When I first moved in with my wife, I planned to cook her dinner one night. She asked what we were having. I told her venison. She informed me that she didn’t like venison. I turned to her and said that she probably hadn’t had it cooked right. She told me that her last boyfriend said the same thing, he cooked it the right way, and it still tasted bad.
At the time, I had a decent library of cookbooks. I asked her to find me one recipe that ended with, “When finished, dish will taste bad.”
Of course, no recipe ends that way. So I cooked some venison my own way and convinced her to try it. She really enjoyed it. So much so that she started cooking with it herself, and has become a very good wild game cook.
So, in an effort to breakdown the general misstep of “not cooking it right,” here are a few of the more specific mistakes people make when cooking wild game.
I know this has seemingly nothing to do with cooking, but if you want your game to die a quick death, you need to spend time at the range. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bowhunter or a gun hunter—you have to be accurate. If you make a poor shot and have to track an animal for hours—or, even worse, have to leave an animal overnight—that can affect the taste of the meat. If you shoot an animal in the wrong spot and are lucky enough to recover it, you can still lose portions of the best cuts of meat. So practice, practice, practice.
I know that in the chaos of everyday life, finding the time to butcher and package your own meat may seem like an overwhelming task. But I assure you that if you spend time breaking down game, you will get a better feel for what methods of cooking will suit each piece. You can also label the packages any way you want. If you see a piece of meat that looks like it’s going to be your Fourth of July steaks, you can label it for that express purpose, and know ahead of time how you are going to cook them. The more comfortable you get with butchering, the better and faster you’ll get with time. Plus, it’s much cheaper than dropping off a deer at the processor.
I know this is going a hard one for some folks to stomach. Most people I talk to are convinced they don’t like organ meats. But many of them have never even tried them. Or they’ve had some version of liver and onions that were so overcooked and terrible that it lingers in their mind as a reminder to never try offal again. To which I say, keep trying. When cooked correctly, heart is one of the best pieces of meat you will ever have. The same is true of liver. (One of my favorite ways to use liver is in mazzafegati, an Italian fresh sausage that is sure to…