When properly prepared and cooked, bear meat can be extremely tasty. It requires special preparation and cooking methods, however, to prevent the meat from being grisly and tough. Brown or black bear meat are most commonly eaten, and can be served as roasts, steaks, stew, and even sausage. Like other wild game meat, bear may carry several types of parasites, so proper cooking is essential to eliminate the possibility of foodborne diseases.
This meat is naturally strong flavored, tough, and extremely fatty, so parboiling is usually necessary to remove excess fat. After boiling, the meat can be added to stews or sauces. It is best to cook it over very low heat or in a slow cooker. This helps to eliminate the gamey taste and also tenderizes the meat.
If boiled bear meat is not desirable, such as with steaks or roasts, the meat can be marinated prior to cooking. Some bear hunters swear by a buttermilk, cola, or vinegar marinade, which are all said to kill the unpleasant bear smell and improve taste. Acidic marinades that contain vinegar, tomato, wine, or lemon juice will break down and soften the tough meat fibers.
This type of meat is likely to have off-flavors due to the fact that bears will eat anything and everything. Since they are omnivores and often raid garbage cans and dumpsters, there can be any number of offensive items that will reflect in the taste of the meat. Meat from bears that live in wide open wild regions often tastes far better than from those that have been taken from more populated areas. Younger bear meat is also far more tender and usually tastes better than older animals.
Bear hunting has become more popular in recent years in the United States due to the ever increasing bear population. In many other parts of the world these animals have been a diet staple for centuries, including Russia, Scandinavia, and Canada. In these countries, the meat is even served in restaurants and is sold commercially.
Raw or undercooked bear meat can contain parasites. The most common is the trichina worm, which is also sometimes found in undercooked pork. This is the parasite that causes trichinosis, a very dangerous disease that can be fatal. Thorough cooking kills this parasite, so bear meat should always be served well done.
The variety of trichinosis that infects bears is known as T. nativa. This type is not killed by freezing like other kinds of trichinosis. It often remains viable for months or years in the freezer, which makes thorough cooking even more essential.