WILD VENISON: SAFE AND DELICIOUS
Venison is a wonderful choice when looking for healthy red meat. Deer, caribou, elk, and moose meat are lean, low-calorie, and, of course, rich in protein, making them a mouth-watering choice for those who have access to them. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have a hunter in your friend or family circle, lucky you!
Wild game meat is as close to nature as anything you could hope to find. Free of any herbicide, pesticide, hormones, or antibiotics, wild venison is the cleanest of meats. Wild elk, deer, moose, and caribou graze on pure grass, drink clean water, and grow to the size and strength they were genetically made to, with no help of chemicals of any kind.
However, preparing and cooking wild venison properly is essential to enjoying a safe and flavorsome meal. Wild game may carry such dangerous bacteria as E. coli and Salmonella as well as potentially deadly parasites that can be passed to humans through contact or consumption. Can it still be safe to serve to your family? Well, while commercially sold meat has established laws and regulatory agencies to oversee the safety of the harvest, slaughter, and packaging, individual hunters must take full responsibility to safely handle their wild game meat.
Let’s assume that you’ve purchased your meat or that the hunter in your family or among your friends has properly dressed, drained, and cooled your meat. Now it’s your turn! There are numerous cooking methods to try. Cuts such as rump, rounds, and shoulders are likely to be tough. Wild game animals spend more time exercising than their domestic counterparts, so the meat is leaner with less fat, which can make it dry. To tenderize and retain moisture, try braising or slow cooking. It is important to bring the heat up to at least 160°F to destroy any pathogens. Never lift the lid off to “check on it.” It takes 20 minutes to recover the lost heat. Remember that safety is always the primary goal of cooking.
Tender cuts come from the ribs, short loin, and the sirloin. Rib contains the rib roast and rib eye cuts. Short loin produces the classic T-bone, top loin steak, tenderloin, and the Porterhouse. The sirloin, from the upper back legs, becomes top sirloin and sirloin steaks. Grilling, roasting, and broiling are excellent choices for retaining tenderness and flavor. Great tips for cooking steaks and ribs are to never cut them thicker than ¾ inch and to avoid crowding them in the pan. This ensures that the water and juices don’t seep out. If you cook for those who prefer their steaks medium rare or even “like their meat still mooing,” take great care in cooking. Always heat venison to the required 160°F to ensure complete safety. Any leftover meat, even if reused in soups, stews, or casseroles, must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F. If you have never tried game meat, have no fear. Channel your inner pioneer spirit and consider giving it a try this season!