Mount Rushmore – Meat Edition

Sorry, vegetarians and vegans.  This week ain’t your week up on the mount.  Actually, I’m not sorry.  You did this to yourselves.  If God wanted humans to live on vegetables alone, he would have made them grow on trees.

ANYWAY, inspired by a conversation at my Memorial Day Barbecue (and, yes, I get to call it a barbecue because I woke up at 4am to smoke a pork butt; if all you did was grill burgers and dogs, you had a cookout… nothing more), we’re going to talk about what meats belong on the Mount Rushmore (Meat Rushmore?  Mounth Rushmeat?  Meat Meatmeat?  Yea… Meat Meatmeat).

Bone-in Ribeye Steak: I don’t need to specify that it’s dry-aged, do I?  It’s dry-aged.  Obviously.  Anyway, this is America.  How can we not have a steak on it?  And the bone-in ribeye is the king of steaks.  Hell, it’s alternative name is the cowboy steak.  THE COWBOY STEAK!  It is the perfect balance of taste and tenderness.  Cook it rare/medium-rare, give it some salt and pepper, and you are good to go.  Keep your bland filet mignons to yourself.  Give me the steak named after the people who drive the cattle.

Hot Italian Sausage:  Mmmmm… sausage.  Maybe it is my I-talian heritage shining through, but the hot italian sausage trumps all other sausage.  Chorizo?  More like choriz-no!  Keilbasa?  Just a fancy hot dog that is only palatable slathered in kraut and mustard.  Bratwursts?  Not the worst, but not the best either.  You’ve got to have a sausage on here.  Sausage allows us to be efficient with our meats by eating parts of the animal most of us would find unpalatable.  Sausage basically saved the world.  And the Italian sausage is the best representation we have.

Bacon:  I’m fully on board with the idea that we’ve reached peak bacon and gone too far.  Not everything is better with bacon.  That said, most things are indeed better with bacon.  It works with breakfast.  It works with lunch.  It works with dinner.  It can even work with dessert.  It is salty and smokey and fatty and delicious.  It also yields bacon grease, probably the second best cooking fat (after duck fat, which is worth its weight in gold); meaning you can import the deliciousness of bacon to a dish while still getting to enjoy the bacon all on its lonesome.

Pulled Pork:  It’d be a crime to not include a traditional American barbecue dish on this mountain.  And I’ve always preferred pork barbecue to beef barbecue.  A pulled pork sandwich, on a soft roll with a tangy, vinegar-based slaw and some slightly hot barbecue sauce is a thing of beauty.  It should be required eating for all those seeking citizenship.

There we have it.  Yes, three of them come from the same animal (some kind of magical animal, no doubt).  Nary a bird nor fish on the list.  And I have no qualms about that.  What ya got?

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101 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore – Meat Edition

  1. 1. Filet Mignon

    2. Lamb

    3. Pork Ribs, delicious delicious pork ribs.

    4. Lobster. Maybe not technically meat but not something vegetarians would eat so I am going to put it here. Best done simply in the Maine style of steaming with melted butter for dipping.

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  2. While I dissent from the OP’s disparagement of non-Italian sausages (chorizo is delicious; an American-style bratwurst is a piece of heaven during a summer barbeque), as to the OP’s primary choices I really have no issue whatsoever and can endorse all four.

    I might have gone for ribs instead of pulled pork, but other than that, it’s pretty much dead center of the bullseye..

    I’ll take my rib-eye on the rare side of medium rare, please, with a spread made of bleu cheese and shallot.

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    • As is typically the case with MR, I go hard in lambasting my opponents right off the bat. I actually quite enjoy both chorizo and bratwurst, but I can’t cede ground before the war has even begun.

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  3. I’m not a fan of pulled pork, and my daughter will hate you with the heat of a thousand suns for not having chicken on your list.

    But I’m going to throw out something different to replace the pulled pork…grilled goat. I’ve rarely had it, but on the 2 (I think) occasions I have, I’ve been amazed at how delicious and rich the flavor is.

    (And just for the record, I once spent three hours looking for a restaurant in the old city of Damascus that allegedly served camel, which is a rare dish because it has to be prepared the same day as slaughter, as the meat goes bad so quickly. I’d give up a toe to be suggesting camel for Meat Rushmeat, but alas I never could find the place.)

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    • Fried chicken was the only chicken considered.

      Duck, on the other hand… seared duck breast cooked medium rare is probably the king of poultry.

      When planning our wedding, duck was one of the options. We ended up going with a steak dish, a duck dish, and a fish dish. “Duck? What if people just want chicken?” my mom asked. “If someone at the wedding prefers chicken to duck… well, their invitation will be rescinded.”

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      • Mass-farmed chicken in Canada is pretty terrible, and I don’t imagine it’s much different in the US.

        But real chicken – chicken that has scratched around a yard, feasted on bugs and stale bread, gotten over the fence once or twice for an adventure in the alleys and neighbouring yards – that’s a different thing altogether.

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      • Duck breast should never be served other than medium rare. Rare duck is still raw inedible poultryflesh, raising food safety issues. Duck breast cooked to medium, or worse, well-done, will acquire the texture and taste of a deflated soccer ball.

        Duck fat rendered from the roasted bird should be preserved and treated as the valuable and hard-earned luxury ingredient it is. No other kind of animal fat produces so silky a texture nor as deep a flavor as what the duck gives.

        With that said, I find a whole roasted duck a challenge to carve and partition out, as their bones are longer and tougher than that of a chicken, and since I’m not going to harvest a duck from the aqueduct and I lack the hunting prowess of our own Mike Dwyer, I get my duck frozen from Trader Joe’s, and then only rarely because the damn thing comes super-frozen as if still submerged in liquid nitrogen.

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      • Checked off on my list: shark, squid (really, is that so exotic?), snail, sea urchin, abalone, eel (really, is that so exotic, either?), alligator, snake, and an assortment of game either in cutlets or sausage including elk, antelope, impala, and wildebeest. Venison is clearly too prosaic to brag about.

        Impala was much more mild, still kinda gamey. Wildebeest sausage was… edible. Perhaps the guy who made the sausage put too much fennel in it, because that flavor dominated, but the meat itself was really dark so I think made in the style of a blutwurst, which I do not really care for much anyway.

        I’m curious about nutria and guinea pig; the guy at the Peruvian restaurant says that people from his little town back home raise guinea pig for meat and fur and he likes them, but Americans are repelled by the idea of eating them because they’re so cute. No such problem with a nutria.

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      • Williams-Sonoma sells jars of duck fat. I haven’t used it so I don’t know how it compares to rendering it yourself, but worth checking out.

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      • Oh, alsotoo conch and turtle. Both are very good and I guess they count as exotic too, although at least half the places to get a grouper sandwich and a margarita in coastal Florida also sells conch fritters as bar food so it didn’t occur to me that people might think they were a bizarre sort of meat.

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      • I’ve had grilled rattlesnake a couple of times. It’s okay to check off from a list, but isn’t anything particularly special. Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs in Denver has rattlesnake/pheasant and jack-a-lope (famous fictitious Western wildlife) made from antelope, jack rabbit, and pork. Buffalo tongue done at the Fort west of town is interesting.

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    • When I was in Beijing thirteen years ago I had camel and turtle. I really can’t remember if they were remarkable or not. When I was in Korea I ate an animal usually associated as a pet in the United States.

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      • I’ve had turtle many times, both as a dish and in soup. It’s pretty good. My uncle decided about 15 years ago to clean and cook the soft shelled turtles (both Florida and Spiny) he regularly catches while fishing in Georgia.

        Lest you ever wonder whether I really come from rednecks.

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      • Zazzy and I just had a conversation about animals we wouldn’t eat. The only ones I put on my list were primates. They’re just too close to human for me. The weirdest meat I’ve probably had is gator, which I enjoy when prepared right. I’ve eaten shark and buffalo but I don’t think those are all that out there. Horse, which Zazzy said no to but which is surprisingly common outside of the US. I’d eat dog or cat, but I couldn’t imagine either tasting very good. Ooo… rabbit. The rabbit I had in Florence was out of this world. Zazzy put a big no on that one. Squid (in non-calamari forms), octopus, crawfish… again, none of those will really stand out with this crew of culinary aficionados. I wouldn’t object to eating bugs but would probably struggle if they were very buggy looking.

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      • I had sea turtle stew when I was on Eleuthera. I felt sorta bad about it, because I like turtles, but my hosts had caught and cooked it and presented it to me*, so I felt to not do so would be an insult.

        It was pretty good.

        *I also ate raw conch right out of the shell while still standing in the water where it was caught for the same reasons. Not as enjoyable, but not bad; plus, who cares about conchs?

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      • I had it made into a sausage (though I’m assuming some sort of other fat had to be mixed in) and served on a po’boy and it was amazing. I had it fried which was very good. Blackened made it taste the most chicken-y.

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      • I agree that gator is good. It’s got a pork-like texture, but doesn’t really taste like anything else. Fairly mild in flavor, but good.


        Lewis and Clark grew very fond of dog on their expedition, regularly buying them from Native Americans. One of them declared it one of his favorite meats.

        Cat, though…maybe, but I’ve had to deal with too many decomposing cat corpses in my life, and they smell worse than just about any other dead animal I’ve encountered, so I can’t bring myself to imagine they might actually be palatable.

        Re: Octopus. I find squid unpleasant; not much taste (although not bad taste) and kind of rubbery to chew. But at a hole in the wall Korean restaurant in Cleveland I had some outstanding octopus that had me grabbing seconds, thirds, maybe even fourths (although my daughter might have beaten me to that).

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      • James,
        Cat’s a meat no one likes. Desert critters just don’t taste very good.

        You have my profound sympathies for dealing with decomposing cat corpses.
        And I hope you did not need therapy afterwards…

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      • How did you get your daughter to be such an adventurous eater? I’ve made some real in-roads with Zazzy. And was probably too harsh on her reticence as I was judging it against my own complete unabashedness with food. Trying to get a colleague to eat anything other than diner food has shown me how TRULY difficult some people can be.

        I really want Mayo to be open to new foods. Obviously, his ultimate preferences will be what they are. But I don’t want him to shy away from new and different foods. If he decides he doesn’t like gator, so be it. But I don’t want him to turn his nose up at the mere idea of it.

        I’m sure some of this is hardwired, but I also know experiences with food can hugely shape our relationship with that which nourishes us. Any tips you have would be much appreciated.

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      • I make my daughters “try” different things. I don’t make them eat anything, and they can even spit out the tiny little bit they put in their mouth, but they have to at least give it a taste. I tell them that every dish tastes good to a large number of people or it wouldn’t be available, so they just might be one of those folks. And there’s no condemnation or judgement if they don’t like it. I just say, “well, then that dish isn’t for you.” (I’d never say, “well, then Chinese food isn’t for you,” because that’s much too broad and would discourage them from trying other Chinese dishes.)

        It also helps that Johanna’s parents are non-American natives and great cooks. Her dad is Dutch, and makes some great dishes that aren’t part of American cuisine, and her mom is Dutch-Indonesian and makes some phenomenal Indonesian dishes.

        They’re all picky enough that it’s sometimes hard to make a dinner that they’ll all be happy about, but their pickiness is dish-specific, or ingredient-specific, and not about only eating what they already know they like, or about resistance to any “exotic” cuisine.

        It’s only anecdata, and I could just be lucky with my kids, but the “try it and no problem if you don’t like it” technique seems to work well.

        @leeesq–I trust I also answered your question? The in-laws are coming for two weeks in July, and I’m already anticipating the endless supply of good eats. They take over, and we’re basically banned from the kitchen while they’re here. And that’s ok.

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      • Thanks, .

        One thing I’ve learned from serving lunch to my students over the past few years is the counter-productiveness of “Clear your plate” rules. While food waste is something to be concerned, insisting that someone eat every last bite of everything they put on their plate actually discourages exploration. If they get a heaping scoop of something new and don’t like it, they’re going to have to choke it all down. Better not to take the scoop to begin with! Stick with what you know! So I no longer require plate clearing. I do work with them on asking for a taste of something new, at which point I give them a smaller helping. And if they are being irresponsible with their ordering, I will hold them accountable for that (“Don’t ask for 3 slices of cheese you’ve eaten every day and then refuse to eat it.).

        But I like the non-judgemental and dish/specific approach you utilize. And the “not for you” language is really helpful. “Gross” is a value judgement. “Not for me” is an indication of personal preference.

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      • “Gross” is a value judgement. “Not for me” is an indication of personal preference.

        Yes. Well said.

        [Addendum: If I understand correctly, young children tend to assume others are like themselves? E.g., “I like fluffy bunny, so I think we should get my friend a fluffy bunny for her birthday.” If that’s the case (and I’m not just talking nonsense), then I think the emphasis on differing personal preferences (“Joe likes carrot mush, but it’s gross!” “No, Joe has his likes and you have your likes, and that’s good because you won’t end up fighting over who gets the carrot mush”) is an important part of their development at some age?]

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  4. Hmmm… this is a very serious question. I feel like I need to do some serious deliberatin’. I know prosciutto’s gonna be in there, I just don’t know what’s going to go with it. Probably pulled pork, maybe baby back ribs, but there are so many steak choices, and crab legs, crawfish, lobster, and friggin’ southern-style fried chicken, how can I leave you out? This will take up the bulk of my brain power, such as it is, for hours.

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    • Regarding an earlier conversation you and I had with regards to brisket, I will say that I finally had the real deal and am a convert. I learned that given the option of “lean” or “moist”, my friend who typically does the ordering always went for “lean”. Why, I will never know. Having finally ordered for myself, I got the moist and it was all that you said it was.

      I don’t love crab legs, but would otherwise endorse all your choices here as legitimate contenders.

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      • Though I’m going to push back on prosciutto. I enjoy the taste of it and like it when it is worked into other things. But I generally find the texture disconcerting (which is rare for me… I tend not to be turned off by textures). I work a big slab into my pasta fagiole but it is sauteed and cubed. Thin cuts of the raw stuff just feels weird in my mouth.

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      • If I were forced to live on prosciutto-wrapped fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes for the rest of my life, it would be a pretty good life.

        Glad you enjoyed the brisket. Everyone makes the “lean” mistake at first, but the flavor’s in the fat, so you have to get moist (some places here call it “wet”). Moist brisket, cooked right, is divine.

        Damn it, this is going to take me all day. I will be able to think of nothing else.

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      • A piece or two or mozzarella, prosciutto, and fresh tomato is divine but after that I start to get overwhelmed.

        And I can think of worse things to think about all day than meat.

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    • OK, after hours of careful deliberation and debate, both internal and external, I have decided on the following list:

      Prosciutto
      Baby back ribs
      Pulled pork (from either Tennessee or North Carolina)
      Crawfish in the shell, bonus if I get to eat the head.

      Crawfish, properly served with corn on the cob and potatoes cooked with the crawfish, in the sauce, is possibly the strongest proof that there is a higher being. R. won’t eat it because it because it’s so messy that her lips and face end up burning, but that just leaves more for me.

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  5. Beef – You could do a Mount Rushmore of cow parts. I’m fine with the choice of ribeye.

    Chicken – James’s daughter is right. Skinless, grilled chicken breast. On paper it’s boring, but it turns anything into a meaty meal. It’s healthy, cheap, and ubiquitous.

    Lamb – Only when it’s done right. That starts with a good butcher who can avoid the connective tissue and is willing to cut away excess fat.

    Pulled pork – It might not make my list, actually, but I won’t object to it on the mountain.

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  6. 1. A good, medium rare roast beef. Very nice and juicy.

    2. Venison. Deer meat is under appreciated.

    3. Lobster, a true delicacy when served with butter.

    4. Leg of lamb. Same reason for roast beef.

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  7. Put me down for the manly meats.
    Nothing tender, nor juicy, just pure unadulterated protein.

    1) Ropa Vieja
    2) Texan-style BBQ Brisket
    3) Pastrami
    4) Lebanon Bologna.

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  8. I agree all the way on the bone-in ribeye. Keep the filets. Ribeye is where it is at.

    Instead of bacon, I would change it to pork belly. It is still delicious even when it’s not smoked.

    Instead of pulled pork, I might include the whole category of BBQ smoked meat: pork shoulder, brisket, ribs, chicken. I think BBQ deserves a spot as a category.

    For the last spot, I am torn. Some suggestions:

    -Ofal, traditional cuisines and now some trendy chefs are doing great things with the parts that the middle class learned to throw away.

    -Kebab, whether it’s ground meat on a skewer or marinated cuts of meat layered on a vertical skewer and sliced onto a sandwich, there is really nothing wrong with that.

    -Roasts, again, the slow application of heat to a big hunk of meat, fat, bone and gristle may be the closest thing to alchemy that man has ever figured out.

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    • I call foul on declaring barbecue because it is a method of cooking and a cuisine, but not a specific type of meat. Don’t worry though, we’ll get into cuisines soon. :-)

      Pork belly is a worthy choice. I’ve never had back fat, but I’m told it is like pork belly but even fattier. I’m not sure if that is necessarily a good thing, but I’m curious.

      I was in kebab heaven when I was in Istanbul. It almost made me not want to eat the Americanized stuff again. Almost.

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      • I think that you mean fatback, which is essentially back fat with maybe a bit of lean in there. Fatback fat is different than the other fat. It’s hard. Generally, it is rendered to make lard or used to season dishes; although, according to the internets, it can be used for pork rinds.

        If I am forced to stick with cuts, my four is:

        -bone-in ribeye
        -pork belly
        -leg of lamb
        -foie gras

        with, brisket and pork shoulder as possible subs.

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    • And I welcome you aboard Team Ribeye, . I know a number of people whose fine steak experience was limited to filet or maybe a sirloin. “Here… try this…” “Why does that taste so much better?!?!” “Because it’s ribeye.”

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  9. This may only resonate with New Yorkers ( @leeesq , you can ask R about it), but street meat doesn’t deserve a spot on the list, but it does hold a special place in my heart.

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  10. While we’re talking about steaks, can we agree that the steak fry is not only the worst French fry ever, but arguably the worst potato prep ever? Who hears steak fries and things, “Bland mush! YES!”

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  11. Mennonite garlic sausage – I’ll certainly eat spicy Italian sausage if it’s on offer, but I’m not going to buy it if there’s Mennonite sausage to be had.

    Lamb stew – There has to be some kind of lamb stew on there – if we’re getting specific as to style, it could be Irish, Moroccan, Kashmiri rogan josh, whatever. But there has to be a lamb stew.

    Sirloin steak – I don’t object to your nomination of ribeye, but sirloin is my favourite (per the US steak naming convention – it seems every English speaking place you go to, the cuts of meat are all named differently)

    Tandoori chicken – also including tomorro’s presentation of the leftovers as butter chicken. It does have to be proper chicken though – factory-farmed chicken won’t do it.

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    • My list skews heavily American. Lamb would probably have more support on an international mountain.

      I’m off the mindset that the protein in most Indian dishes is but a vehicle for the sauce. I see little value in spending extra money for lamb vindaloo as opposed to chicken vindaloo. Tandoori is a dish where the quality of the protein really matters.

      Now… tell me more about this Mennonite sausage. The extent of my familiarity with the term Mennonite is limited to CCD classes.

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      • Mennonite sausage is pretty similar to what often gets called farmer sausage – they’re in big links about two feet long, 1.5 inches or so across.

        Mostly pork, maybe a little beef in them, cold smoked. They seem a little more dense & less ‘grainy’ textured than Italian sausages – maybe the meat is ground a bit finer, I’m not sure. A quick google suggests a typical recipe for the seasoning in them might include garlic salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, sage, mustard, cloves, and nutmeg.

        I like to simmer it with potatoes, sauerkraut, and a little beer, or grill it and eat it like an enormous hotdog on half a baguette. They’re thick enough that you can get a really nice sear on the outside without the inside drying out.

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    • Definitely Mennonite farmer sausage. Absolutely delicious. Good when fried, amazing when barbecued. My grandma makes an excellent sausage gravy that goes great with homemade peroguies.

      I prefer roast lamb to stew. Stew is what you do with meat that’s not good enough for anything else. But lamb goes on the list, absolutely. I’ve never had a meal of it that wasn’t delicious.

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      • I’d amend your comment: stew is what you do with meat that’s not tender enough for anything else. Tougher cuts are also often more flavourful.

        Same deal with pulled pork – it’s absolutely delicious, but it’s from a cut that’s too tough for much else.

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      • stew is what you do with meat that’s not tender enough for anything else.

        And vegetables that are past their prime. My unsubstantiated belief is that stew originated as poor people’s food, as in, “crap, the meat’s gone bad, the veggies have gone bad, I guess we’ll just throw it all in a pot and boil it up real good so it doesn’t go to waste.”

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    • OK, fair point about lamb stew. Probably the best stew there is. But it involves a lot of different ingredients and right decisions, not just the meat. If I were entering lamb in a competition, I’d want it to be one-one-one, nothing but an open flame. That’s where it can outclass anything else, even arguably a great cut of beef. (Although, as Glyph notes, lamb dishes have a great variability in quality if the chef doesn’t know what he’s doing.)

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  12. 4 Legged: Bison, Kudo (antelope) Elk, Venison, Beef are all tasty. Essentially the same cuts.
    Birds: Pheasant, quail, chukkar. Smaller birds good pan fried. Larger, roasted/baked. Roasted pheasant with wild rice rocks. I’m also a fan of chick kebobs (frankly any kebob)
    Fish: Wild pacific salmon. Wild halibut. Wild rockfish. Tuna. Ling Cod
    Shellfish: razor clams, appalachiacola oysters & some pacific ones, squid, crab (dungeoness & blue)
    Other: alligator, wild pig, warthog, sea turtle.

    Sorry I can’t limit myself to just a handfull. They are all too yummy.

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  13. This was SO…HARD. For the sake of not causing my brain to explode I decided to leave out seafood altogether because that would just leave me with 35 items on my list. With that said I decided I should still do two lists because a lot of people don’t eat wild game and so it’s hard to compare.

      Domestic

    – Chicken: Dark meat only please. A chicken thigh cooked to perfection is juicy, delicious and only requires the slightest of seasoning

    – Country ham: This is basically the prosciutto of the United States. Sliced thin, I will put it up against the best stuff coming out of Italy. Sliced thick and piled on a good biscuit and you have the perfect southern breakfast in your hand.

    – Pork ribs: They are all good but I am partial to country-style ribs cooked on the grill.

    – Steak: I like most cuts, all cooked medium rare

      Wild

    – Duck: We mostly roast ducks, very simply. You will often hear people complain it is greasy but that’s what makes it so delicious. Fat = flavor

    – Dove: Not a lot of meat on the little guys but what they have is delicious. We cook them on the grill, wrapped in bacon and they taste like a good steak. We always have a cookout after a dove hunt and I have seen 70+ doves get devoured by a bunch of hungry hunters. An ice cold beer on the side is the perfect compliment.

    – Deer tenderloin: The tenderloin is the best cut of meat on many wild animals and the ‘backstrap’ from a deer is the top of the mountain. Always cooked medium rare this literally needs no help other than a little salt & pepper. If I shoot a deer in the morning we’re having tenderloin for dinner that night. Those first few steaks should never see the inside of a freezer.

    – Goose breast: Similar to duck although a bit more ‘beefy’. Again, medium rare is a must or they turn into shoe leather. Dipped in a good quality dijon mustard, this is the reason I brave freezing cold weather at 5am to harvest as many of these as I can every year.

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  14. I may not want to admit this online, but I have had seared whale while in Iceland. It was amazingly delicious. It tasted like the delicious baby of a cow and tuna. I was at least pleased that the whale was on the “Least Concern” conservation status.

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  15. 1. Beef steak – either ribeye for pure simple deliciousness or flank for versatility
    2. Pulled pork. Enough said.
    3. Quail. I’ve only had it twice, but I’ll be damned if both occasions don’t rank in my top handful of dishes that I’ve ever eaten.
    4. Rack of lamb.

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  16. Hard to argue with bone in ribeye, but I prefer the Delmonico cut myself. A very close second is this department is prime rib.

    Fried chicken, dark meat only. OK, maybe wings, too, but breasts I’ll take a pass on.

    Grilled pork chops with a nice ring of fat around the edge. The only problem with cooking pork is you have about a 15 second window of time to get it off the flame before it takes on the consistency of shoe leather.

    Bacon, both for the meat, and the wonderful fat that comes from it and is so good for cooking other things in, like potatoes or apple slices, or best of all, my great grandmother’s fried pies.

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  17. Alaskan King Crab
    Bacon
    Tri-tip (hat tip to California)

    Saul broke the bison and the kangaroo, both of which were contenders. I can eat about fifty pounds of rack of lamb, though, so it gets on the list.

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