Now that I am regularly shooting tasty animals it is important not to wreck the meat, either in preparation or in the cooking. American Hunter Magazine outline the 5 most common mistakes:
1. Not Aging the Game First
Unlike domestic animals, wild ones have a rich, variable flavor, because they are often older at death, exercise freely and enjoy a mixed diet. The wild flavors that result from cooking these animals are often described as “gamy.” In Old World Europe, game was hung until it began to rot—a treatment they called mortification—which not only tenderized the meat but heightened the wild, gamy flavor even further.
2. Not Brining or Marinating the Game First
Brining is an old-fashioned technique that involves soaking meat or poultry in a flavorful saltwater solution to enhance its moisture and taste. The proper ratio is 2 tablespoons of salt to 4 cups of water. It is especially good with breast meat and other lean cuts like the loin.
3. Overcooking the Game
The surest way to turn someone off of wild-game to serve it to them overcooked. Because there is less fat in wild animals, the moisture evaporates quickly in the pan, drying out the meat, turning it gray and giving it that “gamy” flavor. White-meat upland birds should not be served rare, but can have a blush of pink in them. The wild ones will be more muscular and will dry out more quickly, so you need to tend to them while they are cooking—basting them, poaching them, doting on them until the very last second.
Dark-meat birds, such as ducks, and red meat game animals like venison must be served no more than medium-rare. Serving it rare is even better. There is no use in eating it otherwise.
4. Cooking it the Wrong Way
In the world of chefs, meat is categorized into first, second and third category cuts. The first category is the leanest and most naturally tender, like the tenderloin. The third category is the toughest, like a shoulder. The cooking method used to cook these cuts varies greatly and is crucial to making the final dish successful. The first category—the loin—must be quickly seared and served. The third category should be braised in liquid over many hours until the collagen breaks down.
Sometimes we do too much to a dish, when the ingredients should be allowed to speak for themselves. We smother it in cream of mushroom soup or wrap it with jalapeños, cream cheese and bacon—dominating the star of the show.