With all of the sumptuous beef steaks, pork chops and sausages on German barbecues game still seems doomed to a shadowy existence on the grill. However, meat from a stag, deer, wild boar or rabbit is a rewarding alternative when barbecuing. Unfortunately there are still a lot of myths about game that stop barbecue fans from considering game as another option when buying meat. We clear up a few prejudices in this article and explain how to prepare game on the barbecue in a sure-fire way.
Dispelling the myths about game
Two very widespread prejudices about game are the assumption that game could contain dangerous germs and the belief that the taste of game often turns out to be very extreme. Both prejudices are indirectly linked and come from a time when cooling options were still a technical challenge. For a long time, especially for hunters who couldn’t rely on the structure of a meat company, it was difficult to permanently maintain the necessary cold chain for game and guarantee the ideal conditions to mature game when hanging the meat. Reports of food poisoning from the consumption of game date back to this time. It is often forgotten, however, that this wasn’t an issue specific to the type of meat, but much more about the sourcing and the hygienic structures in place during bygone days. These days almost every hunter has perfect cooling options and game sold in the retail trade is also tested just as well as any other type of meat. So there really is no reason to worry any more.
Does game taste acrid?
The second myth is also based on the lack of cooling options in those times: if game is hung for too long and becomes too warm it develops a very acrid smell and a flavour that is described by the term ‘hautgout’. This problem has also been resolved by the widespread availability of modern cooling options. The game that reaches the consumer via the butcher or retail trade is safe. The one thing that is strict about this meat is the quality testing. Whereas the flavour of game is mildly mineral, slightly nutty and a little bit sweet. So don’t be afraid!
Preparing game – is it difficult?
Game is no more complicated in terms of preparation than good beef. It is only when the meat is put on a high heat that you have to be a little bit careful, as the cells in the meat, especially in venison are more sensitive and fragile. In addition game contains hardly any fat and can lose its juiciness if it is heated at too high a heat and for too long. What is also important: cooking game sous-vide is a somewhat difficult issue as a saddle of venison can very quickly become slushy if it is cooked too long in a bain-marie. The fragile cell walls are the problem here too. But now some good news. If you take all of this into consideration and heed these instructions you can succeed at cooking game on the barbecue on your first try.
Game on the grill – this is how it is done
In contrast to beef steaks with attractive marbling – game does not need a distinct crust. Instead game is gently browned. A plancha or the griddle plate from Outdoorchef, for example, are suitable for this purpose. The plate is preheated for approximately 10 minutes and the game is then moderately fried on a medium heat on both sides. This results in visual signs of searing, but no dark areas. As soon as the outside has been grilled the meat – as is the case with beef and pork – is brought to the desired core temperature. As game is unproblematic from a hygienic perspective, medium is the best choice in terms of a cooking point. This is the only way game stays really juicy and tender. Medium means: the core temperature should be approximately 55-56 degrees. Even medium-rare is possible for those who want it especially mild and tender. Of course game can also be prepared in the pan on the side burner – the same rules apply there. Simply brown it in a coated pan gently with some browned butter and then continue cooking on an indirect heat.
What do I need to be aware of when I’m buying game?
Game meat doesn’t always come from animals in the wild and in the forest – this is something you should know for example when you buy frozen game in the supermarket. All across the world there are companies with game from game holdings. These are enclosures where game is bred and kept. However this does not mean that this meat is significantly worse – it just isn’t the natural game that lives in the wild that most people think of when you buy the meat. Game from the forest is always the most natural and probably also the most species-appropriate way for meat to be sourced. This is because deer, stags or wild boar living in the wild will enjoy the most exercise and freedom. Nowadays every good butcher offers game – you can get good advice from them. If you want to know where your meat comes from you should ask or read up when purchasing to see whether the meat comes from hunting in the wild or from a game holding. As wild animals can only survive in enclosures with sufficient exercise this type of game is also acceptable from an animal welfare perspective.