A New Year, A New Nilgai

goose, nilgai, 2015 028
Last year’s bull was pretty big. This year we were glad to get a younger animal to compare the amount of connective tissue and fascia.

The Deerslayer household has been blessed to start 2015 with our second nilgai in the freezer. It was a pretty big deal… comparable to when our daughters were born. It was a goal that Deerslayer had set for himself during this hunting season.  Mission accomplished.

Working with our first nilgai was quite a learning experience.  It was a relatively large bull that was harvested.  We assumed that the meat would be just like venison, but bigger!  We discovered that there are some real differences in the make-up of the meat and in the initial dressing of the animal as I posted here.

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Three big Yeti coolers full of meat!

Unlike venison, nilgai muscle is sometimes layered with fascia within the larger muscles themselves which is tough to chew if prepared rare to medium-rare as in grilling and searing. For this reason, fewer of the muscles are good for these applications.  A real lover of wild game won’t mind cutting around and discarding the chewy bits, though.  Luckily, the tenderloins and backstraps are HUGE and the one small, special hindquarter muscle that’s great for searing or grilling still works just fine for that.

Since this was our second nilgai, I had the presence of mind to document a few steps of the dressing process.  For hunters who haven’t skinned a nilgai, I think think they will find interesting the difference in the amount of connective tissue between nilgai and deer.

goose, nilgai, 2015 035 While this part of the process isn’t  exactly my cup of tea, I’m hoping that some of you may find it informative. It really helps having access to a pulley system like this to hoist an animal of this size to get it ready for the coolers.  Deerslayer made short order of skinning this guy using a pair of hunting knives that I got him for our anniversary.  More on that in an upcoming post.

Is was right about here in the proceedings that I remembered that something in the camper needed my immediate attention… a glass of restorative wine!  Don’t judge me.

goose, nilgai, 2015 038We spent much of New Year’s Day processing and packaging up the three coolers full of meat that would fill our freezer.  We started with backstraps and tenderloins.

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We deliberately chose to leave the fascia on the backstrap to provide added protection against freezer burn. It can easily be cleaned prior to cooking.


Deerslayer decided that he’d like to leave a backstrap intact and grill it for a family get-together.  We agreed that a perfectly seared backstrap with some delectable mesquite smoky flavor would impress the entire clan. I’ll get back to you on how this turns out.

In years past, while we own a vacuum-packaging system, we chose to use the Zip-Lock bags with the little sucky thing.  The process was less complicated. We’ve discovered, however, that we were getting a little freezer burn on the meat where air was getting in.  We think it was due, in part, to small dings in the bags that occurred by moving them around (and dropping them).

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This year, we dusted off the Rival vacuum system and let ‘er rip. The continuous length of bags enabled us to slide an entire backstrap in and seal it up.

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I can’t decide if I’m more like Wilma or Betty.

The hind quarter was the next “big thing” to tackle.  The muscles were huge!  This year, for the first time, I set aside the bones for making stock.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  The femurs reminded me of the Flintstones!  Deerslayer used his meat saw to cut through the bones so they’d fit into my stock pot.  We also set aside some scrap meat to add some additional flavor.

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As Deerslayer began to separate out the muscles, we carefully set aside the muscles that we know will function like a tenderloin in searing and grilling applications.

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Notice the lighter color and finer texture of the muscle on the right. It is found on the hind quarter and is extremely tender. The piece on the left can be cut into steaks and pounded out for Nilgai Parmesan, Chicken Fried Steaks, etc.
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Here’s another picture of the very tender cut of hind quarter.

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It’s good to know not only what meat you’re taking out of the freezer but exactly what you need to do to it.y

Last year, we didn’t save the shanks. In an effort to use as much of the animal as possible we’re going to try to cut through those bones and make osso buco.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

12 Comments on “A New Year, A New Nilgai

  1. I got a vacuum sealer on a clearance sale last year (I’m a hopeless miser) and I love it to pieces. I even use it now to seal up chicken leg quarters and pork chops (can’t keep hens to eat, and no wild piggies up here) when I get the big packages to break down. Sadly, it already seems to be getting weaker. Those nilgai are enormous. And I see Deerslayer leaves the gut sac intact while skinning. Does that affect the butchering process? We gut ours where ever it lies in the field. We then have to make sure not to get rocks/sticks/dirt in there.

    • We’re stocking up on the rolls of vacuum packaging from Cabela’s while it’s on sale. It seems to be considerably less expensive than what I paid at Target (and I have no doubt that I’ll use it up)!

      Regarding the gutting, Deerslayer does things a little differently for nilgai than deer. He leaves the intestinal and chest cavities intact (to prevent possible nicks which would result in contamination of the meat downhill) until after he skins the animal. Then he removes the fore quarters, the neck meat, all external rib meat and brisket, and then the backstrap.

      Then he removes the tenderloins. Then the heart and liver. The rib cage holds the innards until he’s ready to remove the intercostal rib meat (which we don’t mess with for deer) and hams.
      Don’t forget that in South Texas, even in December and January, the meat has to be put in a cooler immediately. The skin, which would protect hanging meat up north, just gets the ice hairy down here. 🙂

      • Ok, that makes sense. I forget about warm climates 🙂 And re: the price of the rolls for the sealer- I wish the Cabela’s they were putting in by us was open already. My Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond sell them, but for a hefty price. I have two boxes of the pleated bags (used on the two geese we got this year), and a variety box left still. We only have meat to grind and sausage to make, so I’m hoping it lasts.

  2. Be sure to let deerslayer I would be willing to trade a fully guided fox squirrel hunt for a nilgai hunt. Also, be sure to let him know I will throw in all the possums he can skin!

  3. Just saw this.
    Really Cool. We need to go to lunch after Church sometime. I enjoyed catching up with Tim and hearing about the nilgai.

    Btw. I’d say Betty ☺

    Christopher M. Graham, CIC
    Vice President/Partner

    Shepard Walton King Insurance Group
    121 Pecan
    McAllen, TX 78501

    (956) 682-2841


    *a member of the Insurors Group*

  4. My husband killed a nilgai over the weekend and while scrambling to find information on what exactly I am supposed to do with all of this meat, I discovered your blog. Thank you many times over because this is a wealth of information that I need! We are going to buy a
    FoodSaver machine and I was wondering if you had any opinions on the effectiveness of the cheaper models compared to the more expensive models. Thank you!

    • So glad you contacted me. I just threw away the seal a meal that I purchased a couple years ago. Going back and looking at the reviews, many people had the same issues with it that I did. It was awkward to use and ultimately the sealing function stopped working. I only just ordered the new FoodSaver. It is the larger one that cost approximately $125 from Amazon. It literally arrived yesterday and is still in the box. I looked at a number of reviews and everyone seems to agree that it is worth the money. I’ll be breaking it open and trying it out within the next couple of days. Also, at the end of each hunting season Cabela’s puts their vacuum bag rolls in various sizes on sale. We always stock up at that time. Congrats on the Nilgai. Be sure to save the shanks! Best osso buco ever! But you’ll need a meat saw.

      • That was the price range I was looking at so I now know which one I’m going to buy. I appreciate the heads up about the vacuum bag rolls at Cabala’s…I’ll take a look at their website. I asked my husband about the shanks but he told me that the shanks and some other portions of the nilgai were given to a local butcher to process and then donated to a local orphanage. I can’t complain about that! Your website will be highly visited by me because he also brought home a wild hog which i have no experience with. Thankful for your wealth of knowledge and recipes!

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