Bison burgers are lean and delicious—just don’t overcook them. Photo by Craig Holmes.
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.
Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Meat & Poultry
How To Cook Bison
Keep It Rare For A Rare Treat
CAPSULE REPORT: Bison (buffalo) meat is glorious. When you get it from a top producer (see our review of Blackwing Bison—worth sending for) it is as flavorful as a Porterhouse, as tender as filet mignon, and so lean, your cardiologist will come for dinner. Because it is so lean, though, you need to enjoy it on the rare side. Here, our tips for cooking the perfect bison.
Bison meat is similar to beef and can be interchanged in virtually all beef recipes. Because it has less fat, it needs to be handled and cooked a bit differently.
Lower The Heat
The only mistake people make when cooking bison is comparing it to beef in length of time and amount of heat—and they overcook it. Bison can overcook easily, so you need to watch it carefully the first time you prepare it until you become accustomed to how quickly it is finished. Fat is an insulator in meat. Bison does not have the extra insulation, and therefore does not need to be cooked as long with or with as high a temperature. Turn the temperature down by about 50 degrees, and the meat will be done in the same amount of time as beef would be or keep the heat and be done much faster. That’s good news for cooks. For those without a great exhaust system, more good news is that the kitchen (or the entire house, depending on the size of your quarters) doesn’t fill up with the smell of broiling meat—which can be attractive for a few minutes and oppressive after a fashion.
Enjoy It Rare
Rare to medium-rare is best for tender cuts. With the less tender cuts, like back ribs, very slow, moist heat works especially well.
- Steaks cook quickly under high heat. Cooking time will depend on the thickness. The tenderloin has a beautiful, rich red color like dark tuna. It has a white membrane like the fell of lamb loin which is easily removed prior to cooking. It is flawless meat with no marbling. The raw meat has a squab-like smell, and in fact, you cook bison the way you would cook squab breast, tuna or venison. If the tenderloin is 2.5" thick and you want it rare, you can split it in half horizontally and cook it for two minutes on each side over medium-high heat, which worked equally well for the strip steaks. We suggest pressing down on the cooking meat once or twice after flipping. To retain more juices and reduce the chance of overcooking, turn only once. Having the meat chilled (or even slightly frozen) when grilling will also help, since cold meat takes longer to cook.
Photo of filet mignon by
Otto Groning | IST.
- Ground meat can be cooked like any other ground red meats, but there’s less shrinkage (due to less fat) and quicker cooking for the reasons noted previously. Bison meat works extremely well with fillers and binders, e.g. in meat loaf or meat balls, and makes flavorful meat sauces. Burgers are delicious infused from inside with a ball of truffle cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese or seasoned burrata. After you’ve mounded the patty, make a large indent with your thumb and insert a small ball (1/2" diameter) or chunk of cheese. Cover up the indentation and cook as usual. Cook patties on medium-high heat for 2.5 minutes on each side for a rare burger.
- Roasts should be cooked under low, moist heat at 275° to 325°F. Use a meat thermometer and remove them from the oven at 140° to 150°F for rare to medium-rare. All food continues to cook after it leaves the oven; therefore, remove the roast when the thermometer reaches 5° below the desired degree of doneness.
If you prefer to marinate your meats for added flavor, you’ll enjoy cooking bison. Since there’s no fat to absorb marinades and seasonings, just pure meat, use those expensive ingredients and marinate away.
Blackwing Bison provides additional cooking directions and recipes on its website.
Use tongs instead of a fork to flip steak, tenderloin or burgers so as not to puncture the meat and let the juices escape.