THE BEST WAY TO COOK BISON IS TO TAKE YOUR TIME
In the February.March issue of the magazine, Bryan Hunter explores one of America’s national symbols: the “buffalo,” the correct scientific name being Bison bison. This mammoth mammal used to cover nearly the entirety of the United States, but like many of our most prized possessions, we loved it just a little too hard and drove it near extinction by the end of the nineteenth century.
Thankfully, bison have slowly restored in number, and while they certainly aren’t peppering the country like they once were, they can easily be found roaming all over the South, including in Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Below, Bryan Hunter shares a few tips on how to cook this hearty red meat, which requires a little special attention. Also try our recipe for Bison Chili, perfect for these last few weeks of winter.
Cooking Bison: Low & Slow
- Bison is naturally lean, so cooking most cuts similar to beef over excessively high heat will render the meat dry and tough. While internal temperatures for specific levels of doneness are the same as for beef (i.e., 120-130 degrees for rare, 130-135 for medium-rare, 140-150 for medium; it’s not recommended to prepare bison well done), this result must be achieved slower and at a lower temperature.
- Bring meat cuts up to room temperature for one to two hours before cooking.
- Searing the meat over high heat, either on the grill or in a cast iron skillet, before cooking develops a nice crust and seals in juices.
- When cooking bison on a gas grill, the flame should never be above low to medium. Oven-cooking temperatures for roasting should range between 275 and 300 degrees.
- Bison is ideal for braising, especially particularly lean cuts such as short ribs. Either a large, lidded Dutch oven or a slow cooker with lots of liquid is the bison chef’s best friend.
- When pan frying or oven roasting, covering with a lid helps circulate and preserve moisture.
- Rotisserie cooking is an effective and time-honored method for cooking lean meats and ensuring that juices are locked inside.
- Use a meat thermometer for precise internal temperatures and remove meat from cooking when the internal temperature reaches five degrees short of the desired temperature (the temperature will continue to rise even after the meat’s removed).
- Like any other meat, bison should be allowed to rest on a wire rack or cutting board for about ten minutes after cooking to allow juices to evenly redistribute throughout the meat.
- Less prime cuts especially benefit from marinades, particularly if grilling them.