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The World's First Online Tell-All Competition BBQ Cooking School

Aug
30
2022
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Sara Hansen
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Everything You Want to Know About Bison Meat

Even though you may have never tasted it before now, bison meat has been a big part of North Americans’ diets since before European settlement. After going nearly extinct in the 1890s due to overhunting, bison meat has been steadily making a comeback over the last several decades. This is due to the efforts of forward-thinking and health-conscious ranchers and farmers.

If you are considering trying bison out on your grill or smoker, you absolutely should! But, you may have questions about this meat. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here is everything you need to know about bison meat including its taste, health benefits, and tips on how to cook it properly.

 

Are Bison and Buffalo the Same Thing?

If you are asking yourself this, you are definitely not alone. This is a very common question. Bison meat and buffalo meat are frequently confused for each other and referred to as the same thing, but NO, technically it is not the same.

The North American bison that today’s meat comes from is a totally different animal from a true buffalo. Both are part of the Bovidae family of animals, but bison are native to North America and Europe, while true buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native to Africa and Asia.

 

What Does Bison Taste Like?

As another type of red meat, bison does have some similarities to good quality beef in its taste, texture, and the most commonly used methods to prepare and cook it.

But, bison is leaner, darker in coloring, and has a richer flavor profile compared to beef. Unlike other exotic animals, the naturally-flavorful bison meat does not have a strong "gamey" or wild taste to it. It is actually often considered to have a slightly sweeter flavor profile compared to beef.

As a very tender and naturally flavorful meat, bison is interchangeable in just about any red meat recipe.

 

bison steak | bison meat | how to cook bison

 

Health Benefits of Bison Meat

Compared to other options, bison is one of the healthiest meats you can eat. It is a fantastic source of protein while also being low in saturated fat and relatively low in calories. Thus, making it a great option for those on a heart-healthy diet or who are looking to follow a more primal way of eating.

As recapped by Healthline, bison meat is also an excellent source of iron, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and zinc. 

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown to put the health benefits of bison meat in perspective. A 4-oz serving of bison has:

  • 124 calories
  • 17 grams of protein
  • Less than 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 6 grams of fat
  • 2.5 grams of saturated fat

 

That 4-oz serving also includes:

  • 13% of the Daily Value (DV) of Iron
  • 68% of the DV of Vitamin B12
  • 19% of the DV of Vitamin B6
  • 28% of the DV of Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • 31% of the DV of Selenium
  • 35% of the DV of Zinc

 

The Differences Between Bison and Beef

The biggest difference between bison and beef is that bison is significantly leaner. With less fat marbling running throughout bison meat, it does make it healthier and lower in calories, but that also means that it will be slightly harder to cook with. Bison takes a little bit more care and attention than beef does to ensure that it does not overcook.

Another difference is in the price of the meat. Bison will be more expensive than beef due to the difference in supply and demand, with not as many bison as cattle. Farmed beef is less expensive due to the amount of large-scale cattle farming across the country. In many cases, grass-fed bison is going to be more costly than grass-fed beef, though this can vary based on demographic area.

Compared to bison, beef is also more easily available for purchase. Not all grocery stores will sell bison. But, there are still plenty of places you can buy good-quality bison, it might just take a little more conscious effort than you are used to for beef. (See more on buying bison below.) 

Even though bison meat may cost more and take a little more effort, the taste and health benefits of the meat are worth it.

 

bison vs beef | bison meat | differences between bison and beef

 

Tips For Cooking Bison Perfectly on the Grill

    • Let the meat sit at cool room temperature first: For best results, you don’t want to immediately pull the meat out of the fridge and put it on the grill. Take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit out at cool room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before cooking it.

 

    • Bison will cook faster than beef: As a leaner meat, you can expect bison to cook roughly 1/3 faster than beef. So, it is critical to keep an eye on it and monitor the internal meat temperature with a digital thermometer to avoid overcooking it.

 

    • Use plenty of oil on the grill grates: Lean meats do tend to stick to the grill grates more easily. So make sure that your grates have a good layer of high-heat cooking oil before the meat goes on.

 

    • Keep the seasoning simple: One of the best things about bison meat is its flavor. So don’t go crazy with the seasoning you use and overpower the natural flavor.

 

    • Choose the right flavors for marinades and sauces: If you decide to use a marinade for your thinner cuts of bison, or if you want to serve it with a sauce on the side, choose stronger flavors that will stand up to the robustness of the meat. For example, ones with wine (especially port wine), garlic, mushroom, or even whiskey will complement the flavor of bison nicely. Bison also naturally pairs well with red berries. So those can be incorporated into a sauce as well.

 

    • Cook over medium heat for bison burgers: To avoid overcooking ground bison burgers, grill them over medium heat versus medium-high like you would for ground beef burgers.

 

bison burgers | bison meat | how to cook bison
Source: Beck & Bulow

 

    • Cook bison roasts and steaks low and slow: Your smoker or grill should be at 250°F and if you are using a charcoal grill, it should be set up for two-zone indirect cooking. You want to slow cook/smoke bison roasts or thick-cut steaks until they reach 120-130°F internal, about 10° below your desired temperature. Then, they’ll come off the cooker to rest. For steaks, you can also use a reverse sear method. With this, you slow cook them until they are at about 120°F internal temperature and then quickly sear the exterior over high heat before pulling them off to rest.

 

    • Medium-rare internal temperature is best: Because bison is such a lean meat, you’ll get the best results when it is cooked to medium-rare (130 to 135°F). You could go to medium temperature (135 to 140°F) if you really want to, but when it is cooked beyond that it will quickly become dry and chewy.

 

    • Pull the meat off the cooker slightly before it reaches the desired temperature: Remember, the meat will still rise in internal temperature a few more degrees while it rests. So, make sure to pull the bison off of the heat when it is about 10 degrees below your desired temp to accommodate for this.

 

    • Let the meat rest before serving: Letting the meat rest before you cut and serve it will give the internal juices a chance to reabsorb back into the fibers of the meat. Keeping it more tender and juicy. After the bison comes off your grill, cover it with butcher paper or foil. Let steaks and thick burgers rest for 10 minutes and roasts rest for 20 minutes. For roasts, it is also helpful to not only wrap it in butcher paper but also a kitchen towel and place it in a dry cooler to keep it warm while resting.

 

Where to Buy Bison Meat

Ideally, the best place to try and buy bison meat is in your area at your local butcher shop. If for some reason you don’t see bison in the cold case, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher. They will be happy to help and will more than likely have a good local source they can get bison meat from. In these cases, you will be supporting local ranchers, farmers, and butchers with your purchase— as well as reducing the environmental impact of your food choices.

 

buying bison meat at butcher | bison meat | where to buy bison

 

If you don’t have any local options or would prefer to buy meat online, there are plenty of good options. The internet has given ranchers and farmers a wide-reaching platform to sell their high-quality bison products.

Here are a few good options to check out:

  • The Honest Bison - This conscious company only sources and provides naturally raised and minimally processed meats. They also have a wide range of different cuts of bison available. The Honest Bison is a great choice if you are looking for total transparency in all of their practices as well as their grazing partners.
  • Crowd Cow - Crowd Cow is one of the top online meat suppliers for all kinds of different meats, including bison, at excellent prices. They work directly with farmers and ranchers that they have a personal relationship with to provide humanely raised meat that has exceptional quality and taste.
  • Fossil Farms - Along with a wide range of other exotic meats, Fossil Farms offers a huge array of cuts and preparations for top-quality bison meat. They guarantee that their pasture-raised bison are never administered steroids, hormones, or antibiotics.
  • North Star Bison - If you want to go all in on trying bison, check out this huge sampler pack from North Star Bison. This is an easy and entertaining way to familiarize yourself with bison meat and the different cuts available. The box comes with 8 different cuts of bison and is an affordable way to try bison in place of beef in a bunch of your favorite recipes.

 

Try Bison Meat on Your Grill or Smoker Today!

Bison makes for a delicious and healthy alternative to fattier beef cuts for your grill or smoker. Find your source for high-quality bison today and try a couple of different cuts to pinpoint your favorite. By following the tips we covered above, you’ll be well on your way to cooking it perfectly every time!

Have you recently tried bison for the first time? Or do you know of some other good tips to add to what we covered above? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!

 

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Sara Hansen

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