Animal welfare and species-appropriate animal husbandry have become increasingly important in recent years, especially among meat-lovers. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that the most sustainable and animal-friendly way of producing meat is still through hunting game in domestic forests. To eat wild game is to enjoy meat from an animal that has lived a life of freedom – closer to nature than any form of rearing. High time, then, to take a closer look at cooking wild game on the barbecue! The fact that deer, roe deer, wild boar & co. only very rarely end up on the grill probably has something to do with some of the myths surrounding wild game. Many of these preconceptions are either wrong or outdated – so we decided to subject them to a thorough fact-check.
Myth 1: Game meat is hygienically unsafe
Many inexperienced meat-eaters shy away from wild game as they assume that the meat is contaminated with more germs or bacteria than meat from farmed cattle or pigs. This misconception dates back to the days when cold chains were less effective and hygiene standards far lower than they are today. These days, the wild game you can buy at your local butcher's or supermarket has been processed, cooled and inspected just as professionally as any other type of meat. In other words, there is no reason to fear that the meat might be hygienically unsafe in any way. On the contrary, in terms of health benefits, wild game is actually superior to the often fattier meat from cattle and pigs.
Myth 2: Game meat must always be served well done
The often-heard concerns about hygiene (see above) are also linked to Myth 2, which is admittedly not entirely unfounded. Many meat-eaters tend to cook game meat very thoroughly to kill any germs that might be present. The fact of the matter is that, as soon as meat has been heated to 72 degrees Celsius for two minutes, you can be sure that all harmful germs have been killed – which is why the official recommendation by the health authorities is still always to ensure that game meat is well done. However, the risk of parasitic infestation relates primarily to meat from herds that are not monitored by veterinarians. In the end, consumers must make their own decision – requesting detailed information about the supply chain and only buying meat from trusted sources are both recommended. Particular caution should be applied in the case of high-risk groups such as pregnant women or chronically immunocompromised people. Provided that you know the meat's source and the processing methods used, if you prefer your beef still pink in the middle you can also serve wild game cooked rare at your own risk. Incidentally, this will enhance its flavour enormously (restaurants almost always serve saddle of venison cooked rare).
Myth 3: Game meat has a harsh flavour
This myth dates back to a time when game meat was not hung in perfectly refrigerated rooms. For a very long time, hunters simply did not have the option of hanging the animal carcasses in a cold store. As a result, the meat quickly developed an idiosyncratic and intense smell and taste, which is still known as "haut goût" today. These days, however, this aroma has been virtually consigned to history as the prevalence of modern hygiene standards, including cooling facilities, means that virtually every hunter can process wild game professionally – without the risk of an unhygienic maturation process. When meat from wild game is properly chilled, it develops a mildly nutty and unobtrusive flavour that is usually much more subtle than that of farmed meat.
Myth 4: Wild game is only available in autumn
While it is true that most game species can only be hunted in autumn, this does not mean that wild game is only a seasonal product. Roe bucks can be hunted as early as May, and red deer and wild boar are fair game from summer until January. In other words, fresh wild game is available in some form or other almost all year round. And if you want to enjoy your haunch of venison between February and May, you can simply freeze it. Wild game can therefore be enjoyed all year round without a problem, which rather dispels the myth of an extreme focus on the autumn and winter months.
Myth 5: You can't barbecue wild game
This is a common misconception. Indeed, it often seems that many barbecue fans simply aren't aware that loin of venison or leg of wild boar can be cooked to perfection on the barbecue. Wild game is much the same as beef when grilled – it is just a little more fragile in terms of its protein structure. This means that wild-game steaks from the animal's back should only be gently roasted over a medium heat and then re-cooked over indirect heat to reach the desired core temperature. Even a whole leg can be brought up to the required cooking temperature using the "low & slow" technique. The Outdoorchef Arosa allows both cooking methods – for roast cuts and chops, the funnel should be used in the volcano position, while the standard position is best for longer cooking times.