Wild game is generally much leaner than farm raised proteins. Because of this the meat can dry out during the smoking process. There are typically four ways to compensate for that. Those techniques include brining, marinating, injecting fat, or wrapping the protein in bacon.
I did come across a fifth method in my research, which included placing the meat in a foil pan and adding some liquid directly to the pan. While this may work, it may also steam the meat. I decided not to try that.
In this article we will explore recipes for 3 different types of wild game. We will look at smoking venison, wild boar, and quail in a Masterbuilt Smoker. If you are a hunter, smoking is a terrific method for cooking and preserving these cuts of meat. The recipes are for smoking fresh cuts, essentially right after they are sourced. You might also consider making jerky or sausage from your excess meat that you can store or freeze. If you are not a hunter, like me, you can find these exceptional proteins from various online purveyors that specialize in free range and wild game meats.
Marinated and Smoked Venison Tenderloin
Venison is extremely lean, especially the tenderloin or backstrap muscle. Most recipes you will find for smoked venison call for it to be brined and wrapped in bacon. Venison is so delicious just by itself and can be delicate. I prefer not to soak it in a bath of water, salt, and sugar. I also find that the bacon does not really add much moisture to the meat because it melts and drips away during smoking. That said the bacon itself does taste really good when it gets crispy. So, I will leave that option up to personal discretion.
My preference is to marinate the tenderloin for several hours in a solution that incorporates an acidic element to break down some of the muscle fibers. That can be a balsamic or red wine vinegar or dry wine. This recipe calls for red wine and mustard as the acid elements.
- 2 venison tenderloins, 6 to 8 ounces each
- 1/3 cup drinkable dry red wine
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 TBS soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tsp brown or Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
Total time:2 hour 15 min – Prep time:15 min + marinating time – Smoke time:2 hour – Serves:4 people
1. Trim any silver skin off of the tenderloins. Prepare the marinade in a bowl, whisking together the 10 last ingredients on the list. Place the tenderloins in a large, sealable baggie or 2. Stand the bags up in a baking dish. Pour the marinade over the venison. Squeeze any air out, seal the bags, and massage lightly to coat the meat. Place the dish with the bag or bags in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, but not less than 4.
2. Take the venison out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you start your smoker. Remove a grill rack from your smoker and place on paper towels (to catch marinade drippings). Prepare the smoker by adding wood chips to the tray and water to the bowl. Preheat the smoker to 250˚F. Open the top vent.
3. When the smoker is up to temperature, remove the venison from the marinade and place on the rack. Discard extra marinade. Put the rack in the smoker and cook for approximately 2 hours, checking the internal temperature at 60 minutes. You want the meat to be between 140˚F and 150˚F, depending on how rare or well done you like it. Replenish the wood chips and water every 45 to 60 minutes.
4. Remove the venison to a cutting board and tent with foil. Allow it to rest for approximately 20 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with some autumn sides, such as roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts with Bacon.
Brined and Smoked Wild Boar Shoulder Roast
- 4 to 6 pound wild boar shoulder roast
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 TBS cracked black pepper
- 1 TBS dried rosemary
- 2 whole bay leaves
- Apple cider for smoking
Total time: 3 hour 30 min – Prep time: 30 min + brining for several hours – Smoke time: 3 hour – Serves: 6 to 8 people
1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the sugar and salt to dissolve. Set this aside to cool. Once cooled, add all of the other brine ingredients. Place a layer of ice at the bottom of an ice chest or cooler. Then, place a food safe, sealable bag in the cooler. Fill the bag with the brine ingredients and the shoulder roast. Seal the bag well. Add a layer of ice on top of the sealed bag and close the ice chest. Set this aside for 6 to 8 hours. Add ice as needed to keep the boar cool.
Alternatively, you can place the brine and the meat in a large vessel with a lid that can fit into your refrigerator, preferably not aluminum.
2. Take the roast out of the refrigerator 25 minutes before you start your smoker. Remove a grill rack from your smoker. Rinse the boar under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine. Place the roast on the rack.
3. Prepare the smoker by adding wood chips (pecan is nice for this recipe) to the tray and water + apple cider to the bowl. Preheat the smoker to 275˚F. Open the top vent.
4. When the smoker is up to temperature put the rack with the boar in the smoker and cook for approximately 3 to 4 hours, checking the internal temperature at 3 hours. You want the meat to be between 145˚F and 155˚F for slices and between 160˚F and 165˚F for pulled pork. Replenish the wood chips and water + cider every 45 to 60 minutes.
5. Remove the boar to a cutting board and tent with foil. Allow it to rest for approximately 20 minutes. Slice and serve with some rustic sides, such as green beans with hazelnuts and skillet cornbread. You can also coat the boar with your favorite BBQ sauce.
Smoked Whole Quail
This is another game recipe that might benefit from being wrapped in bacon. The olive oil should impart some essential fat. Feel free to wrap each bird in one slice of bacon before smoking.
- 6 whole cleaned quail with skin on
- 2-1/2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 tsps sea salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder or one minced clove fresh garlic
- 1 tsp smoky paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Zest of 1/4 lemon
- 1 apple cut into 6 equal pieces
Total time: 1 hour 40 min – Prep time: 10 min + marinating for 4 to 6 hours – Smoke time: 1.5 hour – Serves: 6 people
1. In a dish with a cover that is large enough to hold the quail combine the EVOO with all of the herbs, spices, and zest. Place the quail in the dish and rub them inside and out with the oil and spices. Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.
You could alternatively use a large sealable plastic baggie.
2. Remove a grill rack from your smoker. Take the quail out of the refrigerator and allow to sit while you prepare the smoker and bring it up to temperature.
3. Prepare the smoker by adding wood chips (apple wood is nice for this recipe) to the tray and water to the bowl. Preheat the smoker to between 200˚F and 220˚F. Open the top vent. While the smoker is coming up to temperature stuff the cavity of each quail with an apple chunk or slices.
4. When the smoker is up to temperature place the birds, breast side up, on the rack. Put the rack in the smoker and cook for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours, checking the internal temperature at 1 hour. You want the meat to be between 145˚F and 155˚F. Replenish the wood chips and water every 45 to 60 minutes. It may take up to 3 hours, depending on how large each bird is.
5. Remove the quail to a serving platter or cutting board and tent with foil. Allow it to rest for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a wild rice and pecan salad, or just a warm blend of wild and brown rice, and a side of maple glazed carrots.