The MeatEater Outdoor Cookbook

Wild Game Recipes for the Grill, Smoker, Campstove, and Campfire

About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The eagerly anticipated new cookbook with 100+ recipes from the author of The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook

In his previous books, outdoorsman and hunter Steven Rinella brought wild game into the kitchen, teaching readers how to butcher and cook wild fish and game to create standout dishes with reliable results. Now, Rinella is hauling the kitchen outdoors, with a cookbook that celebrates the possibilities of open-air wild game cooking. Because food just tastes better when it’s caught, cooked, and eaten outside.  

Each chapter covers a different outdoor cooking method—grilling, smoking, cooking over coals. Throughout, recipes are tagged for backyard cooking, car camping, or backpacking. There’s something here for everyone who loves the outdoors, from backyard grill masters to backcountry big game hunters. 

The over 100 easy-to-follow recipes include:
• Stuffed Game Burgers 3 Ways
• Bulgogi Backstrap Lettuce Wraps
Hot-Smoked Trout
• Grilled Lobster with Kelp Butter
• Venison Stir-Fry with Cabbage
• Coal Roasted Bananas

Along with recipes, Rinella explains essential outdoor cooking techniques like how to build the perfect outdoor kitchen for any scenario and what it takes to maintain a fire. With preparations ranging from simple backcountry fare to guest-worthy showstoppers, The MeatEater Outdoor Cookbook is the essential companion for anyone who wants to eat well in the wild.
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The MeatEater Outdoor Cookbook

Over the Flames

In 2009, I was given an ambitious assignment by Outside magazine to find the best steak in Argentina. This was one of the most exciting assignments I’d ever gotten. The Argentineans are regarded as masters of open-flame cooking. Here was a chance to get paid while studying their techniques.

First off, the beef in Argentina is outstanding. Their cattle eat a free-range diet of grass throughout their entire life instead of spending their final months confined to a pad of concrete while they slurp up prodigious volumes of corn. The meat is a little bit chewier than typical USDA Prime beef, but it has a more robust flavor. It’s prepared simply but fastidiously: a bit of salt, then careful monitoring above an open flame.

What I liked even better than Argentinean beef was the grilling contraptions upon which it was cooked. Someone who is unfamiliar with outdoor grilling might mistake an Argentinean grill, or parrilla, for one of those medieval torture devices used to stretch people out. It features a chain and sprocket system with a big wheel that can be turned by hand to make micro adjustments to the height of the welded metal grill. The fire table is at the height of a countertop, so the grill man, or asador, is looking pretty much eye to eye with the meat. The asador keeps a fire of hardwood burning at the edge of the fire table and uses a small shovel and a set of tongs to place embers and burning wood in strategic positions beneath the grill. No matter what, they don’t ever let a flame make contact with the meat. To do so would be the moral equivalent of bestiality.

When I got back to America, I was dying to make one of these setups on my own back porch. I built a big table about as high as my belly button and stacked bricks on top of it to create a bunch of little shelves that would support my grill at whatever height I wanted it. For the floor of my fire table, I had a couple friends help me carry over a huge slab of landscaping slate that I’d pried up from the mud next to my garden.

The first time I used this grill was almost the last time I ever cooked anything. When that wet slate heated up beneath a burning mound of lump charcoal, the water trapped within the sedimentary layers of rock started to expand. At first I thought someone was shooting at me with a .22 rifle, but then I realized the slate was exploding with superheated rock fragments that were zipping all over the deck. Somehow I managed to escape unharmed. Later, when everything cooled off, I put what was left of that slate right back in the mud where I found it and replaced it with a piece of quarter-inch plate steel.

That jury-rigged Argentinean contraption was just one of a bazillion or so ways that I’ve grilled food over an open flame. I’ve cooked Dall sheep ribs and black bear loins on grills made of interwoven willow limbs supported by river cobbles. On a road trip down the entire length of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, my buddies and I carried a wire shelf salvaged from a discarded refrigerator in the back of our rented minivan. At night we’d prop that thing on whatever was available, ranging from bricks to truck tires, and light a fire of driftwood and coconut husks beneath it. Over the course of days, we grilled everything from onions to grouper to coconut meat on that thing. At the end of the trip, before leaving our last beach camp and heading to the airport, I hung that grill on a tree branch near our fire ring in hopes that someone else would find it and put it to good use.

Clearly, I’ve got as much love for grilling rigs as I do for grilled food. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from homemade grills, it’s that store-bought grills are pretty damn nice. Turns out professional engineers know a thing or two about how to heat surfaces in a hurry with an efficient use of fuel and predictable results. My wife and I are currently raising three young kids, so this convenience means a lot to me these days. The kids often have after-school activities and we enforce bedtimes, so dinner needs to happen in an orderly and efficient fashion at night. In other words, I don’t always have an hour to wander through the woods or rummage through a junk pile in search of some novelty that would hold a hunk of meat at an appropriate height above a flame. And since I’d never deny my kids or my wife and myself the pleasures and smells of outdoor grilling, we’ve slowly added conveniences such as a gas grill and an electric pellet grill to our outdoor cooking arsenal. It keeps us in the grilling game on a weekly basis, but without hot fragments of rock flying toward the kids’ heads.

Of all the forms of outdoor cooking covered in this book, we’re starting with the grilling chapter because grilling is a familiar and relatively easy way to produce great meals outside. From burgers to whole fish to spatchcocked fowl, you’ll learn how to grill pretty much everything you can find from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea—including any grocery stores encountered along the way. Not only that, but we’ll cover plenty of sauces and sides, along with strategies and recommended gear to keep you grilling great foods no matter where you might find yourself.

Grilling: What You Need to Know

In its simplest form, grilling is a cooking method that involves placing food on some sort of grate that sits over or near a dry heat source. Gas flames, wood fires, and charcoal briquettes can all be used as heat sources for grilling. Each will create a slightly different finished product (see page xxvi for more about this).

Cooking temperatures are typically high, often in excess of 500°F. The intense heat speeds up what’s known as the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical process that breaks down proteins into amino acids that react with the sugars in your meat or veggies to produce a charred brown crust. The crust lends that complex and delicious umami flavor to grilled foods. The intense heat of a cooking grill also allows the m of foods to be quickly seared without overcooking the inside. Although grilling is most often associated with the hot and fast cooking of foods like steaks, burgers, and fish fillets, you can also use a grill to slow roast foods such as whole birds, large cuts of meat, and even whole sheep, goats, or hogs. This is accomplished by using either a combination of direct and indirect heat or lower cooking temperatures.

When it comes to grilling (or any other method of cooking) wild game, I get asked over and over for recipes that pertain to specific species. My answer to those questions is always the same: Don’t be concerned so much about the species as with the general characteristics of the flesh and the cut of meat you want to cook.

For hooved animals—including all species of deer, antelope, wild hogs, and even wild or feral sheep and goats—the cuts that work best for grilling are muscles without a lot of connective tissue. Backstraps, tenderloins, and roasts or steaks from the upper hind leg are best grilled hot and fast to medium-rare. Tough cuts like shanks and shoulders should be braised in liquid until nearly fork-tender before grilling. Another option is grinding tough cuts into burger or sausage with added beef or pork fat. A 1:10 fat-to-meat ratio works well for burger while a higher 2:10 ratio is ideal for sausage.

Much like big game animals, most upland game birds lack fat, and their legs can be tough and chewy. But the boneless breasts from just about any game bird are the equivalent of backstrap or tenderloin when it comes to grilling. It’s fairly easy to get moist and tender results, especially if they’ve been brined or marinated in dairy first. The same goes for small whole plucked birds like quail and doves and like critters such as squirrels and rabbits. Large whole birds benefit from being spatchcocked before grilling (see page 75).

Grilling fish requires some special considerations, too. Thick chunks of firm-fleshed fish like tuna can be grilled with or without the skin, like a steak. Just be sure to oil both the grill grate and fillet to prevent sticking. When grilling more fragile fish, such as trout or bluefish, leaving the scaled skin on helps hold the fillet together. Grilling fish “on the half-shell” was popularized by Southern chefs working with unscaled, skin-on redfish fillets, but the technique works well with fish such as salmon that have sturdy skin and scales. Meanwhile, grilling whole fish without having the entire thing fall apart can be difficult. You can get around this by wrapping them in foil or banana leaves, but nothing beats a wire fish basket, especially for ultra-delicate fish such as flounder.

About the Author

Steven Rinella
Steven Rinella is an outdoorsman, writer, wild foods enthusiast, and television and podcast personality who is a passionate advocate for conservation and the protection of public lands. Rinella is the host of the television show and podcast MeatEater; his most recent book is the #1 New York Times bestseller Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars. His writing has appeared in many publications, including OutsideField & Stream, and The New Yorker. Rinella lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and their three kids. More by Steven Rinella
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About the Author

Krista Ruane
Steven Rinella is an outdoorsman, writer, wild foods enthusiast, and television and podcast personality who is a passionate advocate for conservation and the protection of public lands. Rinella is the host of the television show and podcast MeatEater; his most recent book is the #1 New York Times bestseller Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars. His writing has appeared in many publications, including OutsideField & Stream, and The New Yorker. Rinella lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and their three kids. More by Krista Ruane
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