by Kevin Farrell for USA TODAY 10Best

What it actually means when your meat tastes 'gamey'

What is it about venison that tastes gamey and unsettling to so many, while beef is deemed fit for daily consumption by the masses? What does gamey even taste like, and how does some meat get that way? We talked to two chefs to find out.

Isaac Toups, chef-owner of Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, says gamey gets a bad rap. "It means a stronger, wilder flavor," Toups said. "The animal is often stronger, and the protein leaner in fat. If you were to kill a wild elk, it would be nearly fat-free."

Chef Daniel Volponi says, "The type of animal doesn’t matter as much as the environment that it is living in. A domesticated animal is going to have a more subdued taste, because it is living a more subdued life." But what does gamey meat taste like?

Volponi says a description of gaminess is ambiguous because it's largely detected by the receptors of our harder-to-describe fifth taste, umami. "Umami, in a word, is savory...Not salty, not sweet, but certainly robust in its own right."

The trick to enjoying a gamey meal might just be as simple as not hearing the word gamey before digging in. Toups warns to not describe a dish as gamey to a potential diner because it immediately conjures negative connotations.

Volponi agrees that it’s the name, not the quality that’s the problem. "Gaminess isn’t a bad thing...The wild nature of the animal also makes for a potentially higher quality of meat, not filled with antibiotics or genetically-modified grains."

Consider the impact of terroir, the set of environmental qualities and conditions in the land, on wine-making grapes and coffee, or even the milk from animals used to make cheese.

If delicate crops are impacted by the resources they draw upon to the extent that their flavor can vary from region to region, then it certainly makes sense that terroir would contribute to the taste and quality of animal protein.

Toups says, "Don’t be afraid of the game. Don’t be afraid you’ll get something a little gamey. You know what? Try it. Be open-minded. Don’t be afraid of some intensity of flavor. You might like it."

Read more at USA TODAY 10Best

Read the article
Read the article