Ted Nugent: How to embrace 'gamey' meat

Ted Nugent
Special to The Detroit News
When treated with respect and care, venison has the potential to offer an unparalleled dining experience, writes Nugent.

Gamey! You’re darn tootin' my venison is gamey! That’s exactly why it is celebrated around the world as the most desirable, delicious, nutritious, natural, organic, healthy food on planet Earth.

Let us all dedicate ourselves to destroy the bastardization of the once glowingly positive term “gamey.”

Gamey does not mean nasty, rancid or yucky. Originally when describing wild game meat, the term was universally considered the ultimate positive compliment anyone could use to describe how special and delicious venison is.

Somewhere along the line as mankind migrated away from the independent hunting lifestyle of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism, some hunters became increasingly nonchalant and disconnected from the spiritual respect for the animals we hunt and became less considerate on how they handled the hard-earned carcass.

That’s when they messed up and foolishly allowed urine, body fluids, bile, guts and all sorts of flavor-destroying guck to infect the meat.

Somebody somewhere took a bite of this irresponsibly mishandled venison and got a sucker punch of nastiness that turned them off from the flesh of game.

Knowing that they had a bad taste experience with game meat, they knee-jerkingly pronounced they didn’t like the gamey punch of venison.

And it all went downhill from there.

Gamey is supposed to mean delicious in a taste-bud-stimulating way — special, robust, unique.

In my lifetime of rock 'n' roll globetrotting adventure, satisfying my extremely demanding palate has brought me to some of the world’s finest eating establishments, served by world-class chefs and kitchen creationists.

With my reputation as a gung-ho American hunter, most chefs come out of the kitchen to meet me and say hello, always eager to discuss their basic worship of game meat as the foundation of the best meals possible.

Passionate dialogue ensues about the joys of hunting, killing, gutting, aging, butchering, preparing, grilling, serving and eating what we all know to be the best, most exciting meal there is: venison, in all its varied and exciting forms and species and presentations.

Handling venison properly post kill is the key to turning it into a great meal, Nugent writes.

The worst crimes of flesh mishandling come in many sundry forms.

Bad hits on game can and will happen, but dedication to aim-small-miss-small shot placement can make or break a quality meal.

If a bad hit is made, all the tainted flesh exposed to any body fluids must be carved away from the desirable cuts.

An inexcusable mistake is a sloppy gutting process. There is no hurry. Nobody gets an award for the fastest gutting time.

Care and caution should always be the modus operandi for keeping undesirable fluids off the meat. Take your time and use a real sharp knife very carefully.

Another bizarro failure I witness all too often is the horror of carting a dead deer in the back of a pickup truck exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures.

Getting the carcass cleaned and cooled as soon as possible is job one for us deer hunters.

Walk-in coolers are a godsend, but getting the quarters in the shade or cooled down any way possible will spell the difference between so-so venison and great venison.

Then, of course, the cooking process is the end-all deciding factor for killer table fare, and keeping it simple and rare to medium rare, regardless of the preferred cooking process, makes all the difference in the world.

I have unlimited killer ways to cook my sacred flesh, but the easiest and still one of the best is aged backstrap with all the fat, muscle and silver removed, marinated for an hour or so in really good olive oil and melted duck fat, covered with a little herbs and seasonings of choice.

I stab small slices into the strap and insert shards of fresh garlic throughout.

I grill it relatively quickly over glowing wood coals till singed on the outside, then roasted off heat for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Served with onions, peppers, garlic and small potatoes cooked in the drippings, what you have is the most unbelievable, taste-bud-exhilarating gamey meal you can imagine.

Venison is game meat. It’s supposed to be gamey delicious, and when handled with genuine loving care from field to table, nothing comes close.

Michigan’s Ted Nugent is an award-winning musician and writer, with numerous best-seller books including “Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto,” “God, Guns and Rock ’n’ Roll” and “Kill It and Grill It.”

This is the third article in a series by Nugent that will appear throughout hunting season.