Skip to main content

Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat?

Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat?
(David Draper photo)
Print Recipe

What if I said you’re cooking your steaks wrong. Well, maybe even cavemen can agree throwing a thick slab of deer, elk or other wild meat over a glowing pile of coals isn’t wrong, but can you at least consider there might be a better way? Not necessarily an easier way, mind you, but one that results in a tender, juicy wild game that’s cooked to the perfect temperature from edge to edge, without that gray band of dry meat circling a diminishing red interior.

If the term sous-vide sound fancy, it’s because it comes from France, the land of all things culinaire. But despite the Frenchified heritage, sous-vide cooking is actually very basic. The term itself means “under vacuum,” but sous-vide is simply a method of cooking meat, vegetables, and most any other food, in sealed container that’s placed in a bath of hot water and held at a precise temperature for an extended period of time.

Cooking the food inside a sealed container, usually a plastic bag with all the air removed (i.e., under vacuum), all but ensures it won’t dry out. And surrounding it with temperature-controlled hot water that cooks the meat to the exact level of doneness you prefer. Want your venison steak medium-rare? Sous-vide it at 129°. If a little less red is your preference, go with 134°. For those that can only handle their steaks no more rare than medium, 140° is about right. Like your deer steaks well done? Stop reading now, for no amount of sous-vide will save your soul. For the rest of us, it’s the ultimate solution to ensuring our game meat stays moist without any chance of overcooking, and we all know overcooking wild game is the number one cause of that gamey taste everyone hates.

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair. Simply bag the steaks, removing all the air from the bag, submerge them in the heated water and walk away. Most steaks will cook to perfection within an hour or two, but because the water never gets above the target temperature, you can leave the food bagged in the water for hours, or even days, without the threat of overcooking. This is perfect for entertaining or cooking for a large group of friends – simply sous-vide a pile of elk steaks before everyone arrives, then pull them out of the water when the group is ready to eat. (In fact, this is how many fine restaurants prepare steaks and chops as it requires less effort during the busy rush of peak service.)


should-you-sous-vide-your-wild-game-meat-01.jpg
(David Draper photo)

If there is any downside to cooking via the sous-vide method it’s the fact that food, especially meat, comes out of the water bath looking a bit unappetizing. Because meat is poached in its own juices, deer steaks, boar roasts and even pheasant breasts can appear gray when first removed from the bag. Finishing it with a quick sear in a smoking-hot cast-iron skillet, a few seconds over a hot fire or even a pass-over with a blowtorch achieves that classic charred appearance and rich flavor that comes with exposure to dry heat. All while maintaining a perfectly cooked, moist interior that’s pink from edge to edge.


Cooking via the sous-vide method does some specialized equipment, or at the very least, a way to keep the water at a precise temperature for the hours is may take to cook. There are a number of home-built methods to do this, from re-wired rice cookers to hacked beer coolers, details of which can be found on-line. For more consistent, and safer results, consider investing in a commercial sous-vide water bath. There are a number of countertop models available, though they tend to be bulky, taking up precious counter space, and expensive. Recently, the trend has been toward less expensive immersion circulators – small wand-like devices that hook to the side of a pot or other container and constantly pulse water through a heater. There are a number of good models available, although I prefer the Joule from Chef Steps (chefsteps.com) for its small size, convenient app-driven functionality and ability to heat water quickly.

The only other requirement for sous-vide cooking (besides a desire to experiment) are sealable bags to cook in. Good-quality zip-top plastic bags, like the heavy-duty freezer versions made by Ziplock, work well, as do reusable silicone bags made especially for sous-vide cooking. Simply remove the air by submerging all but the top of the bag under water, then close the zippered top. Avoid cheap bags as their sides have a tendency to fail under long periods of heat. The best option, though, is a vacuum sealer, which most hunters probably already have on hand. Just be sure your model has a pulse or seal button that will allow you to seal a bag that may contain some liquid.

Sure, cooking meat over fire is a satisfying affair, and one that feeds that atavistic coal still burning in the depths of our caveman brain. And I’m not saying you should abandon it. But for the tenderest elk steak, moistest pheasant breast and tastiest duck, consider a more modern way to cook. Despite the name, sous-vide is actually incredibly simple and only requires a small investment that pays off big when it comes to cooking all types of wild game, which by its lean, organic nature, offers even less room for error than fatty, forgiving domestic meat.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Top Ten Hunts

Top Ten Hunts

Here at Petersen's Hunting we have compiled the 10 best hunts caught on camera from the last 2 years of Petersen's Hunting TV. Enjoy!

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills.4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter How-To

4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter

Jeff Johnston

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills.

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are...

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns.Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense? Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

Technology is taking deer hunters, and their gear, into the future. The Best New Deer Hunting Technology Accessories

The Best New Deer Hunting Technology

Jeff Johnston - May 15, 2020

Technology is taking deer hunters, and their gear, into the future.

See More Trending Articles

More Recipes

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair. Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat? Recipes

Should You Sous-Vide Your Wild Game Meat?

David Draper - October 19, 2020

Much like a Crock-Pot or slow cooker, cooking sous-vide is a mostly hands-off affair.

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and spicy relish made with white-flesh peaches.Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe Recipes

Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe

Jack Hennessy

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and...

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled venison loin in this recipe.Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe Recipes

Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled...

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.Why Freezer Burn Matters Recipes

Why Freezer Burn Matters

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.

See More Recipes

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now