Black Bear…..The Other Red Meat
Over my years of black bear hunting there is a consistent theme that wafts its way past my ears every now and then. On multiple occasions, after posting a successful bear hunting photo, folks have asked me, “Why did you shoot a bear? You can’t eat bear.” This leaves me puzzled every time I hear it. Their surprise after I tell them I eat bear a few times a week never gets old though. So, with this piece, I want to lay that question to rest.
Inevitably, the next question that is asked of me is, “What does bear taste like?” Most people automatically assume that bear is a greasy type of meat. That is a valid hypothesis seeing how much fat a bear can have on it, especially in the Fall. Maybe, it’s just my opinion, but that has not been my experience in the least bit. In fact, bear resembles a stronger, lean tasting beef more than anything to me. The texture is a bit more dense than beef, but overall, it’s pretty similar.
One of the reasons behind my findings might be because I don’t keep the fat on the bear at all. While in the field, I carefully remove as much fat as I can from the animal. The rest will be trimmed off later at home, where most of the processing takes place. The relationship between game meat and fat vs. beef and fat is vastly different. In beef, a lot of folks prefer the fat and say that it enhances the flavor. I’ve never been one to like the stuff myself, so I can’t comment on that. With game meat however, the fat will give the meat an “off tasting” flavor. Maybe, this is the reasoning behind why many people complain about game meat in general. It’s either simply not being taken care of properly, or the person is just so familiarized with the taste of beef that they have no other way to explain how game tastes except using the term “gamey.” To me, saying that game meat is gamey is like saying that beef is beefy. It’s just another word for different in my opinion.
Now, for the fun part. This all starts during the butchering process. I wouldn’t approach this like you would an ungulate. On a deer, I tend to take way more steaks than I do grind or roasts. That is just because of the tenderness that venison offers. A bear though is a strong predator that often has tighter muscles than deer. For that reason, bear really shines in slow cooked meals such as stews, chili, or roasts that allow those muscle fibers to really break down. The backstraps do offer some good options for steaks, but in my experience, that’s about it for the steak department. Another favorite of mine is bear burgers, which are often referred to in my house as “beargers.”
You might have heard about this nasty worm in your youth when talking about pork. Trichinosis is a small worm that resides in animals that eat other animals. It doesn’t affect the animal’s state of being and from what I understand, they don’t even know that they have it. For this reason, pork and other trichinosis positive animals, have to be cooked to well done. Doing this will kill the infection and ensure that those little worms don’t start taking up residence in your muscles.
How do you know that your bear has trichinosis? The truth is, you don’t. You could send your bear in to get tested for the stuff, but who wants to do that? To be on the safe side, act like every black bear you consume has it. Your best friend when cooking bear meat is going to be a meat thermometer. Cook your bear meat to 170 degrees and enjoy. Trichinosis dies immediately at this temperature.
The next time someone tells you that you can’t eat black bear meat or that it’s disgusting, refer them to this article. Hopefully, it will change their tune. Eating bear isn’t for everyone, but it definitely shouldn’t be a meat that is just dismissed as inedible, when it’s such a great resource. Most of the issue here is just because of lack of knowledge. I’ve heard people say that bear tastes awful all the way to bear is better than elk. Yeah, that’s a bold statement, but one to pay attention to. Obviously, there is something going on that isn’t quite right when you get a range of comments like that. Bear hunting offers a ton of opportunity and is a great way to get out in the field more than your annual deer and elk hunts. If you have any questions about bear recipes or bear hunting, feel free to comment below. Also, if you have any bear recipes that you’d like to recommend to me and others, I’d love to read them! Fall is going to be here before I know it and I have one thing on my mind……..Bears.