough cuts or roasting for big game animals.

Preparing Game Meat

Close up shot of raw game meat

Before you actually start cooking, you have to prepare game meat. Here’s how to do it:

  • Clean it — Hygiene is important, so make sure to clean any traces of the hunt from the meat, as well as your hands and implements.
  • Defrost — If your wild meat is frozen, you should bring it to room temperature before cooking. Game shrinks easily if you expose it to high temperature while cold, and the juices squeeze out, so you’re left with a dry ball. Make sure to slowly defrost the meat.
  • Season it — Game meats also need to be seasoned. You should salt the meat before cooking. Pat the entire cut with salt and let it rest for about an hour, so the salt can penetrate the meat.
  • Know when to cut it — Game meat is lean meat, so the most important thing during cooking is to preserve the juiciness. This is why cutting is important. You can cook a large cut whole and then carve it into portions once it’s cooked. Wild game is usually very flavorful, especially compared to domesticated animals, so you can cut it into smaller portions.

Cooking Wild Game Meat

The most important thing to keep in mind when cooking wild meat is that it’s lean. There’s not a lot of fatty tissue because game animals aren’t fattened and kept in pens and cages but are allowed to roam free.

This results in healthy, lean meat.

Cooking Small Game

Cooked pheasant with garnish on a plate

Here’s how to cook small game meats, which are typically game birds:

  • Pheasant — The size of a chicken, usually 2 to 3 pounds. It’s best to roast it whole or cook breasts and legs separately. It’s very lean, so you need to add moisture during the cooking. It’s best to cook the whole pheasant on low heat to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Other cooking methods include oven or roasting.
  • Squab — Even smaller than pheasant, it’s only about 1 oz in size. This is a dark red meat that resembles a duck. Squab is very tender and best-cooked medium-rare to medium, roasted or grilled. You should cook the whole bird to preserve the juice.
  • Quail — This is the smallest of game birds, weighing 4 to 6 oz. It’s great for stuffing or roasting. You can also marinade the quail and grill, oven-roast, or fry it.

“When I cook pheasant, I like to stew the breasts slowly in a ton of onions, thyme, and olive oil until they are just done. Most of the time, I like to mince all of that together with raw foie gras and fill it into a simple pasta. Also, pheasant thighs are great fried and can be treated like chicken wings—sauced however you like.”
- Mike DeCamp, Chef of Jester Concepts Restaurant Group

Cooking Big Game

Raw meat on a black plate on a black table

Here’s how to cook big game meats, which are a great substitute for beef:

  • Bison — Has an earthy flavor. You can use bison steak, tenderloin, ground meat, and short ribs instead of beef. Bison is best roasted, braised, grilled, or made into a stew.
  • Venison — Venison is deer meat and is one of the most popular wild game cuts. Wild venison has a gamy flavor, but farm-raised venison is less gamy because it has a consistent diet. Venison meat is incredibly versatile, and any venison cut can replace beef. This is big game so you can cook it in different ways. Make a venison pie, stew meat, beef Wellington, or pot roast.
  • Wild boar — Is mostly pasture-raised, although there are some still in the wild. This is pig’s ancestor, so if you love that pork fat, it’s the best wild substitution. It’s leaner and darker than pork and has a sweeter flavor. It’s typically slow-cooked over low heat.

Generally, you can’t go wrong with roasting a big game. You can use dry or moist heat. You can roast wild boar, bear meat, elk, or large deer in dry heat.

These are naturally tender, so they don’t need to be cooked for a long time to become tender. If you opt for dry heat, cook the meat rare to medium. You risk drying out and shrinking the game meat if you cook it.

You can also use moist heat when cooking other game meats, such as wildfowl.
For example, moist heat will tenderize wildfowl and make the juices run clear. Moist heat is great for tenderizing tough cuts, such as bottom round and eye of round.

Finally, use a meat thermometer to check meat doneness. The USDA recommends certain temperatures when preparing the game, so you should stick to these [1].

Tips for Cooking Game

A butcher chef posing for the camera

Here’s what to keep in mind when cooking wild cuts:

  • Start small — If this is the first time you’re cooking wild meat, don’t start with wild boar, but something smaller. For example, pick a recipe you’re comfortable with and substitute traditional with wild cuts.
  • Always use a meat thermometer — Don’t rely on cooking time, but make sure to use a meat thermometer. Organ meats, prime cuts, and different wild cuts all cook differently, so you should use a thermometer to check doneness.
  • Don’t overcook — Game is almost fat-free, so you should cook it on the rare side or medium-rare instead of well-done, or you risk ending up with a shriveled piece of meat.
  • Brine or marinade — These are time-consuming, but it works great on wild meat. You improve the moisture and flavor when you soak the meat in a salt solution with black pepper. Plus, you aren’t ruining the protein bonds, but the water is trapped in cells, which results in a juicy cut. 

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FAQs

How Do You Cook a Wild Game Steak?

You cook a wild game steak by grilling it or cooking it in the pan for 5 to 7 minutes per side. The internal temperature should be between 117 to 125 degrees.

Can You Grill Game Meat?

Yes, you can grill game meat. It’s easy to access the meat with a thermometer while grilling, so you can check when the steaks are done.

How Should You Cook Game?

Cooking game requires more careful handling and attention compared to cooking a domestic animal, but when done right, you’re guaranteed a tender and juicy flavor.

If you’re a game newbie, start with game birds. These resemble chicken in size and are easy to prepare. Or, go for venison or elk meat if you want a juicy steak.

It’s never been easier to get a hold of some wild meat, but you should make sure only to buy from reputable sellers. If you’re on the lookout for a wild meat supplier, check out our round-up of the six best game meat delivery services.

Partnered with ethical farms, these companies are guaranteed to provide you with game meat that is 100% organic, without added hormones or antibiotics.


References:

  1. https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/19032/Game
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