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Gourmet Wild Game: How to Elevate Your Harvest

Gourmet Wild Game
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Gourmet wild game recipes represent the ultimate respect of the harvest.

The more people who experiment with wild game meat, the more new and ground-breaking dishes we'll get. We know there's a lot of traditional hunters out there who are just dying for some new and unusual dishes this year, and anyone with some time and devotion can do it.

People are making use of more wild game meat than ever before, and many of them are experimenting with food in ways we haven't seen before. With wild game meat being a much healthier alternative than some of the stuff that shows up in the supermarket, it's not surprising that game farms that grow deer, bison, even antelope and wild boar have been flourishing.

But nothing quite compares to harvesting your own wild game.

With a fresh harvest of the first deer of the season, most hunters are looking for a good way to cook the backstraps or the tenderloins. But it doesn't stop there; other parts of the deer can be turned into gourmet meals with a little effort.

Whether you're cooking is done by grilling or in a smoker, you'll be happy to know that there are a lot of choices out there for a can't-go-wrong version of cooking your favorite wild game. Short of offering up actual recipes, we want to encourage and inspire you to kick things up a notch. You'll never know if you're capable of creating a gourmet wild game meal until you try!

The Beginning of Good Wild Game Meals

Gourmet Wild Game
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First off, we need to remember that it's not all about deer meat. Let's not forget about elk, quail, wild duck, geese, and certainly wild turkey. Heck, you can even mention alligator, caribou, or bear meat, and each one deserves a gourmet version! The point is that all of our esteemed wild meats need to be respected with care and dignity to make sure that little is wasted.

As with any type of wild game meat, we always consider the best cuts first like the backstrap and the tenderloin. In birds it is the breast meat and for wild hogs it's the ribs or the hind quarters. But how we extract and care for those parts truly matters.

The first form of care comes in the processing. The hunter needs to properly field dress an animal so as not to spoil any part of the carcass by either tearing through the entrails and tainting good meat, or by wasting parts of the meat by going too quickly and making poor cuts with their knife.

Secondly, many like to hang the body for a day or two - some even longer than that - to "age" and tenderize the meat. This is typically done in an optimal temperature, something above freezing but not much more than 40 degrees. Basically speaking, this allows natural bacteria in the air to begin to break down the muscle and fiber tissue.

For many, now is the time for a good game processor, but so many veteran hunters are skilled and prepared to butcher their own deer. For those who don't butcher their own, or just don't have the facilities, deer processors everywhere count on this time of the year to really make ends meet. Either way you go, it's important to trust the abilities of whoever butchers the meat.

For smaller game animals, knife skills and experience become even more important. Study up and ask for help if you're a beginner, and you'll be plucking goose feathers or skinning squirrels in no time.

Just remember, poorly processed or butchered game meat can be the beginning of a bad meal no matter how hard you try.

Venison Recipes

Gourmet Wild Game
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The most popular hunting in the nation is undoubtedly deer hunting. With that in mind, a few things need to be kept at the forefront. Remember that venison and many other forms of wild game meat are very lean and you need to be careful not to overcook them.

This certainly includes variations in cooking time, type of marinade, the differences in cuts of meat (from the loin to simple venison steaks and ground venison), and temperature. Things like a venison pot roast or venison stew mean more time in the pot, but done right, they can turn into the succulent meat that everyone enjoys. Even jerky needs to be made correctly for it to be the treat it really is.

How to Create Gourmet Meals From Free-Range Meat

Branch out beyond the same recipes you always use, year after year, and try something a little more elevated. If you're using venison, find a gourmet beef steak recipe and adapt it. Look towards the multitude of wild game chefs creating exceptional meals, and follow their guidance. Or, check out the recipe selection we've got here at Wide Open Spaces for a little inspiration. And of course, check out what our colleagues at Wide Open Eats have in the wild game category. They've listed some of the best ways to cook our favorite, including everything from deer and elk, to game birds like duck and pheasant. Wait until you see the recipe for the Grilled Apple Cinnamon Marinated Venison Steak!

New recipes come and go, but high quality wild game has many alternative ways to be cooked. From the slow cooker to the pellet grill, there is something there for everyone's taste. With a side of veggies and a glass of wine, any dish can be good, but great dishes start in the field before they ever end up on the table.

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Gourmet Wild Game: How to Elevate Your Harvest