Cooking Meat/elk roast


is soaking elk roast n buttermilk good to do?


It can't hurt it.  I might impart a bit of twang to it, as buttermilk is actually cultured milk, the milk left over from churning butter, and is more like watery yoghurt.

The idea of soaking game meat in anything is rooted in the scientific principle of the membrane reaction.  Nature hates inequality.  Put two solutions on oposite sides of a membrane and liquid borne molecules will migrate through the membrane in both directions until the two solutions are equalized.  Putting a potatoe in a overly salty soup and boiling it will pull some of the salt out of the soup.  You can then throw the potato away.

The idea of soaking meat is to pull unwanted flavors out of the meat. The so-called gaminess can be reduced but not entirely eliminated doing this.

Other fluids work just as well.  Fruit juice, dark beer, don't use hoppy beer unless you want bitter meat, wheat beer works well.  An inexpensive wheat beer is blue moon.

Marinades do this.  Marinades do not tenderize meat, they just add flavor or mask existing flavors.

Now some of us like the taste of wild meat.  This does not mean we like the rank funky taste of mishandled game meat.

Poor field dressing and cleaming can lead to off flavored meat.  Sour, piss and shit tainted meat can follow poor shot placement or gutting practices.  Failing to cool down the meat quickly can also lead to funky tasting meat.

One of the little known secrets of the meat packing industry is called dark cutting meat.  This is probably the cause of more ruined wild venison and elk than any other thing, besides adding beef fat to the meat.   

When an animal is coursed, that is chased, or is frightened before it is killed, it results in post-mortem changes in the meat.  It has nothing to do with adrenaline, but rather lactic acid.  Cellular processes do not automatically stop in the meat, when the heart stops beating or the brain stops functioning.  Depletion of blood sugar in an animal that has been exerting, running or fighting, results in no lactic acid build up after it dies.  The lactic acid causes the meat to become acidic.  If the blood sugar is depleted from exertion prior to death, the lactic acid produced is eliminated by the circularory system prior to death.  Once the heart ceases, the cells have no blood sugar to process and make lactic acid.  The meat acidity does not drop, and this allows bacteria to thrive in the meat.  Meat ages from enzyme action not bacteria.  All this results in "dark cutting meat" which is dark reddish, almost purple, sticky and gummy.

I recieved some elk from a friend once that had all those attributes.  I used it for chili where the flavor and consistency was masked.

So this is one reason to pass on that shot at a frightened running buck.  If you can't pole ax him while he is munching on his breakfast, it might be a good idea to give him another day.

I don't know if your meat is tainted or not, or if you were asking from the perspective of tenderizing the meat.  Elk will not taste like beef no matter what you do to it. It will taste like Elk.  It should not taste foul, just different.  If it does taste rank, then a good long soak may be in order.  You might also try brining it.  Do a search for various brines, which you can flavor with juice, beer, or whatever.  Then soak the meat for a week or so in the refrigerator. Seal it in a trash bag in one of the crisper drawers covered with brine with the bag sealed.  That should pull a lot of the off flavor out and make it paletable.

There are only two ways to tenderize meat, mechanically and by cooking.  Mechanically is by breaking down the fibers with a meat mallet, or by cooking it low and slow, just below boiling like in a crock pot.  This is called braising.  The tenderizing powders are based on papaine a pineapple enzyme and they usually only work on the outer 1/8-1/4 inch.  They also do not start working until they are at cooking temperature, so setting them out at room temp does absolutely nothing.  Pineapple juice will "digest" the outside of meat reducing it to a gray mush if left on meat long enough due to the combination of acid and enzymes.

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Keith Patton


I can answer questions regarding wildgame cookery ranging from venison, elk, buffalo, wild geese, duck, wild turtle, feral hog, javalena, wild boar, racoon, beaver, and woodchuck.


I am an avid hunter and chef. I have run a successful catering business, processing my own meat, curing hams and making wild game sausage.

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