With the arrival of summer, there will be plenty of backyard-cooking sessions with family and friends across the nation.
After all, aside from the scent of a fresh-baked apple pie, what is more American than the smell of grilling or smoked meat wafting on the soft summertime breeze?
For most grill-side cooking sessions, beef will be the dominant player in most backyards. You know the drill – burgers, steaks, hot dogs and brats, followed by some ice-cold watermelon and/or ice cream as dessert.
All washed down, of course, with a glass of iced tea or a favorite beverage as the sun disappears and the soft light of evening twilight glows on the Western horizon.
But what about the outdoors enthusiast who still has a few packages of wild meat left in their freezer?
If that happens to be you, then consider these wild recipes – and one for a brisket that is just too good to pass up – before you head out back and fire up the grill or smoker.
Jimmy Houston's Grilled Deer Steaks
While Jimmy is best known for his bass fishing prowess, he's pretty handy in the deer woods too.
And that leads to his favorite way of preparing venison:
- 2 to 3 pounds of tenderized venison steaks
- ½ cup teriyaki sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1tsp. ground ginger
- 1tsp. black pepper
"Mix all of the ingredients together very well in a gallon-size Ziploc bag," said Houston, the Oklahoma resident, bass fishing hall of famer and host of Jimmy Houston Outdoors on World Fishing Network.
What's next? Houston, known as America's Favorite Fisherman and a longtime television personality on networks like Outdoor Channel and World Fishing Network, says it's time to add the venison steaks to the Ziploc bag for an overnight marinade session.
"You'll want to turn them often as you marinate them," laughs the fish-kissing, blond-haired bass pro and two-time BASS Angler of the Year.
The next day, Houston says to grill the venison steaks on low heat to the desired level of doneness: "Reserve the leftover marinade, bringing it to a boil and using it as a steak sauce."
Shaw Grigsby's Buck Burgers
When Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Shaw Grigsby isn't fishing, he's often bowhunting white-tailed deer in his native state of Florida or beyond.
And when it comes to firing up the grill, Grigsby has a preferred method of preparing his venison burgers. Or if you'd like, a regular beef version of the standard backyard grilling session:
"I use the beer-can method to make a pocket in the patty," said Grigsby, a winner of nine BASS events. "Wrap them with a strip of bacon. Then fill the pocket with whatever you want."
Grigsby, who has 15 Bassmaster Classic appearances and career earnings of more than $2 million on his resume, says his favorite pocket filler is Gorgonzola cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers.
"Bryce, my grandson, likes cheddar and bacon," laughs Grigsby. "Cook the burgers on the grill over low indirect heat for approximately one hour until the meat reaches your desired level of doneness.
"I love that you can customize these burgers for each person. Once you make one of these burgers this way, you'll never cook a regular burger again!"
Cuz's Elk Burgers
Staying on the subject of burgers - and staying true to the wild meat theme of this story - next up is Country Roots show host Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland and his preferred way of eating elk burgers.
"I do about five pounds of elk meat at a time because they go fast," said Strickland, PR director for Mossy Oak. "In that five pounds of ground elk – or venison, if you'd like – I add a half cup of canola oil, six teaspoons of Montreal steak seasoning, two eggs, six teaspoons of Heinz 57 steak sauce and a half sleeve of crushed saltine crackers."
Cuz then mixes it all together and forms the meat into half-pound burger patties.
"I fry mine on a black stone griddle but grilling works too," said the Mississippi resident and longtime Outdoor Channel TV personality. "After cooking, serve the burgers buffet style with cooked bacon, sliced Vidalia onions, sliced hoop cheese, bread and butter pickles and some hand-cut French fries."
Strickland notes elk burgers are " ... very lean and can dry out in the cooking process. This recipe keeps them moist and very tasty for everyone because not all like the pure wild game taste in their burgers."
Dave's Herb Encrusted Roast Elk
Dave Price isn't an Outdoor Channel show host, but he has served on the board of directors for the Dallas Safari Club (www.biggame.org), which has hosted several TV shows on the network over the years.
And currently, the North Texas resident serves with DSC's Dallas Ecological Foundation division, helping to ensure that healthy populations of wildlife, conservation of critical habitat and the preservation of our hunting heritage all remain on the American landscape for generations to come.
But more importantly, Price served the country for many years as a fighter pilot with the U.S. Air Force, flying countless combat missions in Vietnam, the Middle East and other spots around the globe where he was needed.
Along the way, the retired Lt. Colonel was wounded in action more than once and remains a true patriot that still sheds a tear almost every time he hears the Star Spangled Banner being played, Independence Day or not.
I know because I've seen him wipe those tears away at more than one North Texas sporting event.
Price also is a dedicated bowhunter, African big game specialist, fly fisherman and cooking enthusiast, discovering a superb recipe on one of his outdoors adventures a few years ago.
"I've tried this recipe many times here at home and on the road as well most notably in camp with Mark and Janis Moss of Salmon Forks Outfitters on what has become an annual pack-in fly fishing trip into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwestern Montana," said Price.
Price indicates while he learned of the recipe in the famous Bob Marshall, he and others have tweaked for their own wild kitchen preparations.
"We all pitched in on this one, but I'll give Mark and Janis the bulk of the credit for perfecting this recipe," said Price, known as Junior to his friends. "It's delicious!"
Here are the ingredients required:
- One boneless rump roast of elk, venison or beef (approximately a 5-pound roast)
- 2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. of olive oil
- Dried parsley flakes to taste
- 1 tps. of salt
- ½ tps. of dried tarragon
- 2 ½ cups of water
- 1/3 cup of flour
- 2 to 3 garlic gloves (minced)
- 2 tbsp. of lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce
- 1-plus tbsp. of dried basil
- ½ tbsp. of dried thyme
- 2 to 3 tps. of beef bouillon
"Place the roast in an ungreased roasting pan," said Price. "Combine the minced garlic, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce together. Then combine the parsley, basil, salt, pepper, tarragon and thyme, rubbing the mixture on the surface of the roast itself."
Price says to bake the elk roast uncovered at 325 degrees (F) for approximately two hours or until the meat reaches the desired level of doneness.
"If you're using a meat thermometer, 140 degrees equals rare, 150 equals medium rare and so on," said Price. "Remove the meat from the pan and add two cups of water and bouillon to the pan drippings, then bring to a boil.
"Combine the flour and remaining water to the pan gravy until it is smooth while gradually adding it to the pan. Cook and stir until the liquid has thickened and is bubbly."
All that's left then is to slice the roast and serve it with the gravy poured over the meat.
"I usually try to serve the roast with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus or your favorite cooked vegetable," said Price. "And of course, a salad and dinner rolls baked in a Dutch oven around the camp fire are a nice touch.
"This roast hits the spot after a hard day of fly fishing for cutthroat trout on the South Fork of the Flathead River. I'm sure no one will ever leave the cook tent or the dinner table hungry!"
Raised Hunting's Grilled Gobbler
If you're a turkey hunter who was successful this past spring, then remember that you don't have to wait until Thanksgiving Day to turn a tagged gobbler into a great meal according to David and Karin Holder of Raised Hunting.
As with most cuts of wild meat, turkey is fairly lean. While it must be cooked safely, grillers need to watch it closely to avoid overcooking it into a tough and dry status. (Photo courtesy of David and Karin Holder)
"In our opinion, wild turkey is best if you eat it fresh and never have to freeze it," said Karin. "However many times, hunters kill more than one bird in a season, so they may not want to have turkey over and over.”
"Our family got eleven birds this year," laughed David as he described a spring season of hunting and filming. "We have been eating turkey constantly and now walk around the house clucking and gobbling … just saying … gobble, gobble, gobble."
All kidding aside, Karin says to make her family's preferred wild gobbler dish, take a turkey breast, clean up the meat and then cut it into thin strips.
"Place the turkey strips in a gallon-size Ziploc bag," said Karin. "Add the soy sauce, the teriyaki sauce and the Worcestershire sauce. The amount really doesn't matter, we never measure it out and just put enough in for our desired tastes."
Karin says to then shake the bag so that all of the turkey meat is covered with the sauce mixture, marinating the turkey breast strips for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When it is time to cook the turkey meat, David says to spray the grill's surface with Pam or another cooking spray, then " ... slap your turkey on the grill and cook on each side until all of the pink is gone (from the meat)."
"This won't take long, so watch it carefully as to not let it get overcooked," adds Karin. "It will get tough if cooked too long. But when you do it right, this will result in juicy and tender strips of turkey that take less than 10 minutes to cook.
"Then just pair the grilled turkey strips with potato salad, chips and your favorite beverage," she adds. "It's that simple and easy. And it's really that delicious too!"
Looking for a different backyard barbecue kind of menu option for this summer? Then give Karin Holder's Grilled Gobbler recipe a try. (Photo courtesy of David and Karin Holder)
Pete Pond's Beaux Dago Duck
Veteran FLW Tour and Major League Fishing pro Pete Ponds is a Mississippi bass pro that loves to eat the Southland's best cooking.
Especially when there is some Cajun flavor added in, something a favored duck recipe from one of his sponsors (TDJ Oilfield Services from Haughton, La.) has provided his dinner table many times over the years.
"It's one of my favorites," said Ponds. "Remove four ducks from the freezer and allow them to thaw a couple of days before you want to cook them.
"After thawing, unwrap the ducks and place them on a plate, covering it with plastic wrap. Place the ducks in a refrigerator for at least one day. This will allow them to age and naturally tenderize."
Next, Ponds says to remove the ducks from the refrigerator a couple of hours before it's time to cook, allowing them to come up to room temperature.
"We like to cut out the backbone with poultry shears," said Ponds. "However, this is not necessary. Rub bacon grease all over the ducks, then sprinkle on some poultry seasoning and soy sauce. Rub all of that in well."
Ponds says to allow the ducks to marinate for 30 minutes on up to an hour. While that is occurring, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
"Then cook the ducks for 25 minutes," he said. "Turn the broiler on and brown the ducks for no more than two minutes to crisp the skin, then remove the ducks from the oven and loosely cover with aluminum foil for five to 10 minutes.
"Slice the breasts off the bone and slice the breasts into thin slices for serving. The ducks should be medium rare. Remember, the trick to cooking duck is that they should be served medium rare so they are not dry and tough."
Ponds also adds a homemade cranberry sauce to the duck dish. The following recipe is good for four ducks, or eight portions of duck breast meat:
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¾ cup dry red wine
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ cup of dried cranberries
- 3 tbsp. chilled butter, cut into three pieces
"Add the olive oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat," said Ponds.
"And then add in all of the other ingredients except for the butter. Then bring it to a boil and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced into a thick sauce, about a ¼ of a cup. Reduce the heat and stir in the butter and melt it.
"Finally, spoon the sauce over the sliced duck breast and enjoy!"
Charlie's Sure-Shot Crawfish Salad
Lone Star State duck call maker Charlie Holder, head man of the Sure-Shot Game Calls company in Groves, Texas, has been to many a cook-out – and Louisiana crawfish boils – in his day.
And when there's a leftover pile of mudbugs – or a bag of crawdads from the local grocer – he's always wondering how to turn them into another good dish.
Enter Charlie's Sure-Shot Salad, a boiled-crawfish delight.
- 4 cups of boiled red new potatoes
- 2 cups of boiled onions
- 1 ½ cups of sour cream
- ¾ cup of Creole mustard
- 2 cups of boiled sausage
- 2 cups of boiled crawfish tails
- 1 pinch of Cajun seasoning
"Dice the potatoes, the onions and the sausage," said Holder. "Then mix all of the ingredients together in a two-quart bowl or larger. Then fold in sour cream and the Creole mustard, adding more if needed.
"At that point, season with Cajun spices to your likes and preferences and you've got a sure enough Sure-Shot recipe!"
Brent Ehrler's Smoked California Brisket
For the one non-wild game recipe in this story, I turn to veteran FLW Tour, Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Brent Ehrler.
The first-ever winner of a Major League Fishing event – as well as a Forrest Wood Cup champion – says the first step is to start off with a good brisket.
"I know nothing about it, so I just go to a good butcher shop and take their word for it," laughed Ehrler. "I have one close to my house in Newport Beach and I basically walk in and say 'Give me your best brisket.'"
After getting a good brisket, Ehrler preps the meat and fills up his Traeger smoker with flavored wood smoking pellets. (Photo courtesy of Brent Ehrler)
As for the brisket prep work, Ehrler takes the meat and carves most of the fat from the brisket cap. Once he does that, he will take an injectable marinade and inject it into the entire brisket.
"Any excess that is flowing from the injection spots, I simply rub that into the brisket," said Ehrler. "I then take Traeger BBQ Rub and coat the entire brisket with it. I follow that up by preheating my Traeger grill to 250 degrees and filling it with wood pellets, usually mesquite."
The top-notch West Coast bass pro then places the brisket directly on the grill with a meat probe in it.
"I will then cook it until the internal temp is 170ish," said Ehrler. "I then pull it, wrap it and then put it back in until the internal temp is just over 200 degrees.
"Once that happens, I will pull it and leave it wrapped and let it sit on the counter, in the oven (not on it) or in a K2 cooler (not on ice). The K2 cooler is just something that is insulated to help the meat keep the warm temp.
"I'll let it rest for at least an hour. I'll then pull it, unwrap it, glaze it with Traeger Honey Bourbon BBQ sauce and now it's ready to cut and serve."
In addition to buying a good brisket and preparing it properly, California bass pro Brent Ehrler says that the ability to keep a consistent temperature during the cooking process is a key to a good piece of smoked brisket. (Photo courtesy of Brent Ehrler)
Ehrler says the one trick for a great piece of brisket is to remember that a consistent temperature is critical.
"The trick with the Traeger is that it maintains the grill temp," he said. "I can set it and literally never check it. It's fantastic. I've also checked it a bunch and it only varies about three to five degrees, doesn't get hot or cold (spots) and remains the same until you shut it down.
"And it produces an unreal brisket and a great meal."
Which is something just about any grill-side chef or wild kitchen cook worth their salt is hoping to achieve during a summer cookout session in the backyard!