Simple Gourmet: Tenderizing Rock Chucks, Wild Turkeys, etc.

All critters produce tough meats, which leads to the rumors that they are bad to eat. Jackrabbits and marmots, like this one, fall into this category, but so do turkeys and bears and deer.

All animals produce tough meat. Somewhere on every animal will be a cut or many cuts that are just not easy to eat by grilling on a hot flame.

Big animals, like deer, elk, and cattle also produce big pieces of tender meat that are easy to eat, and that makes them favorites. Little critters like the rock chuck pictured above also produce tender meat — but it’s little. Their backstraps just aren’t that big. If you try to grill their front legs hot, it won’t go well.

Tons of animals get a bad rap — jackrabbits are at the top of the list — for being tough and impossible to eat. But, if treated properly, all the meats I’ve encountered can be quite tasty, even though they are tough.

Fortunately, we can make tough meat tender in many different ways. Using a pressure cooker is one of the fasted ways to tenderize the meat and break up the connective tissues that make it tough and chewy.

These instructions work for anything tough. Shoulders from any animal, ribs, offcuts for stew. Try it on big game, small game, and game birds. This recipe will be nice for small game and big wild turkey wings. Finish them basted with sauce in the oven on broil. Tasty!

What You Need

  • At least one pound of meat; I’m using 2 rock chucks
  • Stock — enough to almost cover the meat in the pot. Use game stock, chicken stock or beef stock
  • Seasoning (salt, et al.)
  • Pressure cooker — Instapot-style is great

What You Do

Prepare the meat well. You’ve still got to remove silver skin and those little glands that ruin the flavor so easily.

Prepare the meat well, removing silver skin and glands.

Season the meat liberally and place the meat in the pressure cooker. You may take the time to brown the outside by setting your pot to saute, but you can get away without it.

Add stock to nearly cover the meat.

Add stock to fill at least halfway up the side of the meat, and nearly covered would be good, too. Your pot may have instructions on a minimum amount of liquid you should use — follow those instructions.

Set the cooker to High Pressure for 10 minutes. This means that once it’s up to pressure, it’ll stay there for 10 minutes, but it’ll take much more than 10 minutes to cook overall. Do about 10 minutes for small game, but if you put a thick roast from a big animal in there, increase that time. Maybe 30 minutes for a roast.

Once cooked, the meat may easily fall off the bone.

Carefully remove the meat. It may be so tender that it falls off the bones, and you’ll be making pulled-meat sandwiches. If you’re careful, though, you can cover this meat in barbeque sauce and put it on a sheet under the broiler in your oven or toaster oven. Do it on Broil for about 5 minutes and check it, maybe flip it. You want the sauce to be thick and sticky, but not completely dried out.

I used a mustardy sauce for the broil stage.

Add more sauce and serve hot!

You can turn even the worst cuts of meat and the lowliest critters into tasty pub-style wings with a pressure cooker.

About the author: Levi Sim is an avid hunter, and an increasingly avid shooter. He strives to make delicious and simple recipes from the game he kills. He makes a living as a professional photographer, writer, and photography instructor. Check out his work and he’d love to connect on Instagram: @outdoorslevi

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  • Big Al 45 May 24, 2022, 11:02 am

    How do you get past the smell of a Rock Chuck to begin with????????

    • Levi Sim June 3, 2022, 10:44 pm

      Headshots! I haven’t found them particularly odorous unless the stomach and guts are opened. They have a musk, but so do bull elk and bucks. I’ve eaten 9 marmots without any issues. If you shoot them from 300 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor, I suspect you’ll have different results.

  • Mikey May 8, 2022, 5:33 pm

    Here is my secret crock pot recipe that will blow away anyone. Works amazing with deer roast and tough wild cuts of meat as well as “cheap” beef roasts (if that’s even a thing anymore.

    Meat (2.5 to 5 lbs)
    Cut up into small pieces (bite size)
    Throw in crock pot with the following:
    1 Italian seasoning packet
    1 Ranch dressing packet
    1 Cream of jalapeno or celery or mushroom (or whatever cream of soup you want)
    Butter (1/2 stick)
    Lemon juice (1/8 to 1/4 cup)
    Pepperchinis (or other pepper)

    Slow cook 8hr in crockpot

    Goes amazingly on top of a box of quick dirty rice.

    You’re welcome.

    • Levi Sim June 3, 2022, 10:44 pm

      Sounds tasty! Thanks for sharing.

  • fanofjesus May 6, 2022, 12:48 pm

    I tenderize and “cure” game meats by salting it all over (and seasoning, if preferred) and leaving it in the fridge overnight or longer. That way, you can cook it the way you prefer to, and it’s going to be fairly tender and moist. Sometimes cooking meat in water makes it less desirable.

    • Levi Sim June 3, 2022, 10:46 pm

      Good tip! I agree that braising in water alone is undesirable. Using stock, broth, or even root beer goes much better.

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