In the spring of 2020, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation teamed up with the American Bear Foundation to host its first-ever Bear Grills competition. Though not the first thing that comes to mind when folks think about eating wild game, black bear is delectable when prepared in a variety of ways. WWF’s goal with this competition was to raise awareness about the tastiness of this harvest, as well as educate folks about the proper ways to prepare bear meat.
Bears are known to carry the disease trichinosis, like pork, and the competition brought light to how best to address its presence in your harvest. In humans, Trichinosis causes stomach-flu-like symptoms, achy muscles, and fatigue, though it’s generally not serious. To prevent getting it, killing trichinosis in the meat is as simple as making sure the meat hits 160 degrees when cooking.
Nearly two-dozen recipes were submitted to the Federation and winners of the best recipe were chosen to win prizes from Traeger Grills, Mystery Ranch, Josh Metten Photography, and the American Bear Foundation.
Submissions ranged from bear burgers to bear claws (the pastries) made with bear fat. The winning recipe was Boar’s Head Curry submitted by Chad White. Chad loves bear meat. He says, “I’m here to tell you that with some proper understanding of bear meat’s culinary characteristics, anyone with an open mind could quickly learn to love bear meat!”
1. THE WINNER: CHAD WHITE’S BOAR’S HEAD CURRY RECIPE
5 lbs of bear head meat
½ pint of the bear’s rendered lard
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 large handful of mixed fresh Cilantro, mint, and parsley leaves (save some for a garnish)
2 bay leaves
1 red onion chopped fairly small
4-5 serrano peppers
4 tablespoons of homemade ginger garlic paste (50/50 ratio)
5 small tomatoes
Zest of 1 lime
2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of chili powder
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seed
1 teaspoon of coriander powder
1 teaspoon of cardamom powder
2 teaspoons of coconut powder
Jasmine white rice to serve with the bear (brown rice and quinoa are also delicious)
Traditionally, this dish is made with the head of a goat. The goat’s hair is singed over a flame and scraped clean. The intact skull is then chopped into half dollar size pieces and all parts are cooked into the dish. I chose to remove the meat from the skull that I was interested in trying but for a full experience, the traditional approach is the way to go.
Slice the head meat and cleaned tongue (no need to peel) into lage bite-size pieces and prepare the other ingredients. Heat the oil on medium-high in an enameled dutch oven. Add to the oil the garam masala, bay leaves and the fresh green leaves. Dump in the onion and let it become translucent. Add the chilies and the ginger garlic paste. Stir the mixture for a moment and add in the chopped tomato. When the moisture from the tomatoes begins to meld into the dish add in the turmeric and the chili powder. Toss in the meat and the salt and stir well. Stir in the cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom, coconut, and lime zest. Cover the dish and lower the heat to a slow simmer.
Let the meat cook until it becomes soft and will flake apart as described above. Plate the dish with your choice of cooked rice and garnish with the fresh leaves you set aside. Finally, take a bite for yourself and decide if you are willing to share your creation with others.
Check out these 9 other recipes from Bear Grills below:
2. Mongolian Bear – Tate Carson
1T. Minced garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1lb. Bear steaks thinly sliced into strips
5 chopped green onions
1-2 Packs of cooked Ramen noodles, no seasoning (or 1 cup rice)
1/2 t. Ginger
1/2 cup water
Oil to fry
Cornstarch (enough to coat the meat)
Broccoli (as desired, frozen or fresh)
Coat bear strips in Cornstarch. Deep fry until thoroughly cooked. Combine all other ingredients besides broccoli in a covered sauté pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower temperature and simmer for 5 minutes. Add fried meat and broccoli and simmer until broccoli is cooked. Serve over noodles/rice hot.
3. Sweet Smoked Bear Roast – Scott Fields
Take a bear roast, preferably a shoulder roast in this instance. Put into a briner or other container that holds liquid and put in your bear shoulder. Add a half cup of Dales marinade or soy sauce, a cup of brown sugar, and enough Dr. Pepper to cover the entire roast. Make sure you blend those 3 ingredients together well, then place the bear into the brine bath for 24 hours.
After it’s been bathed, remove and dry the roast. Coat the exterior of the roast in a yellow mustard. Apply just enough that you can still see the meat but it has a yellow tint. After the mustards have been applied, add a rub of choice. The mustard acts as a binder to the rub. In this instance I would use a rub similar to if you were cooking beef. A coffee rub would be adequate, or a simple rub like salt, brown sugar and pepper would be fine. Coat the meat thoroughly in the rub.
Prepare your smoker for 225-250 degrees. I would mix oak and cherry for this recipe because we are looking for a sweet flavor. For your smoker water I would use tap water or a non hoppy beer to steam with, I like using blue moon personally when I smoke. Smoke continually until you reach your desired temp of 160 or above for safety’s sake and remove if you wish to slice the roast. If you want to pull the meat, keep going until you hit 195-200. Either way, pull the meat wrap in foil or butcher paper and let rest for an hour. After that cut or shred and eat up with your preferred bbq sauce .
4. The Bear Essentials Meatloaf – Neil Summers
1 1/2 tsp
Coarse Black pepper and salt
Each 1 bullion cube in a little water so it will mix with it all
Mix all together.
Add 1 egg
1 cup Ranch Croutons
add milk at the end for moisture.
Bake 325deg. 1 1/2 hr or 165 degrees whichever is first.
Bear Curry – Marcia Brownlee
2 pounds bear meat cut in 1.5 inch cubes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 medium russet potatoes cut into 1.5 inches pieces
4 large yellow onions cut into fine half circles
3/4 tsp salt
1. Put the bear in a bowl, add turmeric, cumin, cayenne, ginger and garlic. Stir well, cover and let set for 3 hours.
2. Heat the oil over medium-high until it’s smoking hot. Add the sugar and then the onions. Stir fry until the onions are a rich light brown.
3. Add bear meat and cook until in browns lightly.
4. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes
5. Add salt and 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil
6. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour stirring gently once or twice. Make sure potatoes are cooked through. After cooking for this long, the bear meat will be cooked thoroughly and nice and tender.
Serve over rice or with your favorite naan.
5. Peachy Bruin Picant – Rodney Brazee
1 pound of bear steak cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 teaspoons of cooking oil (vegetable, grapeseed)
1/2 cup peach preserves (can use apricot too)
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
1 8 ounce bottle of chunky salsa
Coat cubes in taco seasoning, heat oil over medium heat, add cubes, cook to brown, stirring occasionally. Add salsa and preserves, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over rice.
Add more preserves if you like it sweeter. Add hot salsa or handful of jalapenos if you like it spicier. Add more salsa if you like the consistency to be thinner.
6. Rendered Bear Fat & Cracklings – Ryan Cavanaugh
I hope you are reading this recipe because you were a successful bear hunter! This particular bear in the photo that I’m using for the recipe lived its life mightily on the shores of Lake Superior in the old growth forest of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Cook time: 1-2 hours for a small batch or pot.
Crack, pour, or open your
favorite beverage and take a moment to reflect on your successful harvest. Go back to the experience of the hunt, the trials and tribulations that ultimately presented you with this gift. Toast to that animal that gave its life so you can continue your’s to
Rendering fat is something
that should be taken slowly. Make sure you have the dedicated time to tend the fat frequently.
Start with a clean, partially
frozen chunk of bear fat. (much easier and less messy to cut)
Trim the fat of any kind of
meat or blood particles to avoid any kind of bad flavors added to the oil.
Cut the cleaned fat into around
1inch cubes. (doesn’t have to be perfect)
Take another sip of your preferred
beverage, and admire your dicing skills.
Fill your preferred cooking
pot with the cubed fat. (I recommend a cast iron pot)
Begin to heat the fat. Start on a low to moderate temperature. (tip: imagine that the pot is full
of ice cubes and you’re just trying to get the ice to drip and last long without boiling it away). If it’s smoking, it’s way too hot!! Remove from heat and stir repeatedly.
The fat will slowly start to render out and this is where you really want to stir frequently and take your time. Eventually the rendered oil will start to build up in the pot and fat cubes will start to float. (Do not let the oil get hot enough to deep fry. Remove from heat and stir if you feel the oil is getting too hot before returning to the heat)
When you have a good amount
of oil, and have rendered most of the fat out (at least 1-2hrs pending
how much fat you use), you’ll be left with the cracklings, or the unmelted fat that will
just get crispier and no longer emit oil. Remove these cracklings into a dish for a tasty snack (smash
em’ if cooked thoroughly, you owe it to yourself, and they taste like crispy chicken skin),
or crush them down to use in another recipe of your choosing.
Ladle the oil out of the pot
and strain through a fine strainer, or use cheesecloth to get the finer pieces of cracklings out of the oil.
(I personally fine strain the oil twice)
Pour the strained oil into
your favorite storage container. Ball mason jars work great, and come in a variety of different sizes. I like to use 8oz jars to have a few on hand for gifts, or for throwing quick in my pack to take along on a trip into the backcountry.
Let cool and then store in your fridge. Rendered bear fat has a pretty long shelf life when stored and used properly!
Let the cooking begin! Savory pie crusts, biscuits, bear fried in bear, the uses I’ll leave up to your creativity!
Enjoy your harvest to the max, and be sure to share with others!
7. Bear Fat Bear Claws – Michael Vialpando
Bear Claws are a classic pastry, fluffy, flaky, sweet, and a solid almond filling. What isn’t so classic, is bear fat in the recipe. Let me assure you, these belong in your hunting camp. Early morning perc coffee and one of these bad boys is sure to satisfy that morning sweet tooth.
The use of bear fat is in place of butter in the dough. Butter is used as a mechanical leavening agent in pastry. The layer of a solid fat in dough that is laminated creates a barrier for steam to push against. It also keeps the layers from sticking to each other, which makes that classic flakey crust.
You could use the dough recipe to make croissant, turnovers, or anything you can think up.
2 3/4 C Bread Flour
1 C Water
1 T dry yeast
1 T white sugar
1 t salt
1/2 C rendered fat (or butter) COLD!
1/2 C almond flour
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 Egg white
1 t almond extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 T milk
1/2 t vanilla
Sliced almonds for topping
Step 1 – In a stand mixer, add water (warm), white sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foamy.
Step 2 – Add flour and salt, and mix until dough pulls from the walls of the bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Step 3 – Pull chilled dough onto a floured surface, and roll out to a 8×16 rectangle. Smear out fat into the center 1/3 of dough and fold in the outer thirds.
Step 4 – Roll out the folded dough to the same 8×16, and fold into thirds again. Place into the fridge for 1 hour. Being sure to keep the fat cold and in a distinguished layer is key to proper lamination. Repeat this process two more times, being sure to refrigerate after each fold.
Step 5 -Mix together almond flour, extract, powdered sugar and egg white.
Step 6 – Roll out dough final time to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut rectangles in dough using a pizza cutter to desired size. (the pastries will be folded in half) I simply cut into 6ths for mine
Step 7 – Add desired amount of filling to each filling on one side of the pastry. Brush all sides with egg wash and fold in half pressing all edges to seal. Then cut three slits to make the four ‘claws.” Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and let proof till doubled in size.
Step 8 – Brush egg wash one last time after rising and add sliced almonds on top. Bake in a 425* oven for 18 min. Then pull, carefully place on a wire rack with a spatula until cooled. This will keep that crispy, flaky quality to the crust.
Step 9 – Add all ingredients for icing in a small bowl, and stir until incorporated. Drizzle desired amount of icing on cooled pastries and any extra almonds you desire.
8. Bear Cheek Carbonara – Michael Vialpando
4 oz finely cubed bear cheek (or whatever you got…….)
1 lb dry spaghetti
3 Egg Yolks
1 t peppercorns
3 Cloves Garlic
3 T Bear Fat
Salt for pasta water
1/4 C Pecorino Romano
Time to Make: 15-20 Min Serves: 4
Step 1 – Generously salt boiling water for spaghetti. About 1/2 T per quart of water should be perfect. Bring to a boil.
Step 2 – In a cold skillet, add lard and cubed bear cheek. Place on a burner set to medium heat. To slowly melt the fat, and gently crisp up the cheek. Then drop the pasta in the water at this time.
Step 3 – While the pasta and cheek are cooking, finely grate the Romano, and add to a small bowl with the egg yolks and mix together.
Step 4 – Freshly crush the peppercorns with a pepper mill, or beneath a hard flat object.
Step 5 – When the meat starts sizzling, crush garlic cloves and add to cheek.
Step 6 – When the Spaghetti has cooked al dente, pull out with tongs and drop the pasta right into the skillet. The goal of this is to use the water in the pasta to stop the sizzle of the oil and bring the temperature of the pan down. Add a couple extra splashes of pasta water after the spaghetti is in the pan. This will also provide the dish with salt. (fish out the garlic cloves, or don’t…..)
Step 7 – Now that the pan has some moisture and the temp has dropped, pull from the burner, pour in the egg and Romano mixture and quickly start tossing in the pasta to avoid “scrambling the egg”. After a few tosses, and some confidence that egg is mixed in well with the pasta you can return to heat, but make sure to keep tossing the pan. Add the pepper at this time.
Step 8 – Toss for a minute or two, being sure that the mixture is trying to simmer if you pause. Add a splash of water here or there if needed, the mixture should visibly start to emulsify and become creamy. The sauce should be a little on the thin side, for when it cools down a bit it will thicken up.
Step 9 – When the sauce is developed, pull from the burner and plate. Grate more Romano on top and serve!
9. Bear Ossobuco with Bam! & Polenta – Randy King
Ossobuco is a traditional Italian dish made with the cut shanks (think front forearm) off veal. And it is delicious. That said, wild game does not happen to have much in the way of milk fed veal. So I substitute in other items, such as bear. This recipe will work on deer, goose legs, turkey drumsticks – you name a cut that is tough, and this recipe will be useful.
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup flour
2 each bear shanks (depending on the size, of course)
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 carrot, large chunks
1 rib celery, large chunks
2 bay leaves
5 cloves of garlic
1 cup white wine (optional)
Beef stock (pre made it fine)
Dash of salt
Turn the crockpot on high. In a large sauté pan heat oil on medium for 3-4 minutes. Roll the thawed shanks in flour, dust off the excess flour and brown them in the sauté pan on all sides. This will take five minutes or so. Next add the contents of the pan to the crock pot. Scrape the bottom with a spatula for all the little bits of brown goodness. Next add the remaining ingredients to the crock pot. For the beef stock – fill the crock until just covering the meat with liquid. This can vary from crock pot to crock pot, bear shank to bear shank.
Let this mess cook on high until the contents is at a steady simmer, about 3 hours. Then turn to low and cook for an additional 5 hours. You want this to be falling off the bone tender.
When done, remove the ceramic interior of the crockpot from the cooking unit. Then let cool for one hour on the counter with the lid off. Replace lid and cool in the fridge for 24 hours. (This is not critical, but it makes for a better result. You can cook and eat them on the same day, but result and flavor are better if given time to cool)
To reheat the shanks, place them in a microwave safe dish with ½ cup of stock (from the crock pot) and cover tightly with cling film. Heat for 4 minutes in the microwave (microwaves are all different, wattage levels and newness matter, this might affect the cook time. The goal is to get the shank hot. Mine took four minutes)
Let rest after microwaving for 2 minutes before serving.
For this recipe I use the stock that was created in the crockpot to make the starch that goes with the dish. It helps the flavors match and give the whole dish a great richness.
½ cup cream
2 cups bear stock (crock pot juice)
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup fine cornmeal
Salt and pepper
Bring the cream, stock and crushed garlic clove to a boil in a 2-quart sauce pot. Stir in the cornmeal and whisk it together. The mix will start to thicken in about one minute. Cover then turn the heat to “low” and let cook for 15 minutes. If thicker than desired thin with ether a little more cream of stock out of the crock pot.
Brown Butter BAM! Sage Sauce
1 tablespoon butter, per shank
5-6 sage leaves
½ lime, per shank
In a 10-inch sauté pan add the butter and turn the pan to medium high heat. Heat the butter until it melts, then turns clear THEN the solid chunks in the pan start to turn golden brown. At this point toss in the sage and remove the pan from the heat. The sage will “pop” a little so make sure to be careful. Use the sage brown butter as a garnish/ sauce for the shank and polenta.
When the shank, polenta and sauce are all assembled. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.
10. Harri’s Bear Chili with Beans – Jerry Dunlap
2-½ cup dried pinto beans or in a hurry just open a can (40 ounces) of pinto beans with bean juice
1 pound bear burger
1 cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 ounce can tomatoes, cut up
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon dried basil, crushed
¼ teaspoon cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper or heat to taste
½ teaspoon salt and pepper
Using dry beans rinse beans, in a heavy 3-quart saucepan combine beans and 8 cups cold water.
Soak 7 to 8 hours.
Add ½ teaspoon salt to beans and soaking water
Cook till beans are tender
Drain beans, reserving beans and liquid
In same 3-quart sauce pan, cook bear burger, add onions, green pepper while cooking, cook till bear burger is browned
Add in beans with reserved bean liquid, garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, basil, cumin, and cayenne
Thicken with Masa to your liking
Bring to broil, lower to simmer for 30 minutes