July 1, 2022 Kitchen Craft: What Do You Need for the Best Wild Game Recipes? By : Justin Hunold When you pop open your freezer and see Ducks frozen whole, Goose Breasts, Major cuts of Venison, a few Rabbits and all your fish from the spring and summer you’re actually looking at the summation of a whole lot of fun and hard work. So, with that in mind, why make cooking game meals hard or boring. That would make for an awful outcome to an amazing story. Good food makes us feel good. There is much speculation that our ancestors’ ability to cook food led to the rapid growth of their brains. We long ago mastered fire and spit roasting. For some reason, even though people have been cooking game meat longer than anything else, people suck at assembling the meals from what they take from nature. What do you need to cook game meat? What will help you bring the field to the table full circle? Here are some tools I use when the cut of meat I have deserves as much peonage as the story I will tell about how it got to my plate. Cast Iron Skillet- A good Cast Iron Skillet will last longer than you and your kid’s if it is well taken care of. They are inexpensive, transfer heat consistently and actually help you stay healthy (helping your iron intake). This is the one tool on this list I wouldn’t give up, if given one choice for a pan this is the only one I would own. They can be used as a frying pan, a broiling pan and a roasting pan. A cook can sear a nice cut of meat in a cast iron pan and then immediately transfer it into the oven to raise the internal temperature. They can be put in the coals of a campfire, on a grill top or used to deep fry fish and this will only help their long-term seasoning. That is the downside of cast iron if it has any, maintaining the seasoning. Once you’re used to the maintenance it becomes a non-issue. Plus, they are super inexpensive, so next time you’re walking through Walmart or Target poke into the camping section and grab yourself a 9” Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. They are US made and about $20. Crockpot- This is my drama pick. There are two camps for crock pots, the old school pot and lid style you put in the oven or the self-contained electric style. I fell into the second. I use a crockpot that has multiple settings, with sear, stew, slow cook, bake, steam, and roast being applicable for meat and fish. I like the one-unit versatility that this tool brings. A cast iron pan might be able to be used with a lot of types of heat, but a good crockpot is a self-contained, one appliance kitchen. I have also used my crockpot to deep fry, and to make Asian hot pot style meals. Some folks say that slow cooked crockpot meals from a traditional enamel pot taste better, but I have to say my crockpot meals never seem to lack flavor or texture. Maybe I will get a traditional crockpot in time but for now I will be leaning heavily on the multitool of the kitchen, that is my electric crockpot. Instant Pot- Can an instant pot and crock pot really be that different? The answer to me is simple – Yes. There is an old adage- fast, cheap, and well pick two because you can’t have all three. An instant pot disproves this theorem. If you can add some goose breast in with a multitude of ingredients including rice, stock, onions, and then set it and forget it for less than an hour and you will have meals that you thought impossible with a meat you used to relegate to jerky. The best part about it is its one pot clean up and totally contained. Oh, and did I mention it’s fast, good and pound for pound pretty cheap? The support of this cooking tool is amazing. People use these for all sorts of recipes that are available all over the web and it’s a staple in busy homes and with folks who meal plan. Sous Vide- This is cheating plain and simple. Sick of overcooking Duck, Goose and Venison? “Game meat is so dry” goes away with one of these simple tools. And just because you might not know how to say it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. In principle it’s a bait aerator with a heating element. You put a sous vide into a large container full of water, set the temperature and then immerse a plastic bag full of seasoned meat into the water. Now you can walk away, and the immersed food will cook to that exact temperature all the way through. A sous vide can run for eight hours, and that meat will never get hotter than the surrounding water which is set to the temperature you require. It’s cheating but it tastes oh so awesome and the presentation looks nicer than shooting a double in two shots on video. There used to be a debate about the BPA’s and other toxins in the bags, and as a father I totally understand that. There has been a sub industry to address this with bags, containers, and other tools to assist in healthy use of a Sous Vide. If I am introducing someone to game meat, I use my sous vide. If I do my part to season and sear the cut properly and the bags don’t let the water in, it will turn out perfectly and they will like it. Air Fryer- Now I like frying cutlets and fish in a deep fryer or a pan with two inches of oil as much as the next guy, but I have to say an Air Fryer is every bit as good in a lot of ways. Plus, an air fryer is a lot cleaner. They can be used indoors and don’t provide nearly as many viral videos of decks and garages bursting into flames by people who have no business trying to use a vat of oil and incendiary rings of pressurized propane. The ability to make perfect golden fried walleye cheeks and sweet potato chips all with one kitchen tool can turn anyone into a great one trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. An Air Fryer is great at one thing and as anyone who tries to master any one thing will tell you, to perfect one thing is no simple feat, and therefore this kitchen tool is tough to beat. If you use it right, the batter dipped fish or the panko crusted goose will keep guests wanting for more and they won’t care that it’s coming out of a basket with paper towels. In fact, that’s the endearing part, right? That is the fish fry aesthetic. And it’s what people want in an authentic outdoor meal meant for summer nights and light beers. These are five tools I use to add some pizzazz to my field to table cooking. Yes, I can be very technical and cook with a pan, layering flavors with aromatics and reductions but when I want a good meal without all the BS that comes with trying to be a chef these are the appliances and applications I reach for. We are all very busy, and a lot of these gadgets allow for a set it and forget it mentality in your cooking. And in a way they can add to the experience. Yes, there is an experience of really cooking like you’re trying to earn Michelin Stars. I would venture a guess that your guests would much rather spend time sharing drinks and conversation than sitting at the table missing the host who needs to be solely present in the kitchen for the preparation of the meal. If you can layer a few of these tools together you can present a hell of a game dinner while truly entertaining the guests and making them listen to the hunting and fishing stories that go with each dish. When done right, the food will make them ask for a next time. Don’t worry, next time they’ll ask you to play chef and stay in the kitchen. Or if you, did it really well, they may ask to join you in the field to try their hand at field to fork.