Quick Tips for Tenderizing Wild Game

Quick Tips for Tenderizing Wild Game

Hunters love to eat wild game. It is the main reason we do what we do. That said, there is no denying that every one of us has gotten a hold of those tough cuts. You know the ones. The bites you can’t seem to chew no matter how long you attack it; The ones that leave more sinewy material stuck in your teeth than in your belly.

The ones that are quite simply unpleasant. Don’t fret if this has happened to you… It has most likely happened to everyone. While the wild game is naturally going to be tougher just by their diet, maturity, and physical attributes, there are a few things hunters can do to help improve the toughness of some of those cuts.

Pictured: Antelope Curry (Recipe found in *free* Wild Game Gourmet: The Ultimate Mossberg Cookbook)


The suggested aging period for a large game is 4-7 days below the temperature of 40º Fahrenheit. The process of aging lets enzymes in the tissues break down the tough connective tissue in the muscle. This tenderizes the meat naturally. Take caution, if you cannot keep the meat safely hung in less than 40º, you risk spoilage. Having been a nurse in my past life, this process is almost terrifying for me! I am guilty of cooling my meat as quickly as possible. However, for those who have optimal environments for aging, it is a fantastic way to naturally tenderize your meat.

Wait Out the Rigor Mortis

Believe it or not, this will help provide you with more tender cuts. Rigor mortis, or muscle stiffening, happens shortly after death, then begins to release again within 12-24 hours. If you are in a cool environment (less than 40 degrees), waiting for the rigor mortis to relax can be extremely beneficial. When meat is cut from the bone while in sustained rigor mortis, the muscles are contracted, and will not relax again…thus causing the meat to be tougher.

Tenderizing by Hand

Once you have butchered your animal, physically tenderizing cuts using a meat mallet will help with those tougher cuts of meat. Tenderizing with a mallet destroys the muscle fibers and softens the meat. In the event you use a processor for your meat packaging, you can ask to have your tougher cuts of meat tenderized at that time.


Certain fruits have natural tenderizing properties as they contain bromelain, an enzyme that can break down the connective tissue in meat. Pineapple, papaya, and kiwi all work well to tenderize meat. Just remember, they will tenderize the outer portion, but the middle portion of the meat may remain tougher. Caution should be used with pineapple as prolonged marinating can cause the meat to become mushy.


This is a great method for turkey legs and other tough parts of game birds. Soaking meat in a salty brine tenderizes the meat by osmosis. Meaning, the salty brine solution will travel into the meat to equalize the salinity. Thus, the meat is moist before cooking. Brining is also really helpful in reducing the fishy/gaminess of diver ducks and other less delicious birds.


New call-to-actionThis one comes down to personal preference. We have all heard that any game should be soaked in buttermilk to tenderize and reduce any ‘gamey’ flavors. The lactic acid helps break down the connective tissue in the meat, however, it will only have this effect on the very exterior of the meat. While some love buttermilk soaks on their red meat, I prefer to use it on birds and other white meat.

Bon Appétit!

So there you have it! A few simple tips to help you with some of your tougher cuts of meat or less than desirable game. I suggest experimenting with different meats and different techniques. I assure you that you will indeed find some great new combinations out there!

About the Author

Kirstie Pike

Kirstie Pike is the founder and CEO of Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women, the leading edge for women’s performance hunting gear for nine years and running.
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