Image by gm_pentaxfan
Game meat is a staple in our home. It makes up probably 60-70% of the meat we eat. From venison to duck and rabbit to dove it’s on our table more often than not.
I often hear gasps or “yucks” from people when I take left-overs to work or tell them what we had for dinner. I also hear what I call “myths” about game meat that either aren’t true or are easily eliminated with proper preparation.
Myth 1– Game Meat is Just Like Beef or it Tastes Like Chicken
Let’s bust this myth right off the bat because this is sometimes what gets people into trouble when they prepare game meat.
You cannot think of a venison roast as you would a beef roast. The flavor profile is different, the texture is different and so it the temperament of the meat.
Repeat after me “I will never say ‘it tastes like chicken’ ever again.”
Ducks everywhere are offended when we humans wrongly assume that they taste like their feathered distant cousins.
Research and care should be taken as you start to prepare game meat. If you’ve had a bad experience with preparation or with taste don’t give up! Like Aunt Sally’s Sourdough recipe, you just need to give yourself grace and time to practice.
Each game animal has unique qualities that require attention when processed and prepared. It’s not as daunting as you think, no more so than knowing the difference in how long to cook kidney beans over mung beans.
Myth #2 – It Tastes Gamey
What the heck is gamey anyway and who decided that gamey was a taste?
I understand the taste that people are talking about but “gamey,” to me, isn’t a good description. What we really mean is “it tastes like meat, like all natural, wild, the way it should but we’re not used to this because everything else we eat was raised in a cage or stall with no access to its natural environment.”
To illustrate my point let’s talk about chicken. (I realize this isn’t a game meat but stay with me here.) Store-bought chicken has bulging breasts, thick thighs and juices that ooze, I mean run, from it when poked with a fork. It also lived in a cage, never got exercise, got fed hormones, gmo grain and never ate a single bug.
Compare that to the girls running around in my back yard, or yours or your farmer’s. They run, they exercise, the build muscle, they eat bugs, leftover spaghetti and take dirt baths.
The first chicken is tender why, because it hasn’t built up any muscle and muscle is tough. It was injected with a “solution” to keep it moist and juicy. Go ahead, read the bag the chicken came in. It probably says right on it “in a solution” “with solution.” Dare I ask what that “solution” is? Wait, that’s another issue entirely.
My point is, a chicken, a truly free-ranging, pastured bird you raise or buy from a trusted local source is going to taste different than a store-bought bird. The free-bird tastes….well, gamey.
The difference is the quality of the meat, based on what the chicken ate, as well as the amount of exercise the bird got.
This is what makes game meat “gamey.” Deer and elk, duck and wild turkey live in their natural environment and therefore taste as they should, like meat.
Myth #3 – Game Meat is Greasy
I hear this about venison in particular very often. I can’t help but stare at people when they say this and wonder if they have ever prepared or ever actually ate venison from the wild. My roasts have so little fat on them that I add butter when I put them in the crock pot.
We mix our burger with hamburger to add fat in so that there is some fat-content in the meat for cooking and flavor.
Having watched my husband butcher countless deer over the last 10 years I can tell you that if done properly, there is very little fat left on the meat. Venison is not marbled like some beef is. It’s meat, solid meat.
I assume folks who have had “greasy” venison have either had venison that was not butchered properly, burger that was mixed with hamburger containing way too much fat content or they had farm-raised venison that might be fattier than wild deer.
Duck in particular is another so called greasy meat. Ducks do have a very large layer of fat on them, designed that way due to the environment in which they live. They need it to stay warm.
Proper preparation of a duck results in a tender red meat with a crisp skin and very little fat. Please don’t assume the duck is equivalent to chicken, it’s nothing like chicken. If you are planning on preparing duck you should do a bit of research first. It can very easily end up with the consistency of liver.
Myth #4 – It’s Dry
Here again, proper preparation is key as with any meat. Chicken can get dry if you cook it to death. Covering a duck or other waterfowl with bacon and cooking it slow is a great way to get juicy meat.
Again, with venison I add butter to my roasts and plenty of it!
Myth #5 – Game Meat is Tough
Sometimes, yes it is!
Commercially raised and even humanely raised animals are all harvested at peak age for the best quality meat.
When a hunter harvests a Canada goose or rabbit there’s no telling the age or condition of the animal. You’ll only know this after it’s been examined and sometimes after it’s been processed.
This is why when taking bigger game like deer, bear, elk or other big game a hunter looks for a mature but not old animal (unless they are just trophy hunting.)
Image by ilmungo
The same is true of duck, turkey, goose or any other water fowl or game bird. They are not chickens. Repeat after me “I will never say ‘tastes like chicken’ ever again.”
If you husband has proudly flopped a duck or goose on your counter and you have no idea what to do with it here are a few good resources on preparing game.
- Wedliny Domowe – The site has lots of information about Polish sausage but the link provided is right to the Game Meat section.
- Food.com – They have a section of great recipes for game, waterfowl and other exotic meats.
- Wild Game Recipes – I have gotten a few good recipes from them. It’s a straight-forward no frills site.