It’s no secret that the main reason most of us hunters chase game is for the organic, delicious protein it provides. For some of us, eating a beef steak is more foreign than a steak off of a deer or elk. Like a fine wine, the meat is something we cherish and enjoy the subtle nuances of different flavors. To the general public, however, biting into a deer steak for the first time may be an intimidating experience. That shouldn’t stop you from introducing your city-dwelling friends to wild meat though. There are a few ways to prepare your harvest that is sure to knock the socks off of whoever is lucky enough to eat it.
First- and most importantly- you have to care for the meat properly before you intend to cook it. This starts from the moment you pull the trigger (or release the arrow). You should do your absolute best to get the animal gutted, skinned and cooled down in a timely manner. Obviously, things happen and sometimes an animal isn’t recovered right away. If you take a substantial amount of time recovering an animal get the skin off right away and cut slits in the meat down to the bone or bone it out right away. This will help the heat escape from the meat quicker.
While you’re skinning, keep in mind that these are wild animals. They have existed on earth for a number of years without ever having a bath. In fact, the closest they get to a bath is rolling around in a mud pit of their own urine. It should go without saying that the cross contamination should be kept to a minimum. Try to keep one hand for handling the hide and the other for handling meat. And never lay the meat on the hair side of the hide. This seems like it should be obvious but when people complain about a gamey taste it’s usually because of improper care during this step.
After the meat is cooled and you have it back at your house. Now it’s time to think about how you’re going to age it. Theres an article and a podcast on our site about aging. My go to is the wet aging method.
At this point, if you properly cared for your meat in the field and aged it properly there isn’t much you could do that wouldn’t taste good. But I have a few go-to’s I’m going to share that are sure-fire winners.
My all-time favorite way to eat an elk (or deer steak)- Get a cast iron nice and hot over medium heat and sear all sides of the steak. Depending on the thickness the steak should be around rare/medium rare once all sides are nicely seared. If this is your desired doneness, rest the steak for 7-10 minutes under aluminum foil. If you like your steak a little more done, throw it in a 450-degree oven for a few minutes until the internal temperature is 145 (this is considered medium, by the time it’s done resting it will be medium well)- I wouldn’t recommend going much higher than this with game meat.
To do a whole roast, follow the same steps but keep the oven at 350 instead of 450.
Generally, at this point, I deglaze the pan with red wine. To do so, add about 1 cup of red wine to the hot pan and make sure to scrape off all the bits stuck to the bottom. Bring the liquid to a boil, strain it and reduce until you have a saucy consistency. If this doesn’t yield enough sauce for you, add some bone stock and keep reducing until you have the quantity you’re looking for.
At this point, you have yourself a darn good elk steak and a faux demi-glace. Now all you have to do is think about sides. I’d suggest doing roasted fingerlings, roast carrots, sauteed brussels sprouts, or even just some caramelized onions. I also find that blue cheese accompanies wild game and red wine really well and makes a great garnish to a wild game dish.
If you follow these steps you will have your guests hooked on the wild game in no time. Feel free to message me with any questions or just to let me know what you think in general! Good luck hunting!
Spencer Milne- F2T