We’ve all heard it or even said it. “I don’t like wild game because it tastes funny.” The biggest reason is lack of proper preparation both in the field and in the kitchen. I used to be “that guy” but I learned 12 steps to get the most out of wild game. Now family and friends beg me to make wild game dishes.
--Field dress the animal as soon as possible. Don’t drive around showing your trophy to all your buddies. Keep it cold. Keep it out of the sun and pack ice into the chest cavity to cool the carcass fast. If you’re butchering the animal yourself, act quickly. If you’re having a butcher do it, get it in their walk-in cooler ASAP
--Don’t let the meat “age”. Aging is the process allowing the meat fibers to break down and become tender. The aging process has to be done in a precisely controlled refrigeration unit and held at a specifically controlled humidity, all while being monitored. Few hunters have the facilities and training needed. One of the biggest mistakes is when game is hung outdoors and the weather gets above 40 degrees F, or the carcass is warmed by the sun. If you attempt it, you’re asking for a sub-standard or even a hazardous product.
--Keep it clean. No one likes hair, feathers, scales, or worse in their food. If you’re butchering it yourself, keep a bucket of clean hot water beside you to dip knives and fingers into to keep them clean. Hot water prevents fat from sticking to the knife blade. Keep the carcass off the ground. Microbes in the dirt can easily be transmitted to the carcass and contaminate the meat.
--Keep the butchering table clean and sanitized. There are stainless steel or folding plastic models available. Avoid wood cutting boards and tables because they can harbor bacteria.
--Have clean totes ready to place cuts of meat into until they can be wrapped.
--Vacuum pack the cuts of meat. Freezer burn is caused by the evaporation of moisture from meat. As moisture is sucked away the quality of the meat is destroyed. By vacuum packing meat freezer burn is stopped and it extends its quality for years. Vacuum packing doesn’t mean placing it in ordinary freezer bags. Vacuum packing uses a vacuum unit with a heat sealer that sucks all of the air out of the package, and then permanently seals it. I use a FoodSaver brand unit. I do not recommend any type bag other than those that use a heat seal. Tip: Slightly freeze the meat before vacuum packing it to eliminate the messy juices that result.
--Before using the meat, trim away as much of the fat and “silver meat” away possible. Cut out any bones. While beef, chicken, and hog fat tastes good to most folks, wild game fat can taste awful! Fat and bones radiate flavor into the meat as it cooks. By removing them before cooking the objectionable taste is eliminated.
--Soak the meat for thirty to sixty minutes in fresh water to remove any residual blood. Change the water as it becomes pink. Kneading the meat will help the process.
--Marinate red meat in buttermilk for a little while. Regular milk will also work. This will help cut the iron livery taste that some find objectionable.
--Use beef or chicken broth in the recipe to give it a more familiar flavor.
--Don’t overcook red meat. Game is very lean and can become tough if cooked as long as fatty beef or pork.
--Change it up. We get tired of venison stew. Use recipes that make the game meat special, like honey-glazed venison tenderloin, bear stroganoff, venison braciole, or ruffed grouse with mushrooms and mac and cheese.
There are thousands of wild game recipes on the Internet. Mix it up, use these 12 steps to get the most out of wild game and enjoy nature’s harvest.