Making Gamey Game Taste Great

todd elk cropI have – over the years – had a love-dislike relationship with Elk and Venison from Colorado.  It’s not the corn/grain fed venison of my youth in Minnesota, which I always thought was beef.  My husband and son are both hunters, and last year we had TWO elk harvested within a week or so of each other.  My husband got a 4×5 bull – my son a 2yo cow elk.  The steaks from my son’s elk are pretty good all on their own.  Cows are generally less gamey – and the younger they are, the better they are.  Bulls are getting ready to hit the rut during archery season – so they taste….not so great.  Add hormones to a diet of bark, sage and dry grasses – it’s a recipe for gamey if ever there was one.

I’ve come up with a few tips to turn gamey meat into something edible and even really tasty.  Some are simple – some take some time – but they all work great.

  1. If all of the following tips still have your elk or venison tasting awful – consider having it made into sausage.  Our processor makes breakfast, Italian, black pepper and whiskey bourbon sausage for us.  We had quite a bit of my husband’s bull elk made into sausage because we knew it was going to be a bit…..pungent :).
  2. Drain it!  Sometimes there is a lot of blood left in meat from the processor.  I like to thaw out our steaks and put them on a paper towel lined pie pan or baking dish and cover with plastic wrap.  Let them sit in the fridge for a few hours like this to help pull some of the blood out of the meat.  If you don’t have time, it’s okay you can skip this step.
  3. Trim it.  Silver flesh, fat, membrane – anything that is not meat is going to make your steaks taste even more gamey.  I trim every little PIECE of this stuff off.  blackpeppercorn
  4. Marinate it!  I buy a package marinade that works like a charm.  Its easily found and tasty.  Go to the “packet” aisle in the grocery store and get you some Weber Black Peppercorn Marinade Mix & follow the directions on the package.  If I have more than 1lb of meat I add a bit more water – if I have almost 2 lbs of meat – I use 2 packages.  Let it marinade in a plastic bag for about an hour minimum – 3-4 hours is best.  Grill to medium well and enjoy.  (I love beef steak rare – but I can’t seem to bring myself to eat elk or venison rare – which is dumb, because the wild game is likely much more healthy than the beef when it was butchered)
  5. Soak it!  Instead of a flavor marinade, I’ve tried soaking elk steaks in milk or cold strong coffee.  I liked the flavor from the coffee soaked steaks – it was pretty good.  The milk soaked steaks were a bit…weird.  Maybe that’s what veal tastes like….I’ve never had veal, never will, either.
  6. Brine it!  If you had roasts made – brining them in a simple solution will make the meat more tender and get some of the gamey taste out.  There are lots of brine recipes out there, but I use the basic version from RealSimple and kick it up with whatever strikes my fancy.  Some suggestions would be garlic, hot sauce, rosemary, or a few drops of liquid smoke.

Adding game meat to your diet can be a healthy and affordable way to feed your family.  Unfortunately you cannot sample the goods before you take a shot – so making sure you do service to the animal and eat every bit you can is important.  Give these tips a try or share your own in the comments below – I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it!

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Don’t be afraid to stick a steak or roast under the faucet and wash ALL the blood out that you can. This will also help with the gamey taste.