Squirrels are an adorable type of wild animal with a super fluffy tail and a big mouth that can fit multiple nuts inside. Perhaps because of their cute features, many people think it is unlikely that people can eat squirrels.
However, as has been proven with porcupines and snails, any animals which are not low in population can be consumed in certain parts of the world. It is not illegal to eat squirrels in America, whether it is from your backyards or in the city. Moreover, squirrel meat is considered to be a sustainable choice of food in our daily meals.
If you’re new to this part of the cooking world, stay tuned to find out “What does squirrel taste like?” and how you can cook this meat.
Do People Eat Squirrels?
The history of squirrel meat dates back to the 19th Century in the US. Some areas, especially the South, have had a tradition to hunt and cook squirrels into amazing dishes.
One of my favorite squirrel dishes is Brunswick stew, a combination of squirrels, lima beans, okra, and tomatoes. As there are more sustainability-conscious consumers, recently, squirrels have received a lot of recognition from famous chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. Moreover, it is known to have an interesting texture and flavor.
So, does squirrel taste good? Let’s find out now!
What Does Squirrel Taste Like?
Some people think squirrels taste like soft rabbit meat. Some believe this gamey meat is a mix of white lean chicken and rabbit. No matter the comparison, squirrel meat has a sweet and uniquely nutty taste from their nut diet.
“What does squirrel meat taste like exactly?”
“Are squirrels good to eat?”,
These questions are common for many home cooks who first know about squirrel meat. Without further ado, let’s get into detail about squirrel taste!
For those getting acquainted with squirrel meat, it can be unappetizing for many people to see the raw meat. The meat ratio is decent, with a vivid view of the whole-body parts. If you buy squirrel meat from the market, they are likely skinned with light pink color and smooth, lean meat.
However, in case you hunt wild squirrels, you need to add an extra step in the preparation process, which is skinning the squirrel. Therefore, it is best to ask the butcher to skin the squirrel first so that you can easily work on the raw meat. With such a small portion, is squirrel meat good?
When cooking it, the squirrel meat has beautiful pink colored muscles with hardly any fat. That’s why many people find it is such a lean meat-like chicken with a smooth and amazingly soft texture. But, how does squirrel taste?
You can feel a sweet, juicy, and subtle taste in your mouth with a nutty flavor, creating a lukewarm and mouth-watering experience.
Regardless of their unappetizing raw look, squirrels are adored for their delicious taste, which is ideal for cooking in a slow cooking or casserole with vegetables and herbs like thyme, parsley, rosemary, paprika, with dry red wine or ale.
What Part Of A Squirrel Do You Eat?
Suppose you’re working on a whole squirrel; which parts should you eat? Normally, an average squirrel can be divided into five parts which are preferable for frying and roasting.
Because of their rich meat content, front legs, hind legs, backstraps, and shoulders should be your focus parts. The belly, rib cage, and leftover back sections have lesser meat which is great for stock and broth recipes.
Regarding the organs of squirrels like kidneys, livers, and hearts, you can also cook them along with the meat for stews. They would give an extra meat taste to your dishes. Eating grey squirrel brain, however, is not recommended due to the high risk of brain diseases in squirrels.
Is Squirrel Healthy To Eat?
Squirrels are sweet and delicious meat with a stable position in the healthy meat group. There is no carbon footprint in squirrel meat, which is why many people have chosen to bring squirrels back to the menu as sustainable meat.
Furthermore, when looking at squirrel nutrition, it is clear why squirrels are favorable to healthy diets. This is due to their low-carb and fat and a great source of protein. You can find only 34 calories in a pound of the squirrel.
Can You Get Diseases From Eating Squirrels?
As tasty and fantastic squirrel’s meat is, they are still wild animals with hidden dangerous diseases that you can get from eating their meat. One of the biggest squirrel issues is the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease contained inside the squirrels.
This disease is also known as mad-cow disease, affecting your brain functions, intellectual and memory loss, vision problems, and slurred speech. That’s why doctors recommend squirrel enthusiasts leave the brain out to avoid the risk of having mad-cow variants.
How To Prepare A Squirrel
It can be tricky to prepare raw squirrel meat, especially squirrel hunting. Therefore, here is how you can prepare a gray squirrel:
Remove The Squirrel’s Skin
The squirrel skin is quite furry, which needs a careful cut to pull the skin out. First, you need to make a cut from the bottom part of the tail and drag it toward the squirrel’s spine. Make sure not to cross the digestive tract and the muscle on the tail.
Once you have made a good cut, turn the squirrel down and hold their hind legs with one hand. The other hand holds the skin on the head and the arm. Use your leg to step on the tail to keep the squirrel steady.
As soon as you are in the position, start pulling the squirrel upward and use your fingers to separate any connection between the skin and muscles.
Remove The Guts
Lay the squirrel on its back and use your knife to cut the groin area. Make a vertical line upward to reveal the guts. Use the shears to remove the sternum and open the chest. Once the belly is opened, the intestines will come out easily by pulling out with your fingers.
Chop The Parts
Squirrels can be chopped into five parts: front legs, shoulders, back straps, and hind legs. Using your knife to cut off the back legs, cut through the pelvis, around the connecting area between the legs and the lower body. Then, you can snap the hip joint by bending the leg toward the spine.
With the front legs, you can cut the neck toward the rib cage and around the shoulder. Then, cut the collarbone to free the front leg with your shears or knife.
Regarding the back strap, you need to remove all the rib cages left inside the body. Then cut the spine toward the hip part.
How To Use Squirrels In Cooking
Now that you have learned how to dress a squirrel, it is time to learn what you should do with this lean and tasty meat.
The most common way to cook squirrel is slow-cooking or casseroling. This is a great way to get the soft and tender meat from these springy and gamey muscles. Put the meat on a pan and brown the meat first. Then, transfer the meat to a casserole dish and cook for 4-8 hours in the oven with tomatoes, vegetables, and wine.
Roasting squirrels is also another way to cook them for your delicious dinner. Baste the meat with fat or oil and leave them inside the oven for up to 60 minutes for a flavorful experience. You can also make a Southern-fried squirrel dish with breadcrumbs in only a few minutes.
Squirrel meat doesn’t stop there as it is so tasty to make barbecue squirrel meat. Make your regular barbecue and marinate the meat overnight for a super tender and melting barbecue time.
When cooking with squirrels, it may take you some time to find out which ingredient goes well with this gamey meat. In my experience, I find berries and nuts work amazing with squirrels’ meat. Certain herbs like parsley, thyme, sage combined with paprika, cayenne, and dry red wine can significantly bring out the nuttiness in squirrel meat taste.
1. Are Squirrels Dangerous To Humans?
Squirrels are part of the rodent family. They are also invasive animals that can run into your home and cause structural damages like chewed electric wires and nests inside your house. Although they are little animals, their damage might become serious, dangerous to your family’s living conditions.
2. Can You Eat Squirrel Raw?
Unlike salmon, shrimp, and whale meat, this gamey meat should be cooked before consumption due to its wild origins. Squirrels contain many diseases in their bodies due to their diverse diets. If you consume diseased raw squirrel meat, there is a high chance of infecting yourself with the disease.