Food Safety

My passion is exotic meat and I hope you share this interest. It is a wide-ranging topic that entails anything from hunting your protein source to preparing a fine meal. Mostly, I cover cooking it in new ways. I am not going to be a source of recipes, but rather an inspiration for you to try new meats for yourself and your family. You might entertain friends and surprise them with elk, venison, bison, or buffalo. If it is edible and comes from an animal, it is fair game for my blog.

Sure, there are tons of ways to provide an exciting dining experience. You can broil, fry, grill, or sauté. Whatever floats your boat. Every culinary method has its particular appeal. As for me, my number one choice is on the barbecue, at night under a star-lit sky. The wonderful smell wafts through the air and entices the neighbors to check out what’s happening.  I can pretend I am a big game hunter out in the field in the wilds of Montana or Sudan. Yes, there are some side benefits, like reverie, that go with the territory. Nothing boring crosses my table. I don’t invite vegetarians over.

When you enjoy wild meats, you must handle them properly for food safety. This is my number one proviso. I use hot water to wash my hands and everything in the kitchen or related to the patio grill. My water heater gets a lot of use beyond baths and showers. In fact, I have one just for the kitchen. Someday I will replace both with an energy-saving tankless model from Water Heater Watch that will take care of the entire house. Food safety is important for everyone from amateur chefs to professional cooks. Keep it top of mind when preparing poultry or meat. Bacteria travels mighty fast.

No one gets sick under my watch. I haven’t even heard of food poisoning. If you are concerned, eat at home and take precautions. Get that hot water heater cranked up. Be vigilant about other ways to stay safe by refrigerating everything and avoiding meat past its prime. Freeze your protein immediately if you can’t cook that very night. Wrap it carefully without air holes to limit freezer burn. This mars the taste of even the best meat.

My parties and get-togethers are well known. People bring drinks and side dishes, and an occasional sweet treat. I can be relied upon for a stellar main dish for the meat eaters in the crowd. They are an adventurous sort, like me. If you want to try something new and different, come to my house and you may get “mystery meat.” Guests compete to guess what I am offering. Some can even recognize the difference between rabbit and wild boar. These are the real connoisseurs that I love to include on my guest list.

Victory Dinner

Get ready, folks. I’ve got a party to plan. It’s a victory dinner for the local kids’ soccer team who just won the regional championship. I love the kids. Guess who volunteered to cater it? You got it right. Yours truly. I envision a big cookout celebration for parents, players, coaches, and everyone else involved. I have ordered large portable grills for the school soccer field and a bunch of tables and benches for seating. We’ll be taking a lot of photos and hoping that they’ll get featured in Top Corner Magazine, which would really make the win special for the kids. It will be a twilight after which the lights will go and illuminate a veritable feast.

Elk steaks will be the centerpiece of the event, cooked to perfection with my secret sauce. The protein will be accompanied by grilled corn, potato salad, Cole slaw, and sliced fruit. Oh, I am getting a big fancy with the last dish. Desert will be an ice cream bar with assorted flavors and toppings in a fabulous do-it-yourself display of cold wonderment.

I am not really a caterer but am known in these parts as a pretty good chef, self-taught and self-styled, apron and hat in hand.  I don’t remember when and where I got the itch to excel at feeding myself and others, but I know that I am inspired by all the exciting types of protein available these days to enhance one’s ordinary diet. No mundane chicken breasts for me. Fish is a rare treat. Veggies belong in the garden as yard decor.

I am an inveterate meat eater, or a carnivore as they say. It sounds like a predator in the jungle, and it is. I have daydreams about slinging my rifle over my shoulder and getting in a Jeep, ready to make my way to place where the animals lay in wait. Perhaps I can fulfill this vision one day. Meanwhile, the kids and their entourage wait my fine fare. The table is set, the soda cans are stacked on one end, and the sweet smell of success wafts over the soccer field emanating from the roaring fire of the grill. The ice cream bar is about to be laid out in all its icy glory. I await the throngs, ready to arrive at any moment.

The victory party is now underway as the guests stack their plates and come back for more. The menu pleases every palate and half the people don’t even know they are eating elk. Of course, if they compliment the chef, I will tell them. I don’t mind taking credit, especially when the choice of food is a success. I love the idea of expanding people’s nutrition repertoire, just as I have done for my own. Why cook for others if you can’t have some kind of impact?

Best and Kicked up Meat Loaf

Meat loaf is a comfort food for many people. While meat loaf may seem like a basic dish it is easy to mess it up. The meat loaf flavor is classic but I find it to be a little on the bland side. I think there are more exciting things to add to the meat than ketchup alone. There are some tips to mix up your meat loaf and add a little bit of spice to it.

For my meatloaf I like to use up ground elk or ground venison. While these meats are leaner and are tasty they need some extra flavor added to them. It is important to make the meatloaf taste good.

There is an easy way to add some spice to the meatloaf. I like to add a little extra pepper and red pepper flakes to the ground meat. Instead of putting catsup on the meatloaf I like to use the tangy barbeque sauce. I also add some garlic powder to this sauce for some extra kick. Hot pepper sauce can also be used if you like things really spicy.

For every two pounds of ground beef you should you one medium onion that has been diced up in addition to the one cup of breadcrumbs. You can also add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and two teaspoons of red pepper flakes right in with the meat. Do not forget to add the salt and black pepper as well. With this mixture you can make a simple glaze that goes on top of the meat loaf. To make a glaze in a saucepan you need to heat up a little tomato sauce, some white vinegar, a generous amount of hot sauces, and some cayenne pepper. When the meatloaf is almost done this mixture is poured on top of it and allowed to cook.

If you want a meatloaf that is really spic I have some suggestions. I like to use these ingredients in my meatloaf. I like to feel the burn when I am eating. I will dice up some jalapeno peppers and add them to the ground meat mixture. Serrano peppers can also be used to turn up the heat. I also like to add onion and garlic powder and even a little chili powder in addition to the basic salt and pepper. Everything gets a couple of dashes of hot sauce. This goes for the ground beef mixture as well as the glaze. You need to figure out the heat level that you like.

These are some ways that you can spice up your meatloaf. You can add flavor to lean cuts of meat. These meats are better for you but may not have as much flavor as ground beef or pork. If you want to stick with the beef these spices can be used as well. this will help give your meatloaf a nice kick. You can adjust the seasonings to meet your taste preferences.

A Different Kind of Shooting

Given the kind of meats I like to grill on the patio, you would think I was a big game hunter just back with my prey from a safari, or maybe home from the hills of Montana. My rifle placed back in its case. Somehow, I find elk, venison, bison, and the more mundane cuts of beef. I love the exciting flavor of well-prepared protein and how it makes me feel—alive and full of pep. I could run out and play a rousing game of basketball. Yes, that is my sport. I like it so much that I am thinking about getting a portable basketball hoop so I can practice shooting at home after reading about them on Ballers Guide. To me that is the ultimate luxury, more than an in-ground pool or sauna. Fortunately, you can buy pretty good portable setups for the game so you put it where you like—in the driveway or out back.

Basketball is the kind of sport that requires a huge amount of skill. Anyone who watches the pros knows this fact. And I don’t miss a game for my favorite team.  Plus, if you are not seven feet tall, scoring is anything but automatic. Even the big guys hit the rim and miss the shot. But they rebound. I don’t always. I need a lot more time to get beyond the amateur level. I don’t expect to play games with the guys in my yard, but I will be more ready when we do schedule some time on the public court.

While playing alone, I can’t do a pick and roll or backdoor move, I can dunk to my heart’s content. I got moves. Ha! Or I will soon once that hoop is in place. I should invite my neighbor over for a two-person game at least. It will make it more competitive and challenging. Probably as much as facing big game in Africa on the hunt for a fire-cooked meal. Yes, I have odd taste when it comes to food.

So far this blog is psychotic, shifting from shooting my next dinner to shooting hoops. Somehow they got entangled and related. I seem to have shifted gears as I wrote. Now I am not sure where to go with this story. How about combining my subjects again while I plan a barbecue for friends after a practice session with the net. Everyone loves a cookout, even if it is just at home. Give us a warm night and a full moon, plus a hunk of pure protein, and we are salivating in anticipation. The question is what kind of meat to choose. The butcher is kind of limited although he tells me I can order whatever I want and to give him sufficient notice. You can bet that I will take him up on this great offer. My safari days are few and far between!

How to Make A Great Jerky

A great jerky is appreciated by just about everyone. The jerky should be hard but is should not be so tough that it will break your teeth. There are some tips to making a jerky that anyone can enjoy.

It does not matter what protein that you use for your jerky. You can use anything from beef to elk. Even caribou makes a great jerky. I find that the more exotic the meat is the better the jerky becomes. Make sure the cut is lean. If there is fat it needs to be trimmed off to keep the jerky from going bad. Once you select your meat cut it into thin strips. It is easier to cut against the grain.

Once you have the meat cut it is important to marinate it. One of the best marinades is a combination of liquid smoke, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and hot pepper sauce. You can add a touch of brown sugar if you do not like spicy foods. I also like to add garlic powder and sliced hot peppers to my marinade. Allow the meat to marinade overnight then dry it off. Give the meat a generous coating of salt and pepper to keep in the flavor.

No matter what kind of meat you are using it is important to remove all of the moisture from it. It is best to use a dehydrator. Be sure to leave enough space between the meat strips so that air can get around it.

Jerky can take anywhere between eight to twelve to cook depending on the type of meat that you are using. It needs to be dry. Check the meat after 3 hours to see if it is the consistency that you like. This will help you determine how much longer it has to cook. The meat needs to be dried but still chewy. You want the jerky to be hard but you do not want it to break off your teeth when you bite into it. If you do not have a dehydrator you can put it in a 165 degree oven and check it every 90 minutes to make sure it is cooking properly.

Once the jerky is done you can go ahead and enjoy it. When making jerky you can make a large amount at one time. The storage of the jerky is very important so that it does not spoil. It is best to keep the jerky in mason jars. They are able to keep the air out. It should be then placed in a refrigerator or even the freezer until you are ready to eat it. The jerky is best when eaten in a two week period after being made. It can last up to three months. If you do not think you are going to be able to eat all of the jerky share some with your friends. This makes a great snack and gives you something full of protein and flavor.

Tips for Varying Proteins

By now you know that I like to cook with some unusual proteins. This switches up the flavor in my food. Also many alternatives to beef and pork are leaner and are better for your health. There are some tips to cook with these different proteins.

When cooking with meats such as bison it is best to cook the meat at a low temperature and cook it slowly. Once the bison meat reaches a medium stage it is done. The meat will be tender and you will be able to cut it with a fork. This meat has no marbling so there is no stubborn fat that needs to be trimmed or cut out. This meat cooks faster than meet so be aware of this. After the meat is cooked it should be allowed to sit for around 20 minutes so the juices do not run out.

There are some things that you need to keep in mind when cooking with deer meat or venison. This is one of the healthiest foods that you can it. It is low in fat since deer are herbivores and eat an all-natural diet. Do not overcook the deer meat. It will taste like rubber if it is overcooked. This meat cooks quickly and in order to be safe to it the meat only needs to have an internal temperature of 130 degrees. When eating venison steak it will taste better when the meat is on the rare side. If you feel the gamey taste is going to be an issue at your home you can soak the meat in milk for a couple of hours before cooking it. The venison can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and spices of your choice.

It is very important to be careful when cooking bear meat. If this meat is not cooked correctly it will not taste good at all. The internal temperate of this meat needs to reach 160 degrees in order for it to be done. The meat cannot be eaten if it is still pink. It is best to remember to season this meat like you would beef. You should then cook it is a similar method to pork. Bear meat is darker than other types of meat. Before cooking the meat try to remove as much of the fat as possible.

Rabbit meat is also very healthy. Wild rabbit tends to be a bit gamey. Before cooking the meat allow it to soak in salt water overnight and rinse well before cooking. The rabbit needs to be cooked to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. To season the rabbit basil and bay leaves go very well with it. An olive oil and herb dressing also pairs well with rabbit meat.

These are some tips for cooking different proteins. There are many different choices for meat and if you are like me you may be looking to try something a little different. These meats taste great as long as you cook them properly.

Cooking with Elk

Elk is one of my favorite proteins to cook with. For those that are not familiar with this meat it can seem intimidating. You may feel that you do not know what to do with this meat and are going to ruin the dish. There are some tips that I want to share with you to help you make a great dish using elk meat.

Elk is a red meat. It is naturally low in fat and low in cholesterol. Once ounce of elk meat is leaner than a skinless chicken breast and will have just as much protein. Elk has a flavor that is similar to beef and can easily fit into any beef recipe. Elk needs to be cooked quickly at high temperatures or slowly at low temperatures.

When cooking elk meat low and slow some liquid is needed to help break down the tough connective tissue. This will help add flavor to the meat. When cooking elk low and slow it is best to put it in a crock pot or even a pressure cooker. Be sure there is plenty of broth or liquid in there. This is good for cooking the tougher meat including that from the shoulders and the rump or elk meat cubes. An elk roast can be seasoned well and cooked in a slow cooker as well. there are many options for this meat once it is cooked.

The tenderloin of the elk is said to be the best cut. It needs to be cooked hot and fat. Since there is little fat in this meat it is important that is it not overcooked. The meat should be put in the oven and cooked until it reaches a medium rare stage. If you are using the elk meat to make burgers they can be cooked on the grill just like a beef burger. You need to season the meat well. I like to use salt and pepper. If you are worried about a gamey taste you can add marinades and sauces.

Thawing the elk meat is also important. You should remove the meat from the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or two. Thinner cuts take around a day while the thicker cuts will need at least two days. This will help reduce the moisture that is lost during the thawing process. Do not thaw the meat in the microwave. This can lead to uneven cooking since some parts will be thawed and other parts will still be frozen.

These tips will help you learn how to cook with elk. This meat is naturally low in fat and is better for you than other types of red meat. If you are worried that you are going to have a gamey taste the first thing you should make with elk is a stew. Once you are comfortable you can use elk in place of beef in your favorite recipes and add a little more seasoning.

Comfort Foods

Here is nothing like eating a big plate of comfort foods. I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy and enjoy eating the foods that I grew up with. They give me a sense of home and can lift my spirits after a hard day. There are some tips to making comfort food that everyone will love and associate with home.

 

For me nothing beats a nice and juicy burger. This is the ultimate comfort food. It reminds me of summer days and firing up the grill in the backyard. There are a number of ways to make burgers. I often replace the beef with elk, deer, or other meats. When I do this I do grind up some bacon and add it to the meat. Since they are leaner cuts I do need to add a little fat. Instead of topping the burger with classic American cheese I like to play around. I found that Swiss and cheddar add a nice taste to the burgers. I also like to top them with caramelized onions. When I need the comfort of home I turn to these burgers.

 

Spaghetti and meatballs is also a classic dish for me. This was the first dish that my mother taught me how to make and it reminds me of home. I would like to learn how to make my own spaghetti from scratch but for right now I am using the dried kind in the box. To make my meatballs I use one part ground beef and one part other lean protein. Once again elk is one of my favorites. I also have tried Bison and have liked to the taste. To the meatballs of course I use salt and pepper. I liked to add Parmesan cheese and to really make them nice and moist I spoon in some ricotta cheese. Instead of cooking my meatballs on the stovetop or on the oven I like to choose them in the slow cooker. I put the tomato sauce on the bottom and then add my meatballs. I then add some more tomato sauce. I like to cook them low and slow. I turn the slow cooker on in the morning and by the time I am done with work they are ready to go. The meatballs are tender and break easily with a fork. I cook up the pasta and serve my meatballs on top. Using leaner meats I do not feel as bad eating this comfort food dish.

 

These are some of the foods that I consider to be my comfort foods. Even cooking with other proteins they still remind me of home and gatherings with the family. These dishes are not complicated and anyone can prepare them. You can make some variations and experiment with different flavors. For me these simple comfort foods pick me up after having a bad day and they are some things that I like to make for my friends and family.