should you go for game meat this Christmas? – Which? News

Not everyone is used to eating, buying, or cooking game meat, but if you’re tempted to try something a little different this year, it helps to know a little bit of the background to ensure a successful meal.

The consumption of game meat is on the rise; British specialist Wild and Game said it has seen orders for game baskets soar this year, up 35% from the same period last year.

Even the budget supermarket Aldi jumped into the action, selling a festive ‘Exquisite Game Box’ featuring partridge and pheasant for £ 29.99.

But this is unfamiliar territory to many, so there are some things you should know before you buy.

We’ve put together expert ideas on how to buy, cook, and prepare game to help you whip up the best Christmas treat.


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What is game meat?

Game encompasses a range of animals, generally falling into two categories:

  • Game birds / game birds – such as grouse, pheasant, partridge, quail, snipe, wild duck, wild goose, woodcock and wood pigeon.
  • Fur and ‘ungulate’ game – tThese include deer and wild boars, as well as some wild populations of sheep and goats. Furry game includes rabbits, hares, and squirrels.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that “wild birds” are defined as those which are hunted for human consumption, but this also includes “a pheasant which has been reared under controlled conditions before being released into the wild for to be chased “.

In other words, “wild” game can be reared on the farm before being released into the wild.

What does the game taste like?

Game meat traditionally has an intensely fleshy flavor, which is largely due to its mixed diet consisting of natural vegetation, insects, berries and grains.

Birds and wildlife also naturally exercise more than those in captivity, resulting in lean muscle mass and denser meat, a common feature of game.


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When is the game in season?

Typically, game season is during the fall and winter months, but some types of game – like wild boar, rabbit, squirrel, and pigeon – are available year round.

The times when fresh game is not available are called “closed season” and this is when some game species in certain places cannot be slaughtered, so that animal numbers can be maintained. .

Outside of this period, it is possible to buy frozen game meat, or you can buy it in season and freeze it yourself.


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Where to buy game meat

Most supermarkets, including Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, carry a range of wild game during the season. You can also find it on delivery services like Ocado.

Street butchers and farmer’s markets often sell game from local estates, and your butcher should be able to tell you where the produce you are purchasing is from.

The British Gambling Insurance Program (BGA) has a game resellers page on their “Eat Wild” campaign website to help you find your nearest store with BGA guaranteed play.

How to prepare the game

The game world comes with its own peculiarities and specialized terms – for example, a “hook” is a pair of birds – usually a male and a female, which differ in flavor.

The preparation traditionally involved can seem daunting. This includes “hanging” game (aging or ripening meat by hanging it on a hook), plucking feathers or removing the skin and any lead shot before cooking it.

However, nowadays game can be purchased in a range of ready-made cuts, including oven-ready birds, portioned breasts, venison fillets, and even sausage – which means you don’t you don’t have to be an expert to try it.

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Is game meat safe to eat?

Game is traditionally shot with lead. Eating it frequently can therefore expose you to potentially harmful levels of lead, although occasional meals shouldn’t be a problem.

However, it is especially important for vulnerable groups – such as toddlers and children, and pregnant women or those trying to have a baby – to minimize their consumption, as lead can interfere with brain and brain development. the nervous system.

The FSA claims that big game (like game) sold in supermarkets tends to be either farmed or low in lead, which means you don’t have to worry as much about reducing the lead. consumption. However, recent spot tests carried out by some groups have found high levels of lead in the supermarket game.

If in doubt, ask during your purchase to establish how the product was shot.


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Tips for cooking soft and tender game

Don’t overcook it. Game has a reputation for being dry, largely because it doesn’t have a lot of fatty tissue, which means overcooking can quickly dry it out. Be sure to baste or cover the meat when cooking slowly.

Choose seasonal vegetables. Root vegetables like cabbage, beets, and carrots naturally pair well with game, matching the earthy flavors.

Tenderize with acidic marinades or raw fruit. Acidic marinades such as lemon juice, wine, or wine vinegar help tenderize meat, as do some fruits, especially kiwi and pineapple. Mash raw fruit and spread over meat, or toss with other marinade ingredients to coat before cooking. Do not marinate for too long, otherwise the surface may become mushy.

Invest in a meat thermometer. Take the guesswork out of cooking your game to perfection – check out our top rated meat thermometers.

Cook the stuffing separately. FSA suggests cooking the stuffing separately, not inside the bird (also applies to turkey). This is because stuffed birds take longer to cook and may not cook completely if stuffed.


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Game recipes from top chefs

If this is your first time trying the game, choose a recipe from one of the best chefs in the country to help you out. We’ve gathered recipes from Delia, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as a starting point:

Game pie is a great way to use up leftovers no matter what game meat you have. This game pie recipe from BBC Food suggests using mixed game meat, such as pheasant, partridge, hare and rabbit, as well as a venison steak, but a simpler selection will do the trick as well.


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Is game meat healthy?

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Dr Simon Steenson, Nutrition Specialist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Game is generally a good source of protein, provides essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and B vitamins, and can contain less fat and saturated fat than other types of meat.

Game meat like game is also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.

However, game birds can be slightly more fat and calorie-dense than conventional choices like turkey or chicken, although that depends on the bird.

Can you freeze the game?

Wild game can be purchased frozen and can also be frozen from fresh.

Ideally, you should use vacuum packaging, so that you can extract as much air as possible before freezing, to avoid freezer burn.

If you are using regular freezer bags, it is best to double wrap your game meat and remove as much air as possible before sealing it. If you are freezing a bird with the feathers, wrap it in newspaper first.

It can be frozen for up to nine months if well wrapped. Always thaw game slowly at room temperature or in the refrigerator.


Is eating game a sustainable choice?

There is an active debate between supporters and critics about the sustainability of the game.

Annette Woolcock, head of wild foods at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, says the industry spends over £ 250million on conservation each year and actively manages two million hectares for conservation to ensure that the game is sustainable and healthy. This includes keeping deer numbers at manageable levels to help preserve the UK’s ancient forests and prevent animals such as rabbits and pigeons from damaging crops.

However, critics point to the fact that many wild-slaughtered game birds have started to be reared – the Game Farmers’ Association says 83% of shoots depend on hand-reared game released into the countryside to supplement wild stocks. – and this could have implications for sustainability.

Dr Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network, based at the Environmental Change Network at the University of Oxford, says: “There are many [sustainability] the problems are exactly the same as for other farm animals ”(when we talk about farmed wild game).

For example, pheasants are kept in pens and fattened on soybeans and grains, and the increased demand for venison means that there has been a corresponding increase in farmed venison.

“As ruminants, deer produce methane, just like sheep and cattle,” says Dr. Garnett. “Deer also prevent trees from growing because they eat them, so there are biodiversity / landscape issues to consider as well.”

So it’s not a simple win, but taking an approach similar to what you do with other meats is a smart move.

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Raymond I. Langston