Summer means grilling season has officially begun, and there’s no better way to get your grill back in gear than with the game you’ve harvested over the past few seasons. These wild game grilling hacks will ensure you have the most deliciously cooked-to-perfection fare all summer long.
Game can be tricky when it comes to proper cooking, and it’s easy to end up with meats that are questionably underdone, taste similar to shoe leather, or just have no taste at all. Heck, even grills themselves can be tricky—too hot, not hot enough, uneven heat, covered in last season’s stuck-on remnants—you name it.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
1. Clean your grill with an onion
This is one of my favorite tricks. Cut an onion in half, brush the cut side with oil and rub it across the grates of a hot grill to clean and disinfect it. Not only will it get the grill prepped for the food, it will add a hint of onion flavor. Win, win.
2. Egg carton + briquettes = quick fire starter for campsite grills
Warm weather brings out the camper in me, but it’s not on the top of my list to lug a bag of charcoal through the woods along with my venison burgers to grill at the campsite. Using a cardboard (only) egg carton, fill each egg cup with a briquette, then close the carton. Boom. Easy to transport, easy to get that fire started.
3. Put herbs directly on the coals
Want to add the smoky flavor of sage to that grilled pheasant without having bits of it in your marinade? You can put sage and other herbs, like bay leaves, rosemary, and basil, directly on the coals, permeating the meat with their flavors and scents. It’s just like infusing BBQ with a hickory flavor by using hickory wood chips—you wouldn’t chop them up and add them to your food, right?
4. Use a rub instead of a marinade to save time
When your neighbor calls at 5:00 to invite you over for a cookout at 6:00, but casually asks if you can bring a few of those quail you’ve got in the freezer, please and thank you, you don’t have much time to work with when it comes to flavoring the meat. A quick and easy rub made of garlic and spices will do the trick in minutes, particularly when you don’t have the time to let a marinade sit for several hours.
5. Use a cooler to transport cooked meat
No, not a cooler filled with ice to keep it cold. It can do the opposite too! Using just tin foil and a few towels, you can keep meat at serving temperature for several hours.
6. Add ground beef to ground venison
It’s happened to us all – you’re expecting eight people at your cookout, and somehow 15 show up. Everyone’s hungry, but you just don’t have enough for all those patties. Add some store-bought ground chuck to the mix to beef up the amount (pun not intended) and ensure that everyone gets one of your famous [almost all] venison burgers.
7. Add herb butter to burgers
Venison burgers have a tendency to dry out pretty quickly, as the meat is so lean. Kill two birds with one stone by adding a pat of herb butter in in the middle of the patty before you cook it. The butter will melt and keep the meat nice and juicy, and the herbs will flavor it.
8. Add mustard to the raw side of burgers
With the same idea of keeping burgers juicy, spread mustard on the raw side of the patty before you flip it. The mustard will flavor the meat and create a nice caramelized crust on the outside, maintaining that tender inside.
9. Grill your burger buns
This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but you can take it one step further. Catch some of the fat drippings from the meat and reserve it in a small dish. Infuse it with herbs like rosemary or thyme and some garlic, then brush it on the inside of the bun before putting it on the grill and toast it to flavorful perfection.
10. Use rosemary sprigs as skewers
Rosemary and pork—a classic combo. Make the rosemary pull double duty by using the sprigs at skewers for your wild boar kebabs. Just remove the leaves from the stem, leaving an inch or two of them at the top, and add the meat just like you would on a regular skewer. The rosemary will add it’s flavor to the meat, and you’ll look pretty creative when it comes time to serve your guests.
11. Charcoal: divide and conquer
Indirect heat is usually best for larger cuts of meat (think: venison roast), and that’s easy to attain on the grill. Simply push all of the coals to one side of the grill, and you’ll have two temperature surfaces to work with. Sear the meat first on the hot side to get a nice crust, then move it over to the coal-less side for the remainder of its grill time for a nice, even cook all the way through.
12. Flip once
To prevent venison filets from getting too tough, try to avoid moving it too much and flip it just once. It will cook the majority of the way through on one side, and you’ll get that nice crispy grilled char without overdoing it.
13. Use a metal skewer to test temperature
Don’t have a meat thermometer? Improvise! Stick a metal skewer into the thickest part of the meat, pull it out, and [carefully] touch it to your chin. Cool means keep on cooking, warm means it’s medium rare, and hot means get it off the grill ASAP.
14. Pre-cook duck
Duck is one of those precarious meats that can go from raw to I-can’t-cut-this-with-a-chainsaw overdone before you can say “mallard.” Pre-cook a whole duck in the oven (the size of the duck will determine the timing), then finish it off for the last 20 minutes or so on the grill. You’ll get crispy skin on the outside and add that wonderful just-grilled flavor.
15. When in doubt, add bacon
This last one is for those who aren’t a huge fan of gamey-tasting meat, but want to branch out beyond turkey burgers and lamb chops. Use dove breasts or duck breasts cut into bite-sized pieces, wrap them in bacon, and add them to a hot grill. The bacon will help seal in the juices and prevent over-cooking, adding it’s own delightful flavor as it does.
Now that you’re the master at grilling wild game, check out 10 Game & Fish Recipes to Grill for Your Next Cookout [PICS].