The Absolute Best Game Meat For Beginners

There are reasons-a-plenty to eat wild game meat. It is, as Bowhunters United says, "lean, organic, and hormone free." And if you hunt and dress it yourself, you know exactly where it came from and how it was processed. Few things inspire self-confidence like sourcing your own meat, but it's an intimidating practice if you've never tried it. 

While 80% of Americans approve of legal hunting, only 4% of the national population actually go out and do it (per National Shooting Sports Foundation and NC State University). These numbers make it seem as though access to game meat would be rare, but there are alternatives to hunting. Farm raised game — in particular, birds like pheasant and quail — has increased in both availability and popularity. So, with the barrier of hunting out of the way, anyone who is interested in experimenting with game for their next meal will want to know where to start. 

Like chicken ... but not really

It is best to begin with something that's relatively familiar, which is why pheasant is an excellent gateway meat. Chef Mike DeCamp states in Food & Wine that while pheasant may be the "most gamey" meat, it is perfect for "the uninitiated since it is the most similar to chicken." He adds that pheasant is "versatile and takes on sauce wonderfully, or can simply be seared and served on the rarer side." Pheasants, according to CarnivoreStyle, are roughly the size of a small chicken — between 2 or 3 pounds. They can be roasted whole or the breast and legs can be cooked separately. Because it is lean meat, ensuring that there is plenty of moisture present during cooking is key. 

You can also preserve pheasant by using the classic French technique of confit, where it is slow-cooked in fat for several hours. Brad Leone shows us the entire process of preparing pheasant (from field to plate) using this style (via Bon Appétit). Other good game meats for beginners include squab, which is a darker meat, closer to duck, and quail, which are small, lean, and great for stuffing