Game and lean meats are making a come-back, hundreds of years later. Current knowledge about the effects of food on health is motivating people to look back at meats that were available long before the modern industrialization of agriculture. Cooking and eating these meats can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience to both body and pallet, if a few considerations are taken during preparation.
Due to the very low fat content of lean meats, they must be cooked with extra care to avoid overcooking that can result in dry, tough and tasteless meals. There are three main guidelines to follow in order to achieve the best results: Low & Slow cooking methods and temperatures, close monitoring of internal temperature of meat, and steps to take for maximum retention of moisture within the cooked meat.
Low and Slow are the key cooking principles with lean meats. Reaching the same internal temperature for conventional meats is important, but it should take a bit longer to get there.
Grilling – Gas: Keep low to medium flame.
Grilling – Coals: Raise rack up or heat tray down a notch.
Oven: 275-300°F setting is common for lean and game meats.
Pan: Use a lid to retain moisture and keep flame low.
Slow Cooker: Low setting for long cook and liquid moisture.
Always use a Meat Thermometer. This is the best investment you can make if you care about your dining experience. Any meat thermometer will work. There are many inexpensive options that can be purchased at any grocery store. The best meat thermometer is the electronic instant read with digital display that provides a cable to allow the display to sit outside your oven or grill while cooking. You can even set the display to notify you when the desired internal temperature is reached.
Always remember that meats continue to cook after you have removed the heat source. Count on about 5 more degrees Fahrenheit on average. This means that you should remove the meat from the oven, grill or stove when the internal temperature of the meat is at your target, less 5 degrees. It is always best to let the meat sit for a couple minutes on the cutting board with the meat thermometer still in position and continued monitoring. The time it takes for the meat to arrive at the target temperature also allows the juices of the meat to travel back into the outer surface layers for a uniformly moist final product.
Recommended Internal Meat Temperatures
Since game and lean meats have little to no intramuscular fat (marbling), these meats can very quickly and easily dry out if steps are not take to ensure that juices are retained. Moisture Retention can be achieved many ways using the following variety of cooking methods.