Killing a moose to keep your family fed for the long, cold winter to come has been a part of hunting culture in Alaska for generations. Most moose meat is consumed in an un-glamorous way, ground up or left as roasts to be accompanied by carrots and potatoes in the slow cooker. It’s a daily source of protein for many families here, and it meets that need well. But while a lot of the meat is for daily caloric consumption, the moose steak is one of the best cuts of wild game there is. It’s the first meal I look forward to right after killing a good bull. Here’s how I process a moose to ensure I get the best steaks for the grill.
Handle Your Moose With Care
It’s important to note that with any wild game meat, how you kill the animal, field dress it, and butcher it plays a huge role in how it tastes. Moose are enormous animals that are hard to handle and tend to die in nasty places. It’s easy for meat to get dirty or stay too warm. Getting a moose butchered and cooled quickly while keeping it clean is one of the most important things you can do.
To ensure I get the best steaks possible from my moose starts in the field. Most people will cut the backstraps and tenderloins off the backbone. I leave all the meat between the hind quarters and neck on the spine. I cut off the ribs, neck, and back of the pelvis with a Sawzall and bring the spine out whole in a game bag. Left on the bone, I can keep the meat cleaner and hang it longer with less waste than a boneless cut. I hang the meat for one to two weeks when temperatures allow, out of the sun, and in an area with good ventilation.
I’ve cut plenty of boneless moose steaks over the years, and they are just fine. However, using a bandsaw really changed how I process meat. My grandpa bought an old Butcher Boy B14 back in the early 1960s. It sat unused for 30 years in my uncle’s shed. After my uncle gave it to me, a new belt and switch got it running. When it’s meat cutting time, I’ll use it for cutting shanks, and cutting the rear quarters into rounds that are easily separated into steaks and roasts. I can also cut front shoulder steaks and rib strips.
The best cuts come from that backbone that I bring out of the woods intact. I take the backbone into the shop and start at the front, cutting the spine into 1½-inch cross sections. I will then take those, lay them flat and rotate them 90 degrees. Cutting right through the middle of the spinal bone will give me two mirror-image steaks from each piece. Once I’m through the lower-grade meat and get towards the front, I’ll cut chops, which are essentially backstrap bordered by spine and rib. I treat the section of the spine that includes both tenderloin and backstrap with extra care and precision, because this is where the best meat is. Following the same process, I’ll cut T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. My most recent bull yielded exactly 26 of these 1½-inch delights. Scrape the bone dust off, and they’re ready to package.
Cooking a Perfect Moose Steak
When it’s time to cook, I’ll trim off any aging crust, but with most bulls, I prefer to leave the fat on the steak. Taste can vary, and is subject to personal preference, but I find most moose fat to be mild. The steaks are thick, so I don’t have to worry about overpowering the natural flavor, and I coat them liberally in Musket Powder Black Label Seasoning. I’ll then sear them on a hot cast-iron skillet in butter on all sides before grilling and smoking them.
After searing, I’ll toss the steaks on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet smoker on indirect heat at 260 degrees or so to get a little smoke. Your specific grill or method isn’t that important, but you want it to get some smoke and cook slowly. I monitor the internal temperature of the meat closely, and as soon as they hit 135 or 140 degrees I remove them from heat, wrap the steaks in foil, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
All you need now is a knife, fork, and a big appetite. Don’t you dare put a drop of ketchup on it.