Cooking Nilgai vs. Venison

Tim's Nilgui 1-18-14 008christmas 2013, apricot cake, pan-fried heart 059







I have to admit, the title is a little misleading.  It’s like determining the superiority of champagne with raspberries or strawberries. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire (not in champagne, just dancing!).   Both are outstanding in their own right.  Don’t make me choose.  While I have come to discover that the meat harvested from nilgai and venison are both superior in my book, there are a few subtle differences.

Tim's Nilgui 001I’ve absolutely enjoyed experimenting with all my favorite venison recipes, applying them to our newly acquired exoitc meat.  The first application that I tried was seared tenderloin.  Deerslayer (a.k.a. Nilgaislayer) brought the most impressive tenderloin that I’ve ever seen back to our hunting camper.  It was huge.  Therein lies the first difference between the nilgai and venison; the size.  Venison tenderloin is barely a delectable morsel for two.  Clearly, the nilgai tenderloin feeds several.  In order to serve it at its best (rare to medium rare) I sliced down the length of the muscle and then cut it into lengths that would fit into my skillet which enabled me to get a good sear on all sides.

christmas 2013, apricot cake, pan-fried heart 087More muffins 4-11-13 012     






I’ve also used some of the hindquarter muscle to prepare chicken-fried steaks and pecan-crusted steaks.  Both turned out beautifully, with no adjustments necessary to the recipe or cooking time.  When the muscle is pounded out rather thin, the cooking time (frying time) will not be affected.  

marmalade, grinding meat, empanadas, 2014-2-16 027

We ground our first batch of nilgai this past week.   I say “first batch” because we only ground up about 50 pounds and still have quite a bit of “scraps to grind” left in the freezer. The amount of fat in the meat appears to be the same with venison and nilgai both (almost none)!  My family prefers it that way.  Others may wish to add in some pork or beef.  We’re just purists, I guess.  We enjoy allowing the flavor of the meat to shine through.  In previous years, however, we’ve stretched our venison by adding wild pork that we had in abundance.  The meat was good, while fattier, but the complexity of flavor was nice.  I’d do it again if necessary.  Given the choice, though, I’d save the pork to grind by itself for pan sausage.



I’ll be posting photos and our procedure for grinding meat  later.

As I continue to use the nilgai meat, the differences I’ve noticed are few, but noteworthy.  I noticed right away that the smell of the uncooked meat differs slightly from  that of venison.  Don’t be put off by it.  The connective tissue, silver skin, or fascia adheres to the muscle much more than with venison.  The removal of these layers and bits is definitely more time-consuming.  Lastly, when cooking whole-muscle recipes, like backstrap, tenderloin, or a roast, it’s important to realize that the muscle is denser than venison, which will, in fact, affect cooking time.  More time will be needed in the oven at a lower temperature (say 300°).  How much time will depend on the size of the meat.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to use the nilgai and document my progress.  I’d appreciate any input from my hunting friends who may have experiences to share.

18 Comments on “Cooking Nilgai vs. Venison

  1. I can only think of one person who maybe would know what to do with critters like this (beyond how we might use venison, that is). He’s another blogger located in South Africa. They don’t have nilgai there, but he hunts kudu, blesbok, and other big antelope.

    That said- that meat looks delicious. You guys were getting a head mount, right? What did you do with the hide? It looks so cool.

    • Thanks for the website of “man who hunts”. I’m eager to check him out. With a full shoulder mount, we won’t have a full hide left over. However I asked Deerslayer to have the hide done, as well. The cool mane will be on the mount but we’ll have some of the neat stripes left on the hide. I’m thinking about covering an ottoman or something. Your thoughts?

      • I think it would make an awesome ottoman cover. Especially is you used brass or bronze upholstery tacks or something. Is the fur on it really long, or is it like a cow hide with the hair on? We kept the “saddles” of the deer hides Matt’s going to practice his shoulder mounts on. No idea what we’ll do with those either 😛

  2. Pingback: A New Year, A New Nilgai | The Deerslayer's Wife

      • Love the blog, we will be looking up some recipes for sure!

        I actually found your blog while looking up info on hunting Nilgai. My brother in law and I were drawn for the Laguna Atascosa NWR archery hunt for the first time. I saw you had offered some “insight and pointers” and would appreciate any help.


      • First, be sure to save the shanks! They make the best Osso Buco. If I can answer any other questions for you, just ask. Glad you visited my site.

  3. Just curious, have you ever cooked a whole nilgai roast? I’m thinking of using my instapot and doing a traditional roast with potatoes and carrots and onions. Any suggestions? We have considered injecting the roast with creole butter first to give it extra moisture.

  4. I have never prepared a whole nilgai roast. Which muscle are you planning to use? Hind quarter football roast? There’s also a long, rectangular hind quarter muscle called the bottom round that might work in this application. I’ve never used the instapot but literally just discussed with my daughter getting one.
    I like the idea of injecting the creole butter. If it was me, I think I’d punch holes through the roast and thread some bacon through in several places. It will not disappear as quickly as butter would and might permeate the meat better. My experience with nilgai is that it has a tendency to have layers of connective tissue within the muscle that must be cooked down. I would think that the Instant pot pressure cooker would do exactly that. Please let me know how it turns out. In the meantime, I’ll be heading off to invest in one myself. Keep me posted.

  5. You are the proud owner of some nilgai? Congrats. I have to admit that I have never attempted to cook a bone-in leg. First of all, it’s huge! Not sure I could fit it in my oven 😉 My experience has been that there are many layers of silverskin and other connective tissue that run through the meat, more than venison or elk and certainly more than beef.
    Those layers benefit from extended cooking time at a low temperature or tenderizing using a meat mallet for steaks. Personally, I separated it out into the different muscles and used them for various steaks, stews, etc. The shanks made very good osso buco. Check out “Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Venison Roast ( ) for instructions and suggestions for processing and uses for the different muscles. Deerslayer suggested that you might try a charcoal bar-b-que pit (not a grill) using indirect heat for the low heat, slow method. We’ve never used that application for nilgai, however. You can google instructions for smoking a steamship round for an estimate of how many minutes per pound. If you decide to take on this Herculean task, please let me know how it turns out. My hat’s off to you. Good luck.

  6. What restaurant will serve cooked nilgai meat or steak so we can try it?

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