If you're struggling with the gamey taste in wild meat, start here.
You spend a lot of time, effort and money in going about chasing down wild game for the freezer. The last thing you want in wild meat is a gamey taste when it comes time to cook it. All is not lost if the first time you tried to eat your hard-earned meal, the gamey flavor was just too overpowering to enjoy anything. Thankfully, we've found a few kitchen hacks when it comes to cooking venison, elk or other game animals that takes those stronger flavors right out.
A lot of people love to tell you how much they hate eating wild game meat because of the overpowering flavor. When it comes down to the facts, though, they probably never actually ate a properly field-dressed animal.
On top of that, the wild game meat might not have been prepared according to traditional wild game recipes. Game meats aren't the same as beef. Unfortunately, many try to cook it the same way.
The following suggestions are true results from nothing but trial and error. My wife hates the gamey taste of venison. However, we've found a few ways around this that I'm sure will work for most other deer hunting fanatics too. If you think something tastes gamey, here's where you start to turn that around.
1. Field dressing basics
One of the biggest reasons your venison or other wild game might have a strong gamey taste starts in the field. The key to getting great-tasting game meats is to get the animal gutted and cooled as quickly as possible. The longer the animal stays in the field, overnight for example due to a bad shot, the worse it's going to taste.
Enzymes start breaking down inside the animal fairly rapidly. The warmer it is outside, the quicker this process happens. For most hunters, this is the biggest reason your meat tastes terrible.
A lot of hunters also tend to believe it's necessary to hang and bleed an animal after it's been gutted. Often these are the same hunters who always seem to be over-marinating their meals, even with grass fed beef at the summer BBQ. Simply put, a shot through the vitals that bleeds quite a bit is usually enough. It's this blood that remains in the muscles that create that overpowering, gamey taste.
If you want that gamey taste out, put more emphasis on proper cleaning and getting your deer to a professional processor or your home butchering station rather than hanging it. This is especially important with deer meat.
2. Soaking it
Here's where you'll probably get the most advice as it pertains to wild game meat. A lot of suggestions like to recommend soaking your game meat in vinegar. Seeing as vinegar is very acidic, this technique can often dry out the meat making it very tough. Instead, soaking the meat in milk or even buttermilk gets much better results with most wild animals, especially with backstraps.
For a lot of old school cooks, this is must-do step before putting any wild game meat in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. A saltwater brine is also a very popular choice. The salt helps suck a lot of the bad flavors right out. Make sure you give the meat a good clean water bath before cooking, though. Otherwise, the salt can really overpower.
Marinades are also a great way to reduce the gamey taste in wild meat. There are a variety available on the market, but something as simple as soaking it in Italian dressing can be enough. Ultimately, this helps remove more of the blood from the meat, leaving only the tissue behind. As mentioned already, that blood when it cooks is a big contributor to a strong game flavor.
3. Silver skin
Taking the time to remove the silver skin and other connective tissues before cooking will pay off dividends with gamey meat when it comes time to sit down and eat your meal. This is especially important with some game birds like pheasant, or a whitetail backstrap.
If you have a strong gamey taste in wild big game meat at your house, this very well may be the culprit, regardless of whether any of the previous strategies worked. These tissues are very strong and full of unwanted flavors. Taking the time using a small knife, or even a fork in some cases, can improve the entire cooking experience.
Removing the fat in red meat altogether is a must if people in your family have a sensitive stomach regarding wild game. In range-fed beef, the fat is a great flavor addition. In wild game, the fat doesn't do a whole lot but make your house smell and ruin your meat.
4. Don't overcook!
Overcooking wild game meat is a cardinal sin. The game taste in wild meat is actually amplified the more you cook it. Low and slow is the name of this game.
Any pan seared venison needs only a little bit of time on both sides, but medium rare should be about all the meat is cooked at the most. Seeing as there is not a whole lot of fat, game meats cook surprisingly quick. If you're doing all of the above and still getting a strong, gamey taste, this just might be why.
Again, trial and error is a great teacher when it comes to removing gaminess. If the gamey taste in wild meat turned you off to it years ago, perhaps it's time to try it again. Only this time, hopefully you can keep a few of these tricks up your sleeve.
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