If you’re getting bored of the usual barbecue menu of burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and steak, set your taste buds ablaze with exciting new flavors of wild meat from both the land and sea. Ready to level up your grilling game? This comprehensive guide to grilling exotic meats includes everything you need to know to get fired up and confident in your skills as a backyard chef. Learn pro tips for grilling meat such as how to prepare tough meats, the best grills for cooking meat, and more.
Starting with the Basics: Barbeque Tools
Whatever type of meat you choose to grill, every backyard chef needs this checklist of essential barbeque equipment. Keep these must-haves close at hand and be ready for grilling anything, from burgers and steaks to alligator and quail:
- Basting brush
- Protective gloves and disinfectant spray
- Meat thermometer
- Grill brush
- Tongs and spatula
- Cutting board
What are the Best Grills for Cooking Meat?
If you want a distinctive woodsy flavor, a hardwood grill is the way to go, although it does take more work. If you don’t mind tending to the fire and more clean-up, old-fashioned wood pellet smokers are well worth the effort, especially if you want that rustic taste.
Charcoal grills also give wild meats that special smoked flavor, and compared with hardwood grills, they are easier to light and keep going. They also have intense direct heat and a clean flame, which is ideal for quickly searing exotic meats to keep them tender and juicy.
For convenience and easy cleanup, a gas grill is a wise option, and you can get the same woodsy smoked flavor with wood chips. Grilling expert Hank Shaw from Petersen’s Hunting Magazine imparts a little smoke to his gas grill by soaking wood chips in water, nesting them in a double layer of foil, and placing them directly on a burner. As he explains, “The chips will smolder and you’ll get a flavor closer to that of a ‘real’ grill.”
How to Grill Difficult, Exotic Meats
If you plan on grilling venison, which comes from deer meat, the average omnivore might be a bit apprehensive, typically complaining that it’s gamey and tough. But when prepped and grilled just right, venison has a pleasantly mild flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes it stand out among the different types of red meat. Another plus, it’s also much leaner than regular beef and has a higher amount of vitamins and minerals.
- How to Prepare: According to Sean Connolly, chef and host of On the Grill, the best cuts of venison are the leg and loin, which can be easily tenderized with an overnight marinade of rock salt, freshly ground pepper, sherry, and orange juice. Professional chef and butcher Nils Hoyum recommends trimming off any connective tissue before brining so it won’t be tough and chewy when grilled.
- Grilling Pro-Tip: For the best results, grill the venison on high heat for a few minutes on each side, allowing it to get crispy and caramelized before the inside gets overcooked. Let it rest and then thinly slice across the grain.
In the grilling world, land animals such as red meat and poultry usually come to mind, but adding seafood to the menu is an easy way to offer friends and family surf and turf meals. Another benefit, mussels have a wonderful flavor thanks to the naturally occurring salt and other nuanced flavors from the sea; they are also packed with protein, iron, and omega-3.
- How to Prepare: With a few simple steps, you can have restaurant-style grilled mussels in just a few minutes. First, make a creamy sauce with melted butter, garlic, and white wine over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley. Rinse mussels with cold water and scrub the shells, making sure to remove any beards.
- Grilling Pro-Tip: Completely enclose the mussels in a large piece of heavy foil, folding up the edges to allow the steam to build. Place the foil packet on the grill on high heat. Cook until the shells open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl and drizzle with sauce.
Similar in taste to chicken, quail has a more intense flavor profile, making it stand out among poultry. With their small size and balanced meat-to-bone ratio, quails are perfect for a tender and delicate appetizer.
- How to Prepare: For two semi-boneless halves from each bird, cut along the side of the breastbone, following straight down through the thigh to the body. Place in a plastic bag along with minced garlic, salt, and pepper, olive oil, plus your favorite seasonings. Mark Bittman from New York Times Cooking likes to add 20 roughly chopped fresh sage leaves for Tuscan-style grilled quail. Shake to fully coat and then marinate for at least an hour or overnight.
- Grilling Pro-Tip: Grill the quail on high heat until browned and fully cooked. This should take about 15 minutes.
Also known as Buffalo, bison is much leaner than beef, with fewer calories and saturated fat. It has a similar taste and texture to hamburgers but with enhanced nutrition and more flavor, making it a popular alternative for burgers and steaks.
- How to Prepare: Grass-fed, free-roaming bison produces high-quality meat, so it doesn’t need much seasoning — salt and pepper will do the trick.
- Grilling Pro-Tip: For rare to medium-rare, sear the steaks on high heat for several minutes on each side. When grilling burgers, make sure to allow enough room—overcrowding the grill will give your burgers a soggy texture.
With low levels of calories and fat, plus a high amount of protein, the lean white meat of alligator is tender and juicy, similar to the texture of pork and chicken. The best cut is the tail, which is considered the tenderloin.
- How to Prepare: Rinse the meat and pat dry, then slice into 1 to 2-inch pieces. For a Cajun flavor, dust with Cajun-style seasonings and garlic powder. To balance out the heat of the Cajun spices, dip the grilled alligator tail in a creamy sauce made with a base of mayonnaise and ketchup, plus added seasonings.
- Grilling Pro-Tip: Skewer the pieces and grill over high heat for 5 minutes on each side.
Top chefs and tastemakers all agree—the most flavorful and delicious food is wild meat cooked over an open fire. Now you can make your grilling memorable and delicious with these expert-recommended tips for grilling meat. The cure for boring barbeque comes down to ingredients and know-how; all you need is your choice of wild-caught meat, the best grilling equipment for your needs, and an adventurous spirit.
Author Bio: When Surinder Multani tasted his first American-style barbeque in the 90s, he got so fired up about grilling that he turned his passion into a business by founding BBQ Outlets in 2005. Along with a line of top-rated gas grills, barbecue islands, and the Smoker, Surinder expanded his collection to include patio furniture, fireplaces, and an expert design team.