Meat-lover’s guide to eating moose
How one hunter wastes nothing when transforming moose to meal
I love meat. I may even be the ultimate carnivore. Hell, I’m a predator who takes an inordinate amount of pride in converting large game animals to succulent table fare—and nothing’s more satisfying than reducing a hulking moose to plate-sized pieces. After all, mature moose run 1,000 pounds on the hoof in the east and up to double that in northern B.C. and the Yukon. Now that’s a lot of meat (and just think: once you’ve mastered the moose, its smaller cousins—elk, deer and caribou—are a cinch to carve up by comparison). So, how best to make the most of your moose? Herewith, a shoulder-to-shank culinary guide to ensuring nothing goes to waste.
From bush to butcher
The first step comes while field dressing: namely, separating the inedible parts from the edible parts. On a 1,000-pound moose, you’ll have to remove about 50 pounds of offal (sounds better than guts) and another 50 pounds of variously masticated twigs from the interior of the monster. Set the offal aside to mine later for edible bits. With bulls, also keep the testicles. If the law requires sex organs to attest to gender, skin the testicles free of their packaging and leave the empty pouch attached to the carcass. You can chuck the stomach contents.
The furry wrapper of a moose—100 pounds of heavy, hairy skin—is considered inedible unless you’re starving (best donate it to a hide-recovery program). Also not needed are about 40 pounds of lower legs and hooves (unless you’re interested in making thin soup or glue). The head accounts for another 80 to 90 pounds; you can get rid of that, too, once you’ve removed the tongue. (See “The odd bits” for what to do with the heart, liver, testicles and tongue.)
Next, be sure to remove the tenderloins. These are the filet mignon-long, succulent cylinders of prime eating that usually wind up either chewed to shreds in a band saw, bootlegged home by your butcher or tossed into the trimming box to become ground moose. You want none of these fates to befall these precious cuts, so rescue them now. You can almost pull these free with your fingers by reaching from inside the body cavity, right up to where the ribs join the spine along the loins.
From butcher to barbecue
What remains on the carcass should be something like 650 pounds of edible moose (bone included), give or take a few pounds of scrap gristle, silver skin and fat. At this point, there are three ways to proceed. One scenario is to get a butcher to cut and wrap the meat to your order. There are even butchers who will (heaven forbid) turn the entire moose into sausage for you.
Or, you could saw the carcass into halves and then quarters (a good carpenter’s saw will do the job). Saw down the backbone to halve the moose, and cut between the last two ribs to quarter it. Then, following a standard butcher’s guide to primal cuts, slice and saw the meat into shapes your guests will recognize on the table.
Your third option is to forget the saws and remove cone-shaped portions of meat by following natural tissue lines around the bones. This results in meat free of fat, marrow and bone, which takes up less space in the freezer. And with the fat and marrow gone, the meat is a lot less likely to taste off, or gamey.
Whichever route you take, here are the steaks, roasts, chops and so on you can expect from your 650 pounds of primal cuts (see “The cuts”). Bon appétit!
This article was originally published on August 15, 2003