You might be on a constant lookout for healthy and flavorful substitutes for red or white meat. Well, your search ends here. Bison meat, also known as American buffalo, is a lean, nutritious, and tasty alternative that you need to consider. Not only is it lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol compared to beef, pork, chicken, and some fish, but it’s also conveniently available at grocery stores, fresh or frozen, or even online.
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What Exactly is Bison Meat?
Bison, or American buffalo, belong to the cattle family, distinguished by their shaggy hair, horns, and a distinct hump on their shoulders. They primarily consume grass, leaves, and shrubs and are typically raised on reserves or ranches in North America.
When it comes to the meat, bison is incredibly lean. When cooked right, it yields a juicy and tender texture, with a flavor quite similar to lean beef but without the gamey aftertaste. Just like beef, the cuts of bison meat are versatile, and you can easily substitute it in most recipes. For those seeking other lean, low-fat, and healthy meat options, lamb meat could be another great alternative.
Bison and Buffalo: Understanding the Difference
Shopping for bison meat could be slightly confusing, especially with the misleading advertising around buffalo meat. Despite their common usage, bison and buffalo aren’t the same. While bison are native to North America, buffalos hail from Asia and Africa. What most people refer to as “buffalo” in America are, in fact, bison. The skeletal structure of buffalo lacks the characteristic hump of the bison. So, when you hear “American Buffalo”, remember, they all belong to the genus “Bison”.
Why Should You Choose Bison Meat?
The benefits of consuming bison meat are plenty:
- It’s high in iron and protein.
- It has fewer calories, fat, and sodium than chicken.
- It contains less fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than beef.
- It offers fewer calories, fat, and saturated fat than salmon.
In terms of specifics, 100 grams of cooked bison meat offers only 2.42 grams of fat, 143 calories, and 82 milligrams of cholesterol, as per the USDA. If you compare it with beef, 100 grams of beef contains 11.73 grams of fat, 217 calories, and 85 milligrams of cholesterol. Even against the lean, skinless chicken breast, bison meat stands out with lesser fat, calories, and cholesterol.
In essence, bison meat is a powerhouse of nutritional value, even exceeding the lean kid goat meat.
The Taste of Bison
Bison meat is often referred to as gourmet beef. It’s tender, low-fat, and packed with protein and nutrients. Its dense texture leads to a satisfying meal, even with smaller portions. Due to its low-fat content, bison meat is often recommended by physicians to patients who need to limit their fat intake.
Selecting Bison Meat: What Should You Look For?
Most bison meat is available in the market is labeled “all-natural”, implying it’s free from artificial ingredients, MSG, nitrates, nitrites, sodium benzoate, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives.
When selecting, make sure to check the label for information on whether the bison meat is raised without growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics or if they are fed animal by-products.
While both fresh and frozen variants are available, frozen bison meat is usually preferable as it retains its flavor, texture, and nutritional qualities for about a year, while fresh meat can degrade more quickly
The Art of Preparing and Cooking Bison Meat
Given the lean nature of bison meat, it requires a bit of finesse in cooking. You’ll need to cook it slowly at low heat to maintain its juiciness and tenderness. Marinating bison meat before cooking can enhance the final result, making it a tender delight. Another popular preparation method is brining the meat before cooking.
Grilling Bison Meat: Steaks and Burgers
When grilling bison, it’s essential to sear it quickly on high heat and then cook the meat to your desired level on medium heat. Bison steaks are best when cooked rare to medium, and it’s advisable to use tongs to turn them, keeping the juices locked in the meat. Remember, when it comes to cooking bison, the golden rule is “low and slow”.
While grilling bison burgers or steaks, avoid exposing the meat directly to an open flame, which can make it tough and less tender. Employ the indirect grilling method: heat one side of the grill on high for 5-10 minutes, then reduce the flame to medium-high and place your steak or burgers on the cooler side of the grill.
Slow Cooking Bison: The Crock Pot Method
Slow cooking is arguably the best method for bison meat. The slow-cooked meat is tender, moist, and full of flavor. Using a low setting on your crock pot will result in a tasty meal that lets the natural flavors of bison shine through.
Try These Delicious Bison Recipes
Bison Burger Recipe:
- 4 1/4- to 1/2-pound frozen ground bison meat, formed into patties
- Canola oil spray
- Mesquite rub or seasoned salt
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon canola oil
- Preheat your grill on high heat.
- Spray the bison meat patties on both sides with canola oil spray and sprinkle with rub or salt.
- For a quick marinade, mix together vinegar, mustard, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, and canola oil.
- Brush the bison patties with the marinade.
- Once the grill has preheated, place the patties on the grill and turn the heat to medium, then close the grill lid.
- After 5 minutes, you should see juices appear on the top surface of the bison patties.
- Flip the patties and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
Bison London Broil Recipe:
- 4 6- to 8-ounce bison steaks
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup red wine or Balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt or Mesquite rub
- Set the bison steaks aside.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then place them in a 1-gallon thick plastic bag.
- Add the bison steaks to the marinade in the plastic bag and seal tightly.
- Refrigerate the steaks in the marinade, laying them flat, for 4 hours to overnight.
- Remove the steaks from the marinade, and sear both sides on a hot, preheated grill or in the oven.
6. Lower the heat on the grill or in the oven and cook low and slow until the steaks are rare or medium-rare. Always use tongs rather than a fork to turn the steaks.
- Allow the steaks to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into them.
- When ready, cut the steaks across the grain at an angle, slicing thinly for the best texture and flavor.
Conclusion: Embrace the Bison Movement
For those of you who adore the taste of beef but need to lower your fat and cholesterol intake, bison emerges as the perfect substitute. With its tender texture and delectable flavor, you might even forget about returning to beef altogether. Bison meat, in all its forms, can be found in your local grocery stores. If not, numerous online vendors offer a variety of cuts delivered straight to your door.
Switching to bison isn’t just a lifestyle or dietary change, it’s a movement towards healthier, more sustainable eating. Not only are you nourishing your body with high-quality, nutrient-rich meat, but you’re also supporting the responsible, humane treatment of these majestic creatures. Give it a try — your taste buds, your body, and the bison will thank you!