Eating game meat like venison, bison, duck, or rabbit is a great way to become healthier and more self-sufficient in your meat routine. But the gamey flavor associated with it can be off-putting. Whether you hunt your own or just buy it at the store, there are several ways to prep, marinate, cook, and serve game meats without getting that gamey taste.
Field dress the game immediately.
If you’ve shot an animal, the best way to improve the taste of the meat is to remove the innards right away. Prompt field dressing will help cool the carcass down faster and stop the enzyme production that contributes to a gamey taste.
If you’re field dressing an elk or other large animal, you may need to do all your work in the same spot, since the animal will be difficult and time-consuming to move.
If you’re a beginner, start small by field dressing a rabbit.
Put the meat on ice.
Keep the meat cool by placing it into a cooler filled with ice. Or if you have immediate access to a refrigerator, you can wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook or freeze it.
Refrigerate the meat for three to seven days.
If you’re planning to cook the meat within the next week, you can leave it in the fridge. This will age and tenderize the meat, giving it better flavor. Wrap it in plastic or put it in a storage container until you’re ready to soak it.
Freeze the leftover meat for up to a year.
Wrap the meat you don’t plan to eat soon in plastic wrap, and wrap it again in freezer paper. Write the contents and freeze date on the outside, then store it in the freezer for no longer than a year to maintain the quality of the meat.
Cut the meat into pieces that will fit in a large bowl.
Decide what size bowl you’ll be using for the soak, and cut your meat down to fit it. You can cut it into steaks for grilling, small cubes for stew, or any other configuration that you like.
Soak the meat in buttermilk overnight.
Place the meat in a glass or ceramic bowl and pour in buttermilk until it covers the meat. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. The lactic acid in the buttermilk will tenderize the meat and draw out some of its gamey flavor.
If the meat was frozen, let it fully thaw in the fridge before you start soaking it.
Choose an acidic marinade.
The buttermilk soak can serve as a marinade, but if you prefer to do a more traditional marinade, choose one that contains an acidic ingredient like vinegar, fruit juice, or wine. These acidic bases will counteract the gamey taste of the meat.
Look up recipes online for marinades that go well with your particular type of meat.
Marinate the meat for at least three hours.
Pour enough marinade into a sealable plastic bag to cover the meat inside, then let it sit in the fridge for at least three hours. The longer you soak your meat in a marinade, the more flavor it will absorb, so let it sit longer if you want to further mask the taste of the meat.
Limit the marinating to 12 hours, since the meat could end up tasting too strongly of marinade.
Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Pull the meat out of the fridge and out of the marinade or buttermilk soak. Place it on a plate and let it sit on the counter for a few hours to come to room temperature. The meat will cook better if you’re not starting it from a cold state.
Use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking it.
Check the internal temperature of the meat periodically with a meat thermometer. Stick to an internal temperature of about 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 65 degrees C). This will keep the meat from getting overcooked and becoming dry.
Fry or brown the meat as quickly as possible.
If you’re frying your meat, set your stove to a medium-high heat to cook it more quickly. Allowing the meat to cook slowly on a lower setting will cause it to lose a lot of its juices, and you could end up with dry, gamey-tasting meat.
Let the meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Once you remove the meat from the heat source, place it on a plate and cover it with tin foil. Then let it rest in its juices for 10 to 15 minutes.
Trim as much fat as possible off the meat.
The fat of the meat will taste particularly gamey, so cut off as much as possible before serving. You can also try to do this when the meat is raw. The fat will be a lighter color than the rest of the meat, and it will have a slimier texture.
Pinch the fat between two fingers and pull it away from the meat. Then use a chef’s knife to slice it off.
Serve with a sweet or spicy sauce.
As with the marinade, the powerful flavors of a sweet or spicy sauce will detract from the gamey taste of the meat. Try a sweet barbecue sauce, a tangy mango sauce, or a spicy chipotle sauce.