Elk is one of the most popular wild game meats, particularly in the American West. While the hunt itself deserves it’s own article, today we’re going to talk about all the delicious meals you can make from the large quantities of elk meat you gain from each kill.
A lot of people have tried elk and say they didn’t like it, but this is too often an unfortunate side-effect of the fact that many hunters don’t know how to properly handle the meat. When handled properly in both the field and the kitchen, elk meat is definitely delicious, and should not be excessively gamy.
You can also age your elk meat at around 30-32 degrees, which can help to tenderize and improve the flavor. It also helps to remove the white fibers (“silver skin”) and fats, as these are where most of the gamy flavor comes from. Some cuts, such as the shank, are particularly tough, so these are best used for the crock pot recipes.
Here are 5 of our favorite elk dishes to try at home
Elk Crock-Pot Roast
The ingredients on this dish are simple, it’s basically your cut of elk meat with oil, salt and seasonings, and vegetables of your choosing, in a crock-pot. I like to do the same kinds of vegetables you’d expect in a normal pot roast, like potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions.
It’s important to start it from the thawed state, rather than just throwing the frozen chunk of meat in the pot. This is because doing so actually encourages bacterial growth during the cooking process. You’ll also want to be sure you leave it for a 8 or more hours, to ensure it gets tenderized.
You can also make gravy from the juices just as you would a standard beef roast.
Spice-Crusted Grilled Elk Roast
This dish is best for the sirloin, chuck, round, shoulder, or prime rib cuts. It’s also important for this one that it’s a relatively round and even cut of meat, because it will be roasting on the grill and any odd ends sticking out will get burnt. If you do want to try it on an oddly shaped piece of meat, try tying it together with cotton string to compact it into a more rounded shape.
This dish is all about the spice crust, and while I can give you some suggestions, you’ll probably want to adjust the spice rub to your own tastes. One key element of getting this dish right is to sear it at the end, not at the beginning, which does a better job of sealing in the juices. As with barbecuing any other large cut of meat, it’s a good idea to keep one or two thermometers in and around the meat.
Make your spice rub paste, and rub it on the outside of the thawed meat. It’s important not to use sugar in your paste, as this will ruin the crusting effect. Leave it in the fridge like that for a couple of days, to really let the flavor from the spices seep into the meat. Also, let it stand at room temperature for three hours before putting it on the grill.
Heat your grill to a consistent 225, and put your meat on the main rack, with a thermometer in the thickest part. You can add some wood chips in perforated tin foil for some smokey flavor, if you like. Let it sit there under closed lid, turning only to avoid over-browning on one side, until it reaches 115 degrees, and at that point, open the lid and crank up the heat to sear.
Sear it for several minutes, until the internal temperature on the thermometer reaches ~127 degrees for medium rare, or 133 degrees for medium, and then take it off the grill, where it should rise another five degrees and cook slightly longer just from the heat already contained in the meat.
Elk Spaghetti Sauce
Okay, this one actually requires an ingredients list:
1.5lbs ground elk
1 medium sized onion
3 tablespoons of garlic, minced
2.5c tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes (or 16oz of freshly diced tomatoes)
1 little can tomato paste
Canned or freshly sliced mushrooms
1 can of black olives
2-3 teaspoons each of: dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons pepper
Small or half green bell pepper
Of course, this ingredients list is just a guideline, I would encourage you to get experimental. I almost always go heavier on the garlic than recommended.
The way to make spaghetti sauce is to first brown your meat in the same large sauce pan the whole thing will eventually go in, then once browned toss in garlic and onions (and other fresh vegetables), which should then also brown. Then, add everything else, and let simmer for 2-4 hours on low heat.
Elk stew is a great dish that’s simple to make. Like with the spaghetti sauce, you have to brown the meat first, which can be small cuts or ground elk meat, and I would also throw in the diced garlic at this point. Next, add corn starch or flour, and wine or lager, to thicken the meat juices into a rue. Then, start adding cut-up vegetables of your choice. I like broccoli, red/yellow bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, baby carrots, and potatoes.
Lastly, you can add spices of your choosing, certainly salt and pepper, and I would also add a bit of rosemary, and a tiny bit of sugar. Keep tasting as you add the spices, and just get it how you like it.