Game Meats Test Kitchen Series

#3 OF 3: WILD BOAR

LEGS & TENDERLOINS

We're exploring the wide world of magnificent meats, traveling around the globe to uncover traditional proteins and their classic preparations, then testing modern techniques to take them from unfamiliar to new favorite.

portioned venison on butcher block

In this test kitchen, we're challenging the popular thought that wild boar is best prepared just like pork.

The comparison makes sense — boar is, after all, another breed from the same family as domestic pigs — but we found it to be too narrow. The cuts are similar, but we think the flavor and texture are definitely different.

So we asked Staff Chef Liv and Test Kitchen Manager Jade: What does boar really taste like? What's the best way to prepare lean cuts? Can you simply compare it to and cook it just like pork and call it a day? (Spoiler: No, you can't.)

Armed with inspiration and recipes drawn from all over the globe, Jade and Liv tackled two cuts in three ways to discover what works best with boar.

THE CUTS WE'RE WORKING WITH

Wild boar is common all over the world; subspecies can be found on almost every continent. We experimented with both familiar and less-common cuts to test different cooking techniques and globally-inspired flavor pairings.

We started with tenderloins because they're one of the most familiar cuts of meat. (You can easily find beef, pork, venison, veal, lamb and even bison tenderloins! The most common to cook at home are pork and beef tenderloins, which is where filet mignon steaks come from.)

We focused our tenderloin test on exploring how the final texture and flavor is affected by higher cooking temperatures since, unlike beef or venison, boar must be cooked to at least medium (an internal temperature of 140-145°F) due to possible trichinosis. CLICK HERE TO JUMP TO OUR TRIAL AND ERROR RESULTS BELOW

Bone-in legs are a larger cut, called a "primal" (a whole portion of an animal that hasn't had bones removed and hasn't been broken down into its smaller component muscles). We wanted to see how manageable this piece is for the average kitchen and, since boar legs are packaged with two in a case, also experiment with removing the bone to give you a broader selection of preparation techniques and recipes.

"The whole leg is a very manageable size for an entire primal." — Liv

TASTE TEST

Since wild boar is a breed, there is some "wild" boar on the market that's actually farmed. Our wild boar is truly wild: roaming and free-foraging in Texas Hill Country. Its natural diet, determined by its environment and free will to eat what it likes influences its flavor.

This lifestyle gives our wild boar a robust flavor that's a little less sweet than conventional pork. It falls somewhere between beef, pork, and other game meats.

Leaner with less fat, boar is a darker pink than pork and has a tighter grain structure compared to some pork or beef cuts.

"It's hard to define the flavor in comparison to other meats. Some pieces are like lean pork but have a distinctive non-pork finish. It's definitely different, in a good way!"
– Liv

TENDERLOIN TEMP TRIAL & ERROR

The USDA recommends cooking pork to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F and game meat to 160°F. Since boar falls between those two, we tested how the flavor and texture varies between those two temperature ranges. (The USDA does not have a safe cooking temperature recommendation specifically for wild boar.)

In our taste test, we only seasoned the tenderloin with salt in order to give us the best test results at each temperature.

While there wasn't much visual variance, but we definitely noticed a difference in taste and texture as the temperature increases.

venison meat diagram
DONENESSTEMP IN PANTEMP AFTER 5 MINUTE RESTFLAVORTEXTURE
Medium140°F144°FBestBest
Medium Well150°F153°FAcceptableAcceptable
Well Done (USDA Recommended Temperature)160°F163°FStronger iron flavor and gamy notes Very dry and tough

During the rest, the meat will continue to cook (called "carry over"), so we recommend pulling the cut you're cooking when it's about 3-5 degrees from your target temperature.

Longer cooking times dried out the tenderloin, making it tough and chewy with an unpleasant mouthfeel. Higher internal temperatures also intensified unfavorable gamy flavors. This result is similar to other game meats (like venison) that have higher iron content, which becomes more pronounced when the meat is overcooked.

TEMP TEST RESULTS: We recommend cooking whole cuts of boar to an internal temperature of 140-145°F and resting the meat for 3-5 minutes. (Larger cuts with more thermal mass will need longer to rest, compared to a smaller cut like the tenderloin.)

RESEARCH & RECIPES

Inspired by some of our Vietnamese customers who purchase whole boar for community gatherings, Liv marinated the tenderloin to build a boar bun (Vietnamese noodle salad).

"I wanted to use Vietnamese flavors, but with a cut that's more manageable. The results were so good! I really want to try grilling this recipe now," says Liv.

new zealand lamb striploin
new zealand lamb striploin plated

Jade's recipe takes us to China with a flavorful, savory boar barbecue. "Char siu is a mainstay in Chinatowns and Cantonese restaurants. The marinade is made with pretty strong seasonings that can hold up to the flavor of wild boar. The leg was leaner than the cuts normally used (shoulder or belly), but the end result was still delicious."

new zealand lamb gnocchi plated
new zealand lamb gnocchi

Liv adapted a traditional Italian recipe, maiale al latte (pork cooked in milk) to use part of the de-boned leg. Since boar is much leaner than pork, she wrapped the boneless roast with bacon and secured it with butcher's twine. "I was inspired by our conversation about whether you should treat boar more like pork or like game," she says.

"The cut that's traditionally used in this recipe is pork shoulder, which has a good layer of fat on it, but there's not a lot of fat here," she says. "I've made this recipe before with tenderloin, so it's possible to do with a leaner cut but it's definitely better with fat. I also thought the smokiness of the bacon would be a nice complement."

The results were flavorful but dry, despite the bacon. "Ultimately, I don't think I chose the right cooking method for the boneless leg, but the taste was still so good!" says Liv. "I think the flavor of the boar complimented the rich sauce, especially with the tangy kale. The gamy flavor wasn't strong at all. It melded with the sauce and added to the overall enjoyment."

new zealand lamb striploin
new zealand lamb striploin plated

THE RESULTS

After testing different cooking techniques, flavor pairings and ease of butchering the bone-in leg to create a boneless roast, Liv and Jade uncovered the best ways to work with different boar cuts.

liv and jade with tongs

TENDERLOIN

iberico pork secreto

Lean and tender with a mild flavor, the tenderloin has to be cooked to at least medium (an internal temperature of 140-145°F). Marinating imparts additional flavor and moisture, which protects the texture of the meat since it's more likely to dry out when cooked to higher temperatures.

cooking tips

From Liv:
The tenderloin is very mild. It holds up well to stronger and bright flavors. There's a little bit of silverskin that needs to be removed before marinating, but it comes off very, very easily. (How to remove silverskin)

From Jade:
Liv's cooking method is definitely the way to go. Marinate, then get a good sear and finish in the oven until it reaches the temp you want and let it rest for best results. Pull it when it's a few degrees from your goal temperature and let it carry-over cook while it rests for best results.

"The tenderloin was great to work with. This is a weeknight-friendly cut because it's so easy to use!"
– Liv


BONE-IN LEG

iberico pork pluma end loins

The leg is a manageably-sized whole primal that's very lean. It's ideal for slow-roasting, especially after marinating (baste the leg during cooking with leftover marinade or sauce to continue imparting flavor and protect the meat from drying out).

cooking tips

From Liv:
We were more conservative when temping this cut. Aim for somewhere in the middle to get the best average temperature and pull it about 5-7 degrees before it reaches your goal temperature. This cut is larger, so the carry-over cook during the rest will be greater.

From Jade:
The depth of the roasting pan isn't super important. There's no skin that needs to get crispy, so I chose a deeper pan to protect the meat from drying out. Just make sure it's elevated on a roasting rack to let air circulate all the way around.

"This is an impressive cut for dinner parties and a great alternative to bone-in ham or beef rib roasts."
– Jade


BONELESS LEG

iberico pork presa shoulder eye

The boneless leg is all of the muscles of the whole primal with the aitch and femur bones and shank removed. These muscles are lean with less connective tissue compared to the shoulder. The boneless leg can be broken down into smaller roasts for multiple dishes.

cooking tips

From Liv:
If you're following my milk braise recipe, I think cutting the leg into cubes would work better so that all of the parts are submerged in the cooking liquid. I definitely recommend braising or a barded roast.

From Jade:
I think the boneless leg would be great marinated or brined before slow roasting. An oven braise like pot roast would also combat wild boar’s tendency to dry out.

"The flavor of this cut is great! If you were to braise this and shred it to make a pasta sauce, it would be killer — and very traditional Italian."
– Liv