What Is A Gamey Taste?

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You’ve probably heard some meat and meat products described as being gamey. This term is used a lot in meat that isn’t your traditional chicken breast or cut of beef.

While many of us are familiar with this term and know what we’re trying to describe when we say it, it can be confusing to those who aren’t familiar.

So, what is a gamey taste? Gaminess implies a strong, savory meat flavor that may be slightly sour. Gaminess also describes texture as well, with most wild game having a very lean, tough texture due to the high amount of musculature within cuts from wild animals.

In this guide, we will talk about what a gamey taste is. We will describe the taste and the texture for you in an effort to better explain this subject.

While we’re here, we’ll also talk about different types of meat that tend to be labeled as gamey and even provide you with some tips for making the flavor better if the gaminess bothers you. 

Stick with us to learn what a gamey taste is and more! 

“It’s A Little Gamey”

The phrase “that tastes a little gamey” is nothing new to us. If you know many hunters or people who enjoy exotic meats from time to time, you’ve probably heard it and might even be familiar with it. 

However, there is a difference between hearing a phrase and really understanding what the phrase actually means. That’s where we come in.

We’re going to do our best to break it down for you as to what a gamey taste is from flavor to texture and then some. 

What Is Gaminess?

If you look it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gamey (also spelled gamy) is described as, “having the flavor of game, especially having the flavor of game near tainting”. 

When you consider the animals that this descriptor is typically used for, it’s really more used for meat that comes from wild animals. 

To be specific, gamey flavors tend to be associated with animals that live off of the earth in nature and consume primarily natural foods.

This means foods like herbs, nuts, plants, wild grass, and leaves. When you think about it, most raised beef, chicken, and pork really don’t fit that category. 

However, you have animals like buffalo, elk, antelope, deer, pheasant, rabbit, and more that do fall into this category.

These animals’ diets cause their meat to have a tangy flavor that is more earthy in nature. 

The flavor you experience when you eat meat like this is because of their natural muscle tone and the lean nature of the meat.

While this term is used mostly for describing meat from animals as we mentioned above, the term might also be used to describe the flavor of the organs of more domesticated animals.

If you eat the heart or liver of something more domestic like a cow, it’s also going to have that gamier flavor as well

Gamey Meats 

Another common factor that’ll lead to a slice of meat having a gamier flavor is the age.

Wild animals age and mature much faster because they are in the wild. They are far more athletic and have, as we’ve discussed, a very natural diet. 

It really is the combination of all of these things that contributes to the flavors and the gaminess of their meat.

In fact, if you are consuming meat from a domestic animal that is high in age, you might find that their meat has that gamey flavor and texture as well. 

Of course, what you get in the supermarket probably will never fall into that category. We also want to point out that there are some wild meats out there that wouldn’t be described this way.

One we can think of is quail. Quail actually tends to be pretty subtle in flavor so while they are wild game, their meat might not really hold a gamey flavor

Gamey also doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad flavor. It simply means that it tastes more earthy in nature.

This particular flavor is more common in larger meat. However, this can typically be avoided if the meat is handled properly when dressed. 

It would be impossible for us to really give you every single animal out there that might be gamey in nature or flavor. Here are a few examples for you though. 

  • Buffalo
  • Antelope 
  • Elk
  • Venison
  • Dove
  • Rabbit
  • Squirrel
  • Boar
  • Moose

This list could really go on and on. What you won’t find here is something like chicken, beef, or pork. These animals while they are not necessarily pets are considered to be domesticated animals. 

Even if they are grass-fed or free-range, they still will most likely not really have that gamey flavor to them. They might have more of an earthy flavor but it won’t be as strong or recognizable as the animals that are more wild in nature. 

You might even see something like lamb tossed into this list at times. It is a more wild and lean animal in nature than your traditional meats. 

How To Prepare Gamey Meat

In a little bit, we will give you some tips on the best ways to handle gamey meat and maybe even reduce that gaminess in flavor and texture. 

Right now, we want to touch on how you can cook and prepare gamey meat so that it will taste the best and you can enjoy the flavors rather than wish you hadn’t eaten it. 

Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot you can do about the flavor. However, you would be surprised to find that even just a bit of seasoning might make a difference on that flavor overall

You can soak or brine the meat as well, which we will discuss further in the next section. 

What you really need to know is that gamey meat might be an acquired taste. Yes, it is going to taste different from the meat you are used to if you have not really eaten this type of meat before.

However, if you’re open to trying new things, keep in mind that different does not make something bad! 

It may take trying different types of gamey meat or even trying it more than once for you to really decide whether or not you like the flavor or can handle the flavor.

Remember that there are things you can do to help with the flavor or spice it up to make the flavor more your style. 

Try some of these options:

  • A seasoned rub—try something with a BBQ twist
  • Spice with Italian seasoning
  • Add some Cajun rub or spice
  • Make a homemade BBQ sauce
  • Create a homemade glaze for the meat (try a cherry glaze!)
  • Serve the meat with bread or sides like potatoes 

How To Remove Gaminess From Meat

While you really can’t totally remove gamey flavors from meat that is meant to be gamey, there are things you can do so that the flavor isn’t sour or overly bitter. What you will find is there is a good gamey and a bad gamey. 

While the good gamey is still earthy and different, it’s not quite as tangy or sour as bad gamey.

Bad gamey does not necessarily mean that the meat is bad, it just means the flavor isn’t as good. We’ve got some tips for handling game to try to help combat that! 

Cleaning And Dressing

If you hunt your own game, there is a lot that can be done upfront to help with that gaminess in the meat. This is actually probably one of the most vital times that you can contribute to the flavors and quality of game. 

It is absolutely vital that you clean the animal properly and quickly. When it comes to cleaning the animal, it is recommended to remove the insides of the animal as quickly as possible after death.

While you may not fully clean or dress the animal right then, removing the insides will do a lot to help with the gaminess of the meat. 

When you do this, it helps to stop the enzyme production that is taking place throughout the animal. Then, you can move the animal or whatever you need to do in order to prepare to dress it. 

When you dress the animal, all fat, bone, and hair needs to be removed, as much as feasibly possible. You will also want to remove the hide in a timely manner.

This will help cool the meat as well, stopping those enzymes in their tracks. 

From there, get the meat on ice or in a cold location. It should never hang in the heat. 

Being proactive here will go a long way for reducing gamey flavors that are overwhelming. 

Soak Your Meat

A good process is to soak your meat. This is best done when the meat is fresh and maybe freshly butchered as well. If you soak the meat before it goes into a freezer, this will help remove some of the gamey flavors

There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to how to soak the meat. You will find a variety of opinions and recommendations so you can choose what you feel is right but here is our recommendation. 

We recommend soaking the meat in either milk or yogurt. There is something about the contents of these dairy items that seems to soak up that gamey flavor and bring it out of the meat to some degree.

Here are some other common suggestions: 

  • Saltwater
  • Buttermilk
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Dairy

Marinade And Season

Once the meat has been dressed and frozen, it’s totally in your hands. Find a good recipe that seems tasty and has a lot of good feedback and give that a try. For every type of meat, you will find hundreds of recipes to try. 

Whatever you try, finding a good marinade and soaking the meat in marinade for a longer period of time will do a lot for you. You could also brine the meat instead of marinade it—they both would work pretty well here. 

Brine typically has vinegar or some sort of citrus juice and these will do a lot for toning down gamey flavors and breaking down the lean musculature of the cut. 

A marinade will build onto the flavor and override any gamey flavors left after all of your other steps and processes have been done. 

If you use a marinade or a brine, let the meat rest in that for a minimum of 3 hours. It’s really best if you can leave it overnight or for about 12 hours

Related Questions

We hope that you found this guide a helpful and valuable resource. It’s certainly a unique flavor that has an earthy tone to it but it doesn’t have to be a bad or avoided flavor in the end. 

We invite you to take a look at the following question and answer section for some additional details that may be useful to you. 

Is gamey meat bad? 

In actuality, gamey meat is not bad, although the terminology sometimes gets a bad rep. What you will find is there are a lot of different ways to use the term gamey and some people use it incorrectly.

If the gamey meat smells slightly sour, the flavor will also probably be slightly sour or bitter so keep that in mind as well

Is duck meat gamey?

Duck is considered to be gamey meat. In fact, duck is gamey meat with a pretty strong and pronounced flavor. It does not really taste like chicken but rather tastes similar to red meat with a gamier flavor. 

Can beef taste gamey?

If the beef you purchased is free-range or perhaps grass-fed, it may have a gamey flavor to it.

While this gaminess won’t really be the same as a wild animal that is gamey, it does have some gamey character because it lived on grass and nature rather than corn and wheat. 

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