It’s no secret that wild game meat can be tougher than farmed meat.
Wild animals use their muscles much more than their domestic counterparts thus leading to tougher meat.
However, on the flip side, you usually end up with a healthier and more flavorful product.
The good news is it’s also easy to tenderize wild boar meat, and there are a few methods of doing so.
One of the most common methods of tenderizing wild boar meat is by marinating it.
One of the great things about using this method is that not only does it tenderize the meat but it flavors it also.
Marinades vary according to your desire. There are many options to choose from for both flavor and tenderizing effects.
For a marinade to tenderize hog meat it must have an acidic or enzymatic ingredient.
Common acidic ingredients are vinegar, citrus juice, wine, and yogurt.
Common enzymatic ingredients include pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and ginger.
Both of these types of ingredients can make wild boar meat tender, but they do it in different ways.
Using acids in a marinade denatures proteins, meaning it causes them to unfold by changing the pH level.
Enzymes, on the other hand, break down proteins into smaller fragments.
- Backstrap (loin)
- Choose a marinade that contains either an acidic or enzymatic ingredient
- Mix marinade ingredients together
- Place wild boar meat in a vacuum bag
- Pour over marinade and seal
- Place in fridge for 4 – 12 hours
Brining meat is not a new technology and has been around for thousands of years.
Yet, it’s still one of the best methods for tenderizing wild hog meat.
However, they have also been known to tenderize meat and are often used to do so before smoking.
While brining isn’t as effective as marinades for breaking down meat, it can still tenderize meat through osmosis and diffusion.
As the meat sits in the brine, osmosis causes the meat to absorb some water and salt.
The salt then causes the protein to denature (unwind), and hold more water, thus making the meat more tender.
Every brine must include salt and water, however, it’s also a good opportunity to flavor the meat by adding in other ingredients.
Other ingredients could include, sugar, spices, herbs, or curing salt for preservation.
However, if using curing salt you need to ensure the balance between curing and kosher salt to prevent making the meat too salty.
- Large muscle groups (shoulder, hind leg)
- Weigh the meat and determine the correct salt and water ratio
- Dissolve the salt in the water
- Add the wild boar to the water
- Place in the refrigerator
- For small cuts like chops or steak brine for 2-4 hours
- For large cuts like whole loin or rack brine for 12-24 hours
- For curing brine for 1.25 days per pound
Aging is another century-old technique for tenderizing meat.
While this method of tenderizing wild boar meat is a bit more effort, it’s very effective at tenderizing.
There are two methods for aging meat, (1) Wet aging, and (2) Dry aging.
Wet aging is the easiest of the two options and can be done at home with little more than a vacuum packer.
Dry aging is a little more involved and will need a dedicated fridge with proper airflow and humidity management.
One of the great benefits of dry aging is not only is it effective in tenderizing meat but it also intensifies the flavor of the meat.
Aging wild boar tenderizes the meat by enzymatic breakdown.
The enzymes are naturally present in the muscle tissue of the wild hog, and by managing the temperature you can use them to tenderize the meat without the bacteria spoiling the meat.
- Clean the meat surface and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Prepare a dedicated refrigerator or cooler. Ensure it can maintain a consistent temperature just above freezing (around 34°F or 1°C).
- Maintain a relative humidity of around 80-85% within the refrigerator.
- Ensure good airflow within the refrigerator, possibly using a small fan.
- Place the meat on a wire rack to allow airflow all around it. Ensure it doesn’t touch any walls or other items.
- Regularly check the temperature and humidity levels to ensure they remain consistent.
- Allow the meat to age for the desired period, typically ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on preference.
- Inspect the meat periodically for any signs of excessive mold growth or spoilage.
- Once the aging process is complete, remove the meat from the refrigerator. Trim away the hard outer crust and any moldy or oxidized portions.
- Place the hog meat in a vacuum-sealable bag. Using a vacuum sealer, remove all the air and seal the bag tightly. This anaerobic environment aids in the aging process while preventing unwanted bacterial growth on the surface.
- Store the vacuum-sealed pork in a refrigerator set just above freezing, typically around 32°F to 34°F (0°C to 1°C). The cold temperature slows the growth of harmful bacteria while allowing the enzymes in the meat to break down muscle fibers and enhance tenderness.
- Age the hog meat for 5-14 days. While some of the benefits of aging will be noticeable after just a few days, a more extended period can result in a more pronounced change in tenderness and flavor.
- Periodically check the vacuum-sealed bags to ensure they remain tightly sealed with no leaks. A compromised bag can expose the meat to harmful bacteria.
- After the aging period, remove the pork from the bag. There may be a distinct smell initially, but it should dissipate after a few minutes.
If the odor remains strong and unpleasant, it’s a sign of spoilage, and the meat should be discarded. The pork should also be inspected visually for any signs of off-color or mold.
One of the simplest methods of tenderizing wild boar meat is using a meat mallet.
This is a method that I use often, particularly for German wild boar (schnitzel).
The tenderizing here is happening in two ways, (1) connective tissues and fibers break, and (2) the meat gets thinner.
Beyond this, there is no chemical reaction like the other methods mentioned above.
This method is perfect if you are in a hurry or are only looking to tenderize the meat a little bit.
If you have a particularly tough cut of meat you should choose one of the other options as this method is limited in its tenderizing ability.
- Lay the meat flat on a chopping board
- Cover with plastic wrap
- Using your meat mallet, gently pound the meat from the center out
- Continue until you reach your desired thickness
The slow cooker is one of the best methods for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.
This is my go-to method for the toughest cuts of meat such as shanks, ribs, neck, etc.
The slow cooker uses low heat and time for tenderizing meat. It’s fantastic for stews, roasts, or rib dishes.
The meat will literally fall off the bone as it did in my Korean ribs dish, if you leave it long enough.
While I mostly use the slow cooker for ribs and stews, etc.. If you want to tenderize prime cuts of meat such as the loin by slow cooking, you can do this by using a sous vide.
The principle is the same, the meat gets tenderized by low heat over a long period of time.
- Brown the meat on a hot pan
- Place in slow cooker along with other ingredients
- Cook for 6-8 hours
- Plate and serve
One method of tenderizing wild boar meat that is often overlooked is velveting.
This is an Asian technique that is used to tenderize thing cuts of meat quickly.
- Any thinly sliced meat
- Place meat in a nonreactive container
- Pour over baking soda or cornstarch
- Rest for 20-30 minutes
- Rinse meat and pat dry
Allow 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda for 1lb of meat.