Ask 10 folks and you'll receive 10 answers. We investigate the age-old question: "What's the best tasting wild game meat?"
Time to simmer up a squabble by asking that age old question "What's the best tasting wild game meat?" Make no mistake, we all have our favorite, but we should settle one thing right off the bat: whatever you're into, as long as it's harvested ethically, is alright with us.
Red meat and white meat aside, each different species of wild game animals have pros and cons. The venison you got from that whitetail last season and the meat from a migrating animal like a caribou is going to be different. But so will a whitetail shot in Michigan versus a whitetail shot in Texas. Diet, climate, and habitat can all have an effect on how things taste.
Even at that, the honest answer is that most of us have eaten a ton of whitetail venison, but not that many have had the chance to try caribou. We'll do what we can to try and solve this riddle, but it may come down to the fact that the only conclusion is inside each of us individually.
Let's take a quick look at some of the most obvious responses. Here are some of the possibilities.
- Whitetail Deer
- Mule Deer
- Pronghorn Antelope
- Sheep (Bighorn, Dall)
There are sportsmen and women across the globe that swear by deer meat, claiming it's better than any beef they've ever tasted. Whitetail get a lot of love, probably because they're the most heavily-hunted. Elk and bison are likely next on most preference lists, enough so that entire farms have been developed to produce their meat.
Moose is delicious to most people, but not everyone has had a chance to try it. Pronghorn and sheep aren't always known to have good-tasting meat, but it's often because of their food sources. We'd say it's worth it to try all of these before making your own decision.
Predators and Invasives
- Black Bears
- Wild Hog
Most game meat from predators ranks low on peoples' preference lists, but some swear that black bear meat, if handled and cooked properly, rivals any other wild animal. Bobcats, coyotes, and other predators are far less likely to be eaten, and that's probably because most don't like the taste.
Alligator needed to be mentioned, as did wild hog. Though both are great, they don't always come up in conversations about the best wild game meat there is.
- Wild Turkey
- Sandhill Crane
There are many types of grouse, partridge, and quail species, and it is reasonable to assume that there are differences between the tastes. It should also be said that, while most of us love the taste of puddle ducks over the diving breeds, once you've had canvasback you might just change your mind. Some diving ducks eat clams, mussels, and fish almost exclusively whereas mallards dine on water borne insects, aquatic plants, and grains they find.
Turkeys are heavily hunted, but not always enjoyed as table fare. And of course, the sandhill crane has earned the nickname "ribeye of the sky" for its incredible-tasting meat.
Pheasants in the north and quail in the south have deserved spots on the dinner table for sportsmen, and both often earn high marks for taste.
Again, these may not appear on many of the best tasting lists, but there are people who claim that chicken-fried squirrel is better than any other wild game meat. Others would argue that rabbit stew stacks up, and they wouldn't be wrong.
The Problem With "Gamey Meat"
At one time or another, we've all tasted some wild game meat and said to ourselves "This tastes gamey." This can be due to various reasons, most of which is caused by the simple fact that some wild game meat clearly tastes unfamiliar.
As we have said before, the things that matter the most are as follows:
- Field dressing basics
- Soaking/brining it
- Silver skin
- Don't overcook
So much of what gaminess in wild game is the diet that the animals have which is a part and parcel to how the fat in their skin develops.
Old Rutting Bucks, and Other Assumptions
As we all know, a rutting animal will lose weight, constantly fighting and stressing its muscles. And of course, that's the part we eat. We're not just talking about whitetail deer here; this can be a big hormonal bull elk on the move, or a big boar hog.
A testosterone-fueled deer, elk, or moose might come with a noticeably negative flavor and aroma, but it is a part of hunting. Field dressing basics come into play. Getting your animal gutted and cooled as quickly as possible is paramount.
Also, consider the war-wounds that these big animals can get with all the antler sparring that they do. The potential for their muscles to be torn, badly bruised, and even infected is real.
So, What's the Best Tasting Game Meat?
Let's face it, there's nothing better than a big, juicy steak cooked to perfection that just melts in your mouth. Add to that the right side dishes and we're all in heaven.
If we break down the different cuts of meat, then we surely must look at the backstrap and the tenderloin as the choice cuts. For birds, it's almost always the breast meat that shines.
Also remember that cooking methods can vary greatly, not to mention the cooks themselves. Some folks make preparing game meat into an art form, while others simply add some heat and eat. Sometimes it's the marinade, sometimes it's the cook time, but always it's the final product that gets judged.
It all depends on your personal opinion, I suppose.
In my lifetime, I've tried elk, bison, moose, hog, and black bear. I've also eaten wild turkey, woodcock, and quail.
The wild game meats that I've eaten the most are duck, goose, pheasant, and grouse, but by far I've eaten more venison than any other game meat.
It's a real toss up for me: venison is great and I can't get enough of it. I routinely eat my kill before the winter is over and then stare at my empty freezer the rest of the summer. Having said that, and with the amount of times I've eaten moose: I like it just a little better than venison.
If I had to pick just one though, I'd have to stick with the amazing meat of the ruffed grouse. Maybe it's the difficulty in hunting those amazingly fast-flushing birds that makes me say it, but they really do have a great tasting flesh.
What's your favorite? How many times have you had it? The answers are different for all of us, and are part of what makes harvesting your own protein so satisfying.
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