Wild game meat, once processed and cooked correctly, will taste a whole lot better than whatever you can get from the supermarket. Plus, being able to taste the proverbial fruit of your labor is a sublime experience for every hunter.
But processing and cooking wild game is easier said than done. Especially if you’re new to hunting. This guide is everything that you’ll need to serve up a platter of perfectly cooked wild game meat!
What Is Game Processing? How to Do It?
Before you can cook your wild game meat, you have to process it first (skinning, butchering, and so on). Game processing is an art that must be learned, then mastered over the years. So, don’t be too disheartened if you’re unable to make perfect cuts the first time around.
There are many advantages to game processing.
First, you will be able to preserve the meat for longer and can bring it from the field all the way back home for proper cooking.
Second, game processing allows you to make the most out of each game. You can cut off and use every part of the animal without wasting anything.
Third and lastly, game processing gives you the ability to customize each cut to your exact specification. Want a large cut of flank or loin for a steak? You can do that at will. Want a whole rack of ribs? Saw it off the animal and remove or retain anything that you want.
What Are the Tools Needed to Do Game Processing?
- Gloves: a pair of gloves will keep your hands free from blood.
- Bone saw: cutting through tough bones isn’t a job suitable for a knife. Take a specialized bone saw, instead.
- Knives: a variety of knives is great for trimming and cutting through flesh. A game processing set will typically have everything that you will need. But overall, you need at least two types of knives in your kit: a fillet knife and a chef’s knife. The former will help with trimming, the latter will help with cutting.
- Game bags: after you have processed the animal, game bags can aid you with cataloging the meats (loins and flanks from neck and shoulder, for example). The bags will also protect the meat from the environment and insects.
- Coolers: a good cooler is an absolute must for a hunter. Filled up with ice, the cooler can freshly preserve the meat for weeks.
- Preservative: meat preservatives such as citric acid can be a helpful addition to your kit. They help repel insects and ward off bacteria.
How to Process a Deer or Elk
Processing deer ( as well as elk and antelope) is quite simple. Cutting is done by muscle groups. If you’re still quite new and aren’t sure what (or where) the muscle groups are, you can use an anatomy chart to make it easier.
But, basically, there are four major parts that you should try to extricate from the animal carcass:
- Rear (hind) quarters
- Front quarters
- Ribs and backstraps
Each part can be broken down into smaller cuts, such as the rump, shanks, loins, flanks, shoulders, brisket, and so on.
How to Cook Wild Game Meat
After you’re done processing, the next step is to cook it.
Wild game is typically very lean compared to farm-grown meat. So, it’s very easy to dry it out. Therefore, if you want to keep the meat juicy, it’s important to use low heat as well as keep the meat rare (at least for deer meat).
If you’re about to cook bear meat, make sure that it’s cooked thoroughly. Bear meat may contain trichinosis.
What’s the Taste and Texture of Wild Game Meat Like?
Of course, the taste (and even the texture) will depend on the species and a variety of other factors (sex, age, whether it’s in the rut or not).
Deer meat is commonly described as earthy and rich. Texture-wise, deer meat is a bit smoother and firmer than beef, but it’s less juicy. Other common games like elk and moose are different in taste and texture, but not drastic. You can cook them using pretty much the same process and recipe as deer.
How to Grill Venison
There are many different recipes that you can prepare with wild game meat like venison.
But in this short guide, we’ll introduce you to the most popular: grilled venison. It’s an excellent way to tastily prepare hunted meat. This same recipe can also be applied to other popular games, such as elk and moose.
Additionally, this recipe can be done using very few tools. So, there’s no need to draw the meat all the way back home and into a proper kitchen. You can make this right at camp if you’re planning to stay overnight.
- 2 pounds of venison, roasted, and cut into smaller chunks.
- 2 pounds of potatoes, halved
- 1 pound of carrots
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 stick of butter
- Aluminum foil
This will be good enough for 1 to 2 people. However, if you’re cooking for more, simply increase the number of ingredients.
Wondering how much meat will your deer yield? An average deer will yield around 50 to 60 pounds of meat. So, the venison part in the recipe isn’t a problem. Just make sure that you bring enough veggies and other ingredients to make up for the larger meat portion if you have to make multiple servings.
Any venison that’s still leftover, throw it into an icy cooler to preserve until you come back home and put it in proper storage.
Lay the large sheet of aluminum foil you got on a table. Then, put the venison at the very center of the foil.
Lay the potatoes, carrots, and onions around the meat chunks.
Add salt and pepper to season the meat and the veggies. If you have a favorite seasoning, add it into the mix, too.
Add a little bit of moisture to keep the meat tender and juicy. You can use filtered (or bottled) water or beer. Around half a cup will do the trick nicely.
Lastly, throw the stick of butter on top. Then, grab the corners of the aluminum foil and bundle it all up into a tight package. Fold it tight enough that the ingredients are securely locked within and none of the moisture drips out.
Prepare a bed of coals on the ground or inside of a pot. Light it up. Once the coals start to turn white, lay the package of venison on top.
The coals will vaporize the water or beer you added earlier, turning it into steam. This steam will cook up the meat and the ingredients, eventually giving you tenderized meat after approximately 45 to 50 minutes.
Open up the package. You can eat straight from the aluminum foil itself or you can pick the meat out and onto plates.
The most difficult part of cooking wild game meat, really, is the processing. To be able to strip clean a deer carcass takes quite some skill and experience. But, in time, you will be able to field strip like a pro with proper guidance. The cooking part really isn’t an issue at all.
Anyhow, with it done and dealt with. If you’re looking for more reading materials, here is a great article from our team about the best rubber hunting boots to stay dry and comfortable on the hunt. A well-made pair will be a great addition to your starter hunting kit (if you haven’t had one already).
Want to read more of our latest posts? Check out our review of this modern Indian Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.