I 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.
- 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 :).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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!