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The most important pointer for cooking elk meat is that overcooking and drying out the meat should be avoided. Elk meat can become dry, and every effort should be made to keep the juices in the meat. Farm-raised elk has become more common, and the butchering usually is already taken care of, but for someone who is preparing wild elk meat, it is important for him or her to remove the silverskin before cooking.
Elk meat is a low-fat red meat that is rich in many vitamins and minerals. Pound for pound, it is lower in calories than other red meats as well as poultry and most fish. It has a strong red meat flavor, similar to beef. Wild elk does have a strong gamy taste, but in farm-raised elk, this is much more subtle.
Someone butchering his or her own elk meat will have to remove the silverskin, the thin membrane surrounding the meat. The silverskin should be held firmly, and a knife can be worked down the seam until the entire membrane is removed. When purchasing farm-raised elk meat, consumers might find that this step has already been completed for them.
Overcooking is the most common mistake made when preparing elk meat. Elk is a low-fat meat, and when overcooked, it tends to dry out. Cooking it too fast or too hot can make elk dry, tough and stringy. A meat thermometer can help monitor its progress. An internal temperature of 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit (55-60 degrees Celsius) is considered optimal, with meat becoming noticeably drier as it reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).
Whether frying, broiling, roasting or barbecuing, elk is at its best when it is rare or medium rare. For diners who prefer their meat well done, a marinate can be used to keep the elk tender and juicy and cook very slowly. After cooking, the meat should be allowed to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Piercing elk meat can allow juices to run out, causing further drying. The meat should be turned with tongs rather than a fork. Using a meat thermometer will require piercing the meat, but if done infrequently and near the end of the cooking time, this will not cause severe drying.
Burgers also can be made from elk meat. When mincing elk, strips of meat should be placed in a food processor along with a little elk fat. A little olive oil should be added, it should be seasoned as desired, and the processor should be switched to the "chop" setting. After the meat has an even consistency, it is ready for shaping and cooking.
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