Don’t Suffer through Gamey Tasting Dinners Anymore

In Montana, hunting is a way of life.  It’s in our blood, our DNA, it’s just what we do here.

While there are a plethora of deer, elk, antelope and other game animals to hunt, there’s a big drawback for many people: they can’t stomach the taste.

Wild game is much leaner than any beef you will buy in the store.  Science tells us that the fat content is where the flavor is.  So when you have a nice marbled steak, it’s packed full of flavor.  But since you can’t get that marbling on wild game, you end up picking up flavors that you just kind of don’t care for.

How do you get around that?  A lot of it is how you handle the meat, cook it, and (of course) season it.

Create the Perfect Prime Rib Style Roasts

When you harvest a deer or an elk, one of the biggest pieces of meat you get is along the top of the ribs.  The back strap is one of the most prized pieces of meat due to its size, cleanliness, and tenderness.

Many people slice the straps into one-inch thick steaks.  There is, however, a better way to cook this amazing piece of meat.

When you’re dealing with beef, the prime rib cut is what we call the backstrap on wild game; the difference in cuts being that with beef you generally take some of the ribs as well.  Those similarities, however, mean that you can cook them in nearly the same manner.

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Instead of slicing inch-thick steaks, clean the backstraps up, and cut them into sections that are six to eight inches each.  On a deer you will get three to five cuts.

The only seasonings you need are salt and pepper.  Liberally coat all sides of the roast, and let it rest for 30 minutes until it’s about at room temperature.

Wild Game Prime Rib
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

Heat a cast iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil until it’s piping hot.  Then sear the roast on all sides until it’s good and brown.  It should take about 60 seconds per side.  Take the skillet off the heat and lay down pieces of celery (alternatively if your garden produced a boatload of zucchini you can slice those up and use those).  The goal is to keep the meat from touching the metal.

How to cook wild game
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

Lay the roast on the celery, and insert a probe thermometer to know just went to extract it.  Slide the skillet and the roast into the oven at 450 to 500 degrees, and cook until it hits 140 degrees.

Cooking wild game prime rib
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

When you take it out, set it on a plate and cover with tinfoil for 15 minutes.  You want the temperature to come down slowly so you don’t lose all your juices.  Slice about a quarter inch thick, and serve with horseradish.

Prime Rib meal
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

Burgers that Will Knock Your Socks Off

How do you gussy up a burger?  It’s more than just the fixin’s that go along with it.  In fact, it’s much more when you want a delicious burger without the gamey taste.

A little disclaimer here, I don’t really measure my ingredients for this one.  Just toss them in there and hope for the best.

Ingredients List:

  • Antelope, deer, or elk burger
  • Bacon
  • Bread crumbs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper + Seasoning Salt

Chop the bacon into pieces and fry it up.  If you think you have enough, add a little bit more.  Dump these homemade bacon bits into a bowl with the burger.

Wild Game Burger Recipe
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

Mince the garlic and fry it in a dab of olive oil.  Keep roasting it until it just starts to brown, and dump that into the bowl with the burger and bacon.

Sprinkle in a bit of parmesan, a handful of breadcrumbs (I prefer panko), a bit of fresh basil, and a good helping of gorgonzola cheese (you can use a different kind of cheese if you don’t like gorgonzola, but I find the sharpness contrasts well with the bacon).  Salt and pepper just a touch.

Mix everything up real well, and form into hamburger patties.  Make them as big or small as you like.

Toss them onto the grill and sprinkle with a little bit of seasoning salt.

Grilling Wild Game burgers
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

One of the mistakes a lot of people make when it comes to wild game burgers is they’re entirely overcooked.  Without the fat content that beef has, the meat cooks a lot faster and shrinks less.  Make sure you pull them off before they get too well done, or they get dry and flavorless.

Wild Game Burger
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

When in doubt, pull one off and crack it in half; if it’s too pink put it back on for a spell.

Stew Meat that will Stick to Your Bones

When the weather cools, is there anything better than a warm bowl of stew?  Probably, but stew is also really good… but only if the meat is done just right.  There’s not much worse than a bowl of stew that has tough and chewy meat, or worse meat that tastes like a deer smells.

Best Wild Game Stew Recipe
Credit: Scott Sery, Townsquare Media

The key to fantastic stew meat is twofold: one in how you cook it, and two in how you get it off the animal.  When you process your deer, keep it away from the hair and hide to avoid transferring nasty oils, hairs, smells, and flavors to the meat.  Instead of freezing the roasts whole, chop them into ¾ to 1 inch chunks, and freeze them already cubed.

When it’s time to make the stew, make sure your cubes are thawed completely.  One of the fastest ways to make wild game chewy is to cook it when it’s still frozen.

Before you do anything, put the meat into a colander and rinse it, rinse it good.  This will get the remaining blood off and ensure you have nice clean meat to work with.  You can lay it out on paper towels to pat it dry, but I prefer just to toss it around in the colander a bit.

Drip a dollop of olive oil into a skillet and turn the burner on to get it hot.  Then, sprinkle a little salt and pepper in with your meat cubes.  Toss them around to coat them, and throw them into the skillet and let them sear.  The goal here is to keep them moving around and brown them on all sides.  We’re not worried about cooking it through just yet.

The next part is the easy part.  Throw it in the slow cooker with a few cups of beef stock, and add whatever else you think would make a good stew.  My preferred ingredients are below.

  • A little bit of roasted onion
  • A lotta bit of roasted garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • A can of diced tomatoes (fresh if they’re still around)
  • A stalk of sliced celery (don’t go overboard here)
  • Spices (usually a bit of thyme and some rosemary)
  • Cornstarch at the end (to thicken it if you want)

Then cook it on high until it starts to simmer, and turn it to low for at least 4 hours.  The slow cooker will tenderize even the toughest of game meats.

Sustainable Food Sources Help Keep Your Grocery Costs Down

Hunting, when done right, provides meat a whole lot cheaper than buying beef at the store.  But most people skip it because wild game can be a bit gamey tasting.

If you’re careful when you process your animal, and get that hide away from the meat quickly, half the battle is over.  Then, it’s a matter of cooking slowly and making sure you’re not drying things out.

When it comes down to it, you can fill the freezer for a fraction of the cost of buying meat, and then using a little creativity come up with some amazingly easy, and tasty meals.

If all else fails, just season the crap out of it and turn it into taco meat.

States with the most registered hunters

Stacker analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine which states have the most registered hunters. Read on to see how your state ranks on Stacker’s list.

10 Best Steakhouses in Montana

If you live in Montana, you have to love a good steak dinner now and then. Luckily, here in Montana, we have steakhouses that spread far and wide throughout the state. If you are traveling through Montana or vacationing around the state, give one of these places a try.

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