"Gamey" Tasting Meat: What exactly is "gamey"?

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I’ve always used the term “gamey” as well to describe certain wild animal meat that has an odd after taste. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been asked to explain it. Most folks, even those who eat a ton of venison, usually just know what I mean. But, if I had to, I’d say it’s almost a bitter, sandy feeling in my mouth.

I do have a few tips to try to limit it, if interested. I, too, hunt, fish, camp and do the general outdoorsy “mountain man wanna-be” thing. To me, there are a few things that go into significantly limiting this “gamey” after taste.

1: Prep the meat ASAP. Especially if the weather is warm, the sooner you get the animal “processed” (cut up, packaged, and frozen) the better, in my opinion. (Some whole-heartedly disagree and actually “age” the meat by hanging it in a walk in cooler that is just a bit above freezing which allows the enzymes in the meat to actually break it down some. I find that while that may help make the meat a little more tender, it does nothing with the TASTE. Again, just a personal opinion thing.)

2: Try soaking the steaks in milk before cooking. Unlike simply marinating in something like Italian dressing to tenderize, milk seems to actually draw some of the “gamey” taste out of the meat while also somewhat tenderizing.

3: Add pork to the ground meat.

4: “Undercook” the meat. Venison is generally so lean that even cooking to medium turns it into shoe leather. Now, if you show me beef that is still pink inside it just about makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit because all I can think of is getting very ill from some sort of bacteria (E. coli etc.) from poor handling. With wild game meat, however, you generally know just how that meat was handled/packaged and should feel much safer about this. I’ll eat a medium rare deer tenderloin and not even think twice about it.

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5: Befriend bowhunters! In my experience, animals dispatched with firearms go into instant “OMG mode” the second they hear the shot. They run like mad with tons of adrenaline pumping until they drop. By contrast, almost every animal I have taken with a bow and arrow has almost just stood there completely calm after being hit. I’ve actually had some go right back to browsing along, feeding, or whatever they were doing before hand as if nothing even happened! I believe that the concentration of that chemical – either the adrenaline itself or some other biproduct of it within the body – , or lack thereof, in the muscles upon expiration is directly linked to how strong, or weak, of an “after taste” the meat will have. (There have been studies done that suggest this, by the way.)

The point to my rambling is simply that I have been able to prepare game meat for people that they haven’t even been able to tell it wasn’t beef. (Or, at least they found it very enjoyable compared to their previous experiences.) I believe it really comes down to the way things are handled not only in the kitchen, but also largely in the field. Anyway, I can honestly say I never expected to have this conversation on a hockey site. But, cool.

P.S. If anyone is thinking of posting up saying anything like, “How can anyone kill a cute, defenseless animal like that?”, for example… Please don’t bother. The bottom line is that I eat meat and have no problem with it. An internet posting won’t change that. If anyone out there doesn’t eat meat, I have no problem with you making that decision either. More power to you. I purposely choose to take (and grow via a garden) some of my own food rather than relying solely on a grocery store. (Mostly for reasons stated above. It’s healthier/leaner and not pumped up with steroids/antibiotics. I also generally know where it has been as I handled it myself or let another trusted individual handle it for me. I also, perhaps ironically, find it to be more humane than the way some animals raised for food are treated.) I respect your decision and only ask the same in return.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>