Have you ever wondered what reindeer taste like? This type of deer meat has been a traditional dish in the Northern Hemisphere, and it can be a lean and healthy option for protein. Let’s take a look at what reindeer meat tastes like, how it can be prepared, and what to look for when buying this delicacy.
Reindeer or Caribou Meat Taste
Reindeer, also known as caribou, is a widely domesticated animal typically seen grazing the pastures on the Northern hemisphere.
In Europe, both domesticated and wild version of this majestic animal is hunted for their fur and meat. In Northern America, farmed reindeers are typically used for their meat.
Caribou meat is extremely lean, and it’s considered a delicacy for many. Before trying, many people expected reindeer meat to be like eating venison or other game meats, which isn’t true.
While the taste of reindeer meat depends on several factors, it has none of the usual gamey taste of other wild meats.
Buying Reindeer Meat
Unless you live near the natural stomping grounds of wild herds, you will need to obtain reindeer meat either from a farm or a specialized store. Buying it directly from a farm allows you to get fresh cuts and store and prepare them as you see best.
Store bought products may not be as fresh and often contain additives, which limits the preparation methods.
You can find reindeer meat in frozen or fresh form, but you should always look out for the following things.
The Color and Smell
Fresh reindeer meat has a dark reddish-brown color. If the cut has a grayish hue, it’s typically a clue it isn’t fresh. If its color looks natural but slightly darker, it may have been treated with artificial preservatives.
Reindeer meat has a gamey scent that is quite strong. However, it shouldn’t have a bad smell. If the cut has a sharp, sour odor, it’s not safe for consumption.
Reindeer meat should look dry with a smooth surface. If it has a slimy, overly soft texture, this indicates the presence of bacteria, which makes the meat unsafe to eat.
Unlike the meat of other members of the deer family, caribou meat has a slight tang to it and is extremely lean, meaning it can be prepared in the same way as other game meat. It usually needs plenty of time to marinate or be cooked slowly with methods such as braising.
Since it’s still essentially venison, you can use its flavor to spice up your dishes. Let’s look at some of the popular preparation methods for this particular type of game meat.
Ground Reindeer Meat
Ground reindeer meat can give you a number of options to work with. You can work it into a burger or make some delicious reindeer sausage. Either way, you will need to add a source of fat to it to prevent your reformed meat from drying out and taking on a chewy texture.
Braising is a method that allows larger cuts of meat with a low fat content to be cooked thinly without drying them out. Sear the reindeer in olive oil until it darkens a little on each side while caramelizing some onions and garlic in a Dutch oven. Place the meat over it, pour some beef stock over it until it’s half-covered. Cover the Dutch oven, put it in a preheated oven, and cook the reindeer to the tenderness of your liking.
Since you will be cooking the meat in a liquid base, reindeer stew is perfect for preparing all cuts without drying them out. After searing it just like you did in the previous method, remove it from the heat.
You can use any type of veggies you want, but be careful about the seasoning as the game meat will balance the flavors for you. Return the reindeer into the pot and cover it with stock and a cup of red wine. Cook until tender.
Smoking is a great way to prepare reindeer salami, jerky, and other cold cuts you obtain from caribou meat. Reindeer meat is extremely lean, so you won’t risk the smoked meat turning rancid at room temperature.
Use the brine you would use for beef or any other venison. You can use the smoked meat on its own or for other dishes, such as a delicious reindeer carpaccio.
If you aren’t a fan of the artificially smoky flavor, you can also preserve your reindeer by curing it. This type of meat can be cured the same way as any other meat. Like with smoking, you can use the cured slices on their own or as an ingredient in other dishes.
Marinated Caribou Meat
Marinating reindeer allows you to infuse your meat with the flavor of your choice. From a simple olive oil, lime juice, and salt combo to spicy Mexican flavoring, everything works with reindeer. You can serve the meat with a complementary game sauce, or, if you are brave enough, create an earthy combination with Brussels sprouts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Reindeer Good to Eat?
Reindeer meat is rich in healthy fatty acids and lean protein, all of which make it a highly nutritious food source. It’s also praised for its high mineral, vitamin B-12 content, and vitamin A content. Reindeer meat is an excellent alternative to fish and poultry.
Is Reindeer Meat Similar to Deer?
While both animals come from the same family, the taste of their meat is different. Wild caught deer can be found in all climates and have a wide variety of natural food sources available to them, making their flesh taste gamey, just like other types of venison.
Most reindeer cuts come from domesticated herds grazing over lichen pastures and winter greens in the Northern hemisphere. This gives their meat a surprisingly mild taste with only a slight tanginess.
Can You Eat Raw Reindeer?
While domesticated and farmed reindeer rarely carry food-borne diseases, it’s still not recommended to eat their flesh or other parts raw. The risks of contamination are lower if the animal was freshly slaughtered or was frozen quickly and eaten when freshly thawed. Still, it’s better to cook your reindeer meat to avoid consuming bacteria and other parasites.
So, now you know what reindeer meat tastes like. If you are interested in how the reindeer meat will taste with different preparation methods, go ahead and get your cut of caribou meat now. With the right preparation, you will have a new source of lean meat to add to your diet.