- The meat should be at room temperature
- Keep an eye on the direction of the fibers
- Fry in oil and plenty of butter
- Never cook steaks and fillets all the way through
- Finish off your meat in the oven
Well-cooked game works pretty much like other well-cooked meat. But it is lean, which makes it more demanding for you as a chef. Don’t forget to tell that to your guests when you’ve got it right.
Don’t shock game meat
Keep the meat out to bring it up to room temperature first so it isn’t shocked in the pan. It always takes slightly longer than you think, at least an hour.
Turn your marinade into a sauce
If the meat has been in a flavored marinade, it’s a good idea to use the marinade as the basis of a sauce for the finished meal. Keep the juices and flavors by cooking in an ovenproof dish.
Cut along the fibers
If you are cutting a large joint into two smaller ones, do it along the fibers. This will give you oblong cuts that you can then slice across the fibers for the perfect texture on the plate.
Carve across the fibers
Game meat is generally tougher and consists of coarser fibers than meat from domesticated animals. This is why it’s always important to keep track of the direction of the muscular fibers, even if you’re cooking the finest, tenderest cuts. Slice across the fibers before and after cooking.
Never overcook game
If the temperature is too high and you cook it for too long, you’ll have passed the point of optimum flavor and texture. Often this will produce a bitter, metallic taste similar to liver. Some people misguidedly think this is what game tastes like.
Stick around the lower temperature limit when cooking game. The meat is better pink than well-done, to keep it full of flavor, tender and juicy. When we’re talking wild fowl, there are exceptions, such as capercaillie and goose, which need to reach 67-68° to make sure the meat isn’t tough.
Oil and butter
Ideally use a mixture of oil that can withstand a higher temperature and butter for flavor. Heat the pan up first, then the oil, and finally add a good dollop of butter.
We fry in a lot of butter.
– Ulrika and Carina Brydling, former owners of Marmite in Åre, Sweden, reveal a culinary secret.
Game for a Sunday roast
Perhaps the most classic way of cooking game is roasting a Sunday joint (note that “joint” is a culinary concept, not a cut. The joint could be a round or a silverside or other cuts. It just means a large chunk of meat really). Usually the joint is browned on all sides, quickly, at a high heat to add flavor. Then it’s put in the oven, giving it plenty of time for the temperature to slowly rise to the desired result. Keep in mind that the internal temperature will continue to rise even once the meat is cooked and resting.
Brown the surface before or afterwards
Game is often cooked in large pieces to keep as much of the juiciness as possible. Fry the joint on all sides until it has an attractive surface with plenty of flavor. KC Wallberg at Gubbhyllan in Skansen, doesn’t brown his joints until they’ve been roasted in the oven so that diners get that freshly cooked aroma.
Take the whole package of aromas out to the table! Brown the joint afterwards instead of before putting it in the oven.
– KC Wallberg, Gubbhyllan at Skansen, Stockholm
The 4% rule
Once you’ve taken the joint out of the oven, the internal temperature will go up by approximately 4% of the oven temperature. After a longer time in the oven at 125°C, the temperature will rise by about 5°C after you have taken it out.
Finish off in the oven
High temperatures are great when you want to brown the surface of the meat but to retain the juices, the rest of the cooking needs to be at a considerably lower heat. About 125°C is a good temperature for all game joints. If you want to do it the other way round and brown your joint after roasting, the same temperature applies.
Rest game meat for the right amount of time
All meat needs to rest after cooking and game is no exception. Otherwise all those good meat juices and flavors will run out on the carving board or on the plate instead of staying in the meat. It takes about 15 minutes for the temperature and the juices in the meat to even themselves out after cooking. Leave the meat to rest in a warm place in the kitchen under a cloth, not under foil. It will continue to cook. If game meat rests for too long, it can lose its freshness.
Game must be served “alive”. Warm and freshly cooked
– Ulrika Brydling, former owner of Marmite in Åre, Sweden
Game tastes best when you have only just cooked it. Eat immediately – but don’t forget to let joints rest for a while to retain their juices. Even a fresh steak should be piping hot and pink inside.
Treat a game fillet with care
Beautiful fillets of game have a tendency to get “doughy” in texture if cooked at too low a temperature. If you’ve got a good fillet, don’t ruin it by cooking it at too low a heat. Brown the surface and place the fillet in the oven at 180-200°C. Take it out at 52°C and leave to rest up to approximately 58°C. If your fillet is small, you can cook it completely in the frying pan.
Use a thermometer
Measure the internal temperature at the fattest part of the cut. You can remember 56°C as a guideline for all game apart from wild fowl such as capercaillie and goose that need to reach 67-68°C so as not to be dry.
Temperatures for wild boar and bear
Unlike other game, wild boar and bear meat can contain trichinosis. All meat in the shops ought to be tested for trichinosis but for safety’s sake, it’s recommended that it’s cooked to a temperature of 68°C.
Temperatures for wild fowl
Ancient tradition says that wild fowl should be served well done, but it tastes much better if you use a thermometer and go for precisely the right temperature. That makes sure your meat is safe and juicy.
You’ll find more ideas for cooking wild fowl under Cooking wild fowl.
Most dark game meat (see above for exceptions) is good at the following internal temperatures:
- Rare 56°C
- Red 58°
- Pink 60°
- Light pink 62°
- Well done 65°
Flavors with game
Onion, garlic, green pepper, juniper, pistachio, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, black pepper, Dijon mustard, whey cheese, beer, apple, pear, lemon, most berries, mushrooms, bacon, sherry, port, brandy and gin are all good with game.
Be brave, add spices
On the one hand: Take it easy with the spices because the meat has a great flavor on its own. You can get a long way with salt and black pepper. On the other hand: If you eat game frequently, go for it from time to time and try out all manner of flavors to go with it.
You can accompany game with all kinds of flavors. Or just salt and pepper, sparingly.
– Ulrika Brydling, former owner of Marmite in Åre, Sweden
Game and other good things
Game and chili: The heat of the chili is ideal for bringing out the taste of the game.
Game and butter. Butter lifts and brings out the flavors of lean game.
Game and béarnaise sauce: Just do it. A lean game joint or fillet with a gorgeously smooth and rich béarnaise will cheer up anyone.
Game and bacon: Bacon or smoked ham adds a great flavor and some wonderful fat to lean game meat. Anyone for moose bourguignon?
A satisfied body is built on béarnaise sauce.
– Ulrika and Carina Brydling recommend this classic sauce with game
Make the most of your meat juices
Once you’ve finished cooking your meat, don’t let the juices go to waste! Many people are slightly afraid of all those bits swimming around in butter – but there’s loads of flavor there. Strain the meat juices and make the most of this valuable liquid. Pour it into your sauce or spoon over the meat.
Stir fried game
Frying quickly – so quickly that the surface is seared and the center pink – works perfectly with small pieces of game. If you’re dealing with one of the less prime cuts, slice into thin flakes across the fibers.
Grill reasonably thick slices of game, but bear in mind that the result may be a bit less juicy than traditional grilled meat due to the low fat content. Leave the meat to rest after cooking.
Brown a bigger joint under the grill before cooking it at a low temperature, about 125°C.
If you’re grilling cuts that are typically slow-cooked, such as silverside and shoulder, simmer them slowly on the hob in stock for a few hours. When a thin knife slides through the whole cut, you can grill the meat briefly and brush with glaze.
Avoid sugar, honey and oil if marinating. Sugar and honey will brown and oil will burn.
Wild boar is slightly fattier than other game, which makes it ideal for grilling.
Slow-cooked stewing steak
Many people think the front cuts or larger game animals are the best for game stew. These cuts have more fat, sinews and membranes that add flavor. Slow cooking brings out the right texture and the subtle flavors.