Family Wild-Game Grilling Tips

Some terrific wild-game grilling tips from The Sportsman Channel's Scott Leysath.

posted on September 24, 2017

It seems that, when it comes to grilling, it's usually thought of as "a man's job." When I was much younger, it was my dad who always got the charcoal grill started before our neighbors arrived. Come to think of it, I don't remember any of the moms ever tending a grill. Oh sure, they'd let the dads know when the meat caught on fire, but they had plenty of other things to do.

Today, things are a bit different. The rest of the grilling world has figured out that, in spite of their apparent fascination with fire, men are no more capable of grilling a good steak than women. It's possible that men maintained dominance over the bed of coals simply because they liked it that way and nobody really complained. But there's no reason why summertime grillling-especially of a wild-game harvest-can't be fun for the whole family.

Whether your grill is gas, charcoal or wood fired, the grate has to be clean, hot and greased. Take a wire brush and remove any leftover burnt bits from the last barbecue. Wipe it down with a clean, wet cloth to remove any debris. Nobody wants to eat stray wire bristles from the brush. Apply a coating of oil. Pan sprays work OK, but a clean rag dipped in vegetable oil works better and it is more economical. DO NOT SPRAY PAN SPRAY ONTO A HOT GRILL. The oil will ignite and can cause serious burns.

Meat, especially wild game, will taste better after it has been seasoned. Domestic meats like beef and pork are loaded with flavorful fat. Ducks and deer are constantly on the move and don't have the chance to get fat. Many wild game cooks add fat and flavor by wrapping their game meats in bacon.

Rub salt and pepper into the meat and refrigerate for several hours. Before grilling, remove the meat from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not place cold meat on a hot grill. The juices of the meat will gather in the coldest part, the center, and prevent it from cooking evenly.

Before adding anything to the grill, it has to be hot. You want to hear the sizzle of searing meat, letting you know that you'll get a good sear on the outside. A big part of why we grill is to get the meat charred on the outside and impart a smoky flavor. As a general rule, the thicker the meat, the lower the grilling temperature. If it's too hot, a thick deer steak or Canada goose breast will be burnt on the outside before it is cooked in the center. Just because you're in a hurry doesn't mean that you should crank up the heat and cook it faster. It takes more time and lower temperatures to properly cook larger cuts of meat. While a mallard breast fillet will only take 6 to 7 minutes to cook over a hot flame, a whole duck will take 20 to 25 minutes over a medium-hot flame.

Once you place meat on a grill, do not turn or flip it until it moves easily. It it's stuck to the grill, it's not ready to flip. Wait until it is well-marked by the hot grill, then give it a quarter turn to create the diamond-shaped grill marks like you see in a restaurant. Pro chefs know to place any meat on a grill "presentation side down." That means cooking the side that will be facing up on the plate first. Once the "up" side is cooked, flip it over and cook to desired doneness.

A medium-rare deer steak tastes very different from one that has been cooked until it is well-done. Some people can't handle the sight of a juicy, red piece of meat. Others feel the same way about one that has been cooked until the only colors are shades of gray. It's a personal choice, but do keep in mind that leaner game meats will taste more livery and gamey when they have been cooked past medium.

Allowing meat to rest for several minutes immediately after cooking will give the juices a chance to redistribute. As mentioned previously, the juices concentrate in the coldest part of the meat when cooking. Letting it rest means less juice running out of the center when sliced and juicier, more tender meat.




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