rabbit 101

we'd like to introduce you to a new versatile white meat and how to cook it.

We know rabbit doesn't usually come to mind when you're planning a dinner party or prepping your weekly meal plan. We're here to set the rabbit record straight and show you that it's easy to work with, is versatile and pairs well with a very long list of ingredients. Plus, as we discovered in our Rabbit Test Kitchen, there are quick and delicious ways to prepare rabbit beyond braising.

rabbit silhouette

the skinny on this ultra lean protein

Rabbit is all-white meat with a mild flavor profile that's just as versatile as chicken. The delicate flavor has a clean finish (it's not gamey) and the meat is finely grained, giving it a pleasant toothsome chew similar to pork chops.

FLAVOR: Delicate and mildly sweet.

FAT CONTENT: 97% lean!

GRAIN STRUCTURE (TENDERNESS): A tight grain. Meat hugs the bone (won't be as fall-off-the-bone tender as fattier meats).

"Rabbit is fun to work with because you're able to cook with a whole animal but on a very reasonable and accessible scale," says Liv.

how to break down a rabbit

photo of jade

"This is very easy to do at home. All you need is a chef's knife. If you're familiar with breaking down a whole chicken, I used the same principles." — Jade

Working with a whole rabbit gives you the versatility to experiment with different recipes and try both quick and slow cooking techniques.

rabbit butcher diagram

1a/b. Fore Legs 2. Upper Saddle (Shoulder & Rack) 3a/b. Belly “Flap” 4. Lower Saddle 5a/b. Hind Legs

When you first take the rabbit out of the package, pat it dry and remove any internal organs (like the liver) that may be tucked inside.

REMOVE THE HIND LEGS:

1. Place the rabbit spine down on your cutting board, and gently press down on the hind legs so they're lying as flat and wide open as possible.

2. Start at the top of the hip bone and make one long shallow cut all the way down to expose the joint that's about halfway through. Gently bend the leg backwards to pop out the hip joint. Do this on both sides.

3. Flip the rabbit over and cut along the natural seams between the hind legs and the spine to separate them from the back, connecting with the cuts you made on the underside. Use the tip of your knife to slice through the joints.

REMOVE THE FORE (FRONT) LEGS:

1. Lay the rabbit spine down on your cutting board. Run your knife along the pectoral muscle, adjusting as needed to "roll" the leg off the rest of the carcass. Follow the seam of the muscle all the way down to remove the leg. (There are no joints in the forequarters.)

2. Repeat with the other leg.

DIVIDE THE LOIN:

1. Separate the rack (shoulders and ribs) from the saddle: Find the last rib (the lowest part of the sternum). Holding on to the belly, cut along the ribcage and follow that seam all the way down, keeping your knife angled against the ribs. Do this on both sides.

2. Take your knife and make a U-shaped incision under the lowest rib. Use your knife or a cleaver to cut through the spine. (You may need to press down firmly on the top of the knife to give you some leverage to make the cut.)

3. You can keep the rack and saddle in one piece, or cut each in half by cutting through the spine, depending on the recipe or how you intend to use each piece.

For a thorough step-by-step guide, check out our rabbit butchery videos with pro chef and butchery instructor Sarah Wong.

"I was very impressed with how quickly Jade broke down the whole rabbit. Which obviously speaks to her skills, but also shows that it was not a major undertaking. It was quick work that i think a lot of people with basic skills could do." — Liv

PRO TIP:
A whole rabbit will serve 2-3 people. If you need to serve more than three, you can break down multiple rabbits and separate quick and slow cooking cuts, using the legs for your braise. For ease, you can use pre-butchered hind leg quarters. Hind legs offer a very elegant and impressive presentation, especially if you're planning to serve a plated dish (versus casual family-style).

how to cook a rabbit

PRO TIP:
Jade added the bonier bits (the shoulder and the rib rack) to her braise. There's not much meat on those cuts, making them less than ideal to serve to guests, but they helped to build the flavor of her final dish. (These pieces can also be reserved and used to make rabbit stock along with any bones you save after eating.)

whole rabbit butchery chart

whole rabbit

BEST FOR: Break down and use all pieces in a braise or separate for different uses. Use shoulders & racks in stock; Braise hind legs & saddles; Separate bellies from saddles & stir fry.

PREP & COOKING TIME: Butchery: Approx. 10 minutes Cooking Time: 40-60 minutes to braise

PIECES / SERVING: 2-3 servings per rabbit

TIPS: The rabbit fryers come with the liver. These can be prepared & eaten separately, discarded or saved & used in stock.

rabbit hind legs butchery chart

HIND LEGS

BEST FOR: Braising

PREP & COOKING TIME: 40-60 minutes

PIECES / SERVING: 1 leg per serving

TIPS: Serve whole for an elegant plating, or remove the meat from the bones & shred for a sauce.

rabbit bone-in saddles butchery chart

BONE-IN SADDLES

BEST FOR: Braising

PREP & COOKING TIME: 40-60 minutes

PIECES / SERVING: 2 saddles per serving

TIPS: Rabbit bones can be small & sharp, so use caution! This cut is good for a Bolognese-type sauce where the meat is shredded.

rabbit boneless saddles butchery chart

boneless saddles

BEST FOR: Marinating & Grilling; Stuffing & Rolling (Roulade); Pan Roast.

PREP & COOKING TIME: Grill: 15 minutes Roulade: 40-60 minutes to roast

PIECES / SERVING: 2 saddles per serving

TIPS: When grilling, wrap the belly around the striploin and secure with a skewer. You can also "bard" this cut by wrapping in bacon or pancetta before cooking.

rabbit bellies butchery chart

bellies

BEST FOR: Stir Frying

PREP & COOKING TIME: Just a few minutes. (Bellies cook very quickly!)

PIECES / SERVING: Varies depending on the dish; at least 2 bellies per serving

TIPS: Bellies are very thin with no fat (unlike other proteins). They cook quickly & can dry out. You can also use them to make stock.

rabbit boneless striploin butchery chart

boneless striploin

BEST FOR: Marinating & Grilling; Deep Frying; Pan Roast.

PREP & COOKING TIME: 20-45 minutes

PIECES / SERVING: 2-3 striploins per serving

TIPS: You can also "bard" this cut by wrapping in bacon or pancetta before grilling or pan-roasting.

GO BEYOND BRAISING

Our Test Kitchen dynamic duo Jade & Liv experimented with grilling and deep-frying, discovering fun, quick and easy ways to cook rabbit.

read our results

popular cuisines & flavor pairings

Rabbit's delicate flavor makes it exceptionally versatile. The list of flavor pairings is seemingly endless, but rabbit pairs particularly well with "loud" herbs (those with stronger flavors, like rosemary, tarragon and chervil); umami and earthy flavors (like mushrooms); and sour, acidic, bitter and tannic ingredients (including dry wines, lemon and lime juice, chocolate and bitter greens like radicchio).

Rabbit is popular in recipes from around the world, especially in the Mediterranean and parts of Asia.

FRENCH

Basil, Pasta, Tomatoes, Rosemary, Fennel, Marsala Wine, Pine Nuts

ITALIAN

Butter & Cream, Mushrooms, Mustard, Onions, Thyme, Wine & Cognac

SPANISH

Almonds, Peppers, Artichokes, Olives, Cayenne, Smoked Paprika, Oregano

ASIAN

Chiles, Coriander & Cilantro, Lemongrass, Curry Paste, Star Anise, Coconut Milk

NEW AMERICAN

Bacon, BBQ Sauce, Beer, Hot Sauce (especially Tabasco & Crystal)