Exotic meats … grilled!

By on October 8, 2014


That word gets your mind to wandering. In 5th Avenue marketing parlance, exotic is a sexy word; a positive phrase that excites and inspires. For instance: Kilimanjaro, Tahiti, Komodo dragon, blood red Ferraris, Papua, New Guinea… Conversely, these words are decidedly not exotic: concrete, asphalt, Vladimir Putin, Camden, N.J.

So, now that you’re in the right frame of mind… how do free range bison and elk and wild boar sound? We have very free ranging wild elk right here in Elk County. If you haven’t been, go. It’s pretty impressive watching these up to eight feet tall (with antlers) ungulates migrate from house to yard to wherever they please, and it’s this time of year that male elk bugle. No, not in high school bands, but with head raised high and nostrils flared to attract lovely elk lasses. If you think you know wild sounds yet haven’t heard the bugle of an elk… that eerie forever wild call is very special and very rare. I’ve heard it in the Rockies, each time frozen in rapt attention with head cocked, neck hair tingling with mouth agape and eyes wide. You may hear the same with just a few hours’ drive to northwestern Pennsylvania.

Bison tastes a lot like beef, only a bit sweeter and more delicate. It’s also got one third less saturated fat.

Bison tastes a lot like beef, only a bit sweeter and more delicate. It’s also got one third less saturated fat.

Bison may not conjure exotic, especially is you’ve seen them on a farm or two in this area, but if you’ve been to say, Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, you can’t miss these one-ton woolly seemingly passive beasts (not) meander in herds or as often seen, straight down the road. Move over and tighten your seat belt. Bison males can stand 6 feet tall at the hump and measure 9 feet nose to rump. They have by far the strongest and largest head of North American land animals — with the exception of Kanye West and Miley Cyrus. It is estimated that in the 17th century bison numbered 40 to 60 million. Settlers claimed they saw “black oceans moving across the plains.” In an effort to eradicate Native Americans, settlers and the US Army shot 99.99 percent of all bison, leaving less than 1,000. Today bison number around 400,000.

A bison burger is more heart healthy than a beef hambuger, and the meat is more tender.

A bison burger is more heart healthy than a beef hambuger, and the meat is more tender.

If you want to talk wild and definitely dangerous, cue the wild boar. With wrinkled, hairy protruding snout and jaws full of large razor sharp tusks and teeth extended from hairy bodies that regularly weigh 300-400 pounds (the largest shot was 1000+ pounds) these ancestors of the domestic pig resemble more of an alien, snorting attack creature than a cute barn animal. And they’ve invaded our open lands and forests. How many? Wrap your mind around an estimated 6 to 8 million rooting up and destroying land and crops in 47 states. What should we do to help? Eat them! They may be unattractive like toothy sharks, crab and lobster, but very tasty with just 25 percent the fat of beef.

You would be forgiven if you think that wild boar would taste like pork; not true. Wild boar meat has a strong, nutty, rich flavor that is unique and often not comparable to other meats.

Free range elk meat tastes like mild (almost sweet) beef, with a very faint venison flavor.

Bison tastes a lot like beef, only a bit sweeter and more delicate. It chews easier and doesn’t fill you up as quickly as beef. That’s a good thing in my book… more bison! And, like elk and wild boar, bison is far healthier than beef with just one-third the RDA of saturated fat.

If, like me, you’re watching your cholesterol, all of these meats have nearly the same amount of that bad stuff, but considering how significantly lower in fat compared to beef; they are definitely a healthier, smarter, full-plate and belly protein choice. And delicious.


By the way, when you’re feeling guilty and opting for shellfish, here are a few surprisingly cholesterol-laden crustaceans. Per 3.5 oz. serving:

Steamed or boiled shrimp — 60 percent, not 24-28 percent as seen below

Blue crab steamed — 33 percent

Dungeness crab — 25 percent, the same as elk, boar and bison, and just 3 percent less than beef


Wine pairings

The weather is turning and so am I; away from whites to robust reds. Few can match California’s own bold and lush Zinfandel for being grill friendly. Bison, elk, boar — they all pair exceedingly well with a good Zin. Try these tried and true favorites next time you spark up the barby for all things meat.
Wayne Bagrowski has been grilling for 30 years, often 150 days annually. An Upstate N.Y. guy who isn’t afraid of rain, cold and snow, he can be found in foul-weather gear on his deck and patio, often shovel and hat in-hand, sending smoke signals to fellow enthusiasts. Long-term wine and spirits and restaurant careers round-out his food and drink passions.

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