Wild game is a very versatile meat and is a healthier alternative to many other red meats. Full of flavour and easy to cook, game meat allows you to eat consciously. Game meat that is assured by the British Game Assurance (BGA) goes one step further, ensuring that meat is high quality, sustainable and ethical.
Reasons to eat game
- Game is wild, natural and free-range. Your butcher should be able to tell you it's provenance, so don’t be afraid to ask where it has come from. It could be very local to your area.
- Game is available from butchers in a variety of cuts during the season. From birds that are oven-ready, to portioned breasts, venison fillets, diced venison, and sausages.
- Game meat is generally hung for less time than some other, giving it a more delicate flavour. It is incredibly versatile and easy to cook, making a tasty change from other meats. Venison is a great substitute for beef in many recipes, with pheasant, partridge and rabbit making a great alternative to chicken. With a variety of cuts comes a variety of recipes, just visit our recipe page for a whole host of ideas.
- Game meat is a healthy substitute for other meats. You can take a look at the nutritional facts about game meat, here.
How to tenderise game meat before cooking it
For older meat or less tender cuts there are ways to help make it more tender. Soaking meat in acidic marinades such as lemon juice, wine or wine vinegar will help to tenderise it, and this especially effective on thinner cuts.
Raw fruits such as kiwifruit, pineapple and pawpaw contain proteins which also act on raw meat to tenderise it. Simply mash raw fruit and spread over the meat or mix with other marinade ingredients to coat the meat before cooking.
Just remember the tenderising effect only acts on the surface, so a marinade works better on small, thin cuts of meat. It is advised not to marinade the meat for too long, otherwise the surface can become ‘mushy’.
Other ways to make meat slightly more tender is by mincing or chopping it before using for recipes such as burgers or lasagne. Using a meat tenderiser, or mallet, can be helpful for individual breasts or fillets, but not on whole joints.
What do people mean by a 'gamey' flavour?
Wild game meat has a “gamey” flavour which is achieved predominantly though the diet – a mixed, free-range diet of natural vegitation, insects, berries, and grains. Therefore, many of the wild foods are more strongly flavoured and “gamier”. Wild birds and animals also naturally exercise a lot, resulting in lean muscle and a denser textured meat;a common characteristic of game.
Before game meat reaches the counter at your local butchers or supermarket, it goes through a few processes to enhance its natural flavour. The first is hanging which helps to tenderise the meat and allows the flavour to develop. The shorter the hanging time the milder the flavour. Depending on the type, it is usually hung for a few days, ranging from about two days for rabbit and up to 12 days for venison, except for pigeon and wild duck, which don’t require hanging.
Game meat also goes through the aging process. All meat benefits from aging, no matter the length of time. This process has two important effects; it causes more collagen to dissolve during cooking, making the meat more tender to eat and reduces the pressure that the connective tissue exerts during heating, which means the meat loses less moisture during cooking.
Let's talk about frozen game
Wild game can only be bought fresh when it’s in season, but it can be bought frozen at any time. Don't avoid frozen game - stocking up your freezer with game during the season is a wonderful way to enjoy it out of season. It can be frozen for up to nine months if it is wrapped very well in a freezer bag – just make sure to extract as much air as possible.
Always defrost game slowly at room temperature or in a fridge. You can read more tips on freezing game here.
The difference between ground and feathered game
Ground game brings a great deal to the table - literally. Venison provides beautiful joints as well as sausages, burgers, and flavourful steaks. Then there’s rabbit and hare which make delicious dinners but are a bit more restricted on the recipe front. Finally, there is squirrel, seen by most as an experimental dish but is just as tasty.
Feathered game comes in various shapes and sizes and showcase a variety of different taste experiences. From pheasant and grouse, to partridge pigeon and duck, feathered game can be used in a range of recipes, which can you find here.