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 Have You Ever Eaten Bear Meat

by Albert Wutsch, CEC

SOME OF THE bear hunters I know are as ardent about huntin' bears as some turkey fanatics I know are about turkeys. Funny thing is, though, compared to turkey hunters, most bear hunters don't know what to do with the meat. Many times I've heard people say, "Yea, I eat the meat," but it's obvious they seem to struggle through the cooking process, not really understanding how to prepare it. Then there are those who don't hunt bears for the meat, but rather for the magnificent trophies they make. Yet even for those folks, the problem is that too many have never sampled a good bear roast or stew.

PA Game News

Originally Printed in Pennsylvania Game News November 2001

With record numbers of bears being harvested here in Pennsylvania, now's a good time to discuss the preparation of bear meat. The first concern to arise when the subject of eating bear meat comes up is often, "I thought I would get trichinosis from eating beat meat."

Pennsylvania'a bear biologist Mark Ternet insists bear meat be cooked well-done, because the meat could easily carry trichinosis, and the antibodies of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis in humans. However, both of these parasites can easily  be destroyed just by cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Truth is, today there's more concern about the use of domesticated beef from Europe than there ever will be of eating bear meat or any other game meat. So, now that we have overcome the concerns associated with trichinosis and other parasites, let's talk about taste.

Not all bear meat will taste the same. Pennsylvania black bears will not taste at all like Alaskan brown bears that been been feeding on king salmon. Black bears eat primarily vegetation. Also, bear meat from a spring bear is very lean; it has little fat cover and fat within the muscles. Bear meat from an animal taken in the fall, however, has lots of fat, not just on the outside surfaces but throughout the muscles as well. This  fat must be removed because it will impart a gamely taste to the meat. It will also sour faster, so the meat should be cooled as quickly as possible. 

It is important that you inspect the carcass and meat, as you would with any game animal. Inspect their internal organs and discard all bloodshot meat.

Field Care

It's important that hunters get the meat cooled down and quickly as possible. Larger muscle mass, combined with an extra layer of fat and a very dense hide means it takes twice as long to cool the meat of a bear then that of a deer. Unfortunately, too many hunters are more concerned about saving the hide than they are the meat. Do your homework. There is too much good meat being wasted because hunters are not prepared to deal with it.

A good site for this information is: 

Selecting a Cooking Method

There is no mystery to cooking bear meat; it's the same as any other meat. The cut determines the cooking method. All cuts along the back or loin are tender. These should be cooked with dry cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting and sauteing. All these cooking methods use high heat, fast cooking times and, again, a tender cut of meat.

The cuts from the forequarters are not as tender; as a matter of fact, they're fairly tough. These should be ground for sausages, chili or ground meats, or cut into stew meat. The hind legs are also fairly tough and should be cooked with moisture, for long periods of time, using lower temperatures. The cooking methods best suited for the hind legs are roasting with moisture, braising, stewing, barbecuing and pressure cooking. Canned bear meat is great for a delicious, tender, quick meal. When canning, the key to a good quality product is removing as much fat as possible.

Rubs, cures, marinades and brines all work well for bear meat. Always remove all tendons, fat and tacky membrane from the bear meat for a tender, less gamey tasking meat. You can substitute bear meat for any venison recipes as long as you substitute the same cut of meat. You can even make bear sausage by substituting bear meat for venison. remember, the most important steps that affect the tenderness and taste are what you do at the cutting board and in the pan or oven. These key steps of all the cooking methods can be found in my book, The Art of Cooking Venison.

Following are some great recipes using Pennsylvania's finest bear meat. They work well for any game meat. 

Good hunting and eating!

Bear Goulash

  • 2 lbs bear meat, 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt & Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 cp diced onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seed
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pint beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
Sprinkle 1/2 inch cubes with salt, pepper, paprika and flour. Place diced bacon in 2 - 4-inch deep pan, cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Add meat, lightly brown, add onion and garlic, saute until translucent. Add caraway and bay leaf. Be careful not to burn the paprika. Add tomato, saute. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Place in a 350-degree oven, cook until meat is tender, approximately 1 hour. Server over spaetzle or homemade noodles.

Bear Chili

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 lbs bear meat
  • 2 lbs pork butt
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1.2 cup chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1.2 cup cumin
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pint beef broth
Combine meat and grind through course die. Grind a second time through the medium die. Heat oil, add meat and brown. Cook thoroughly, add onion and garlic, Combine spices and then add to mixture. Add tomato and broth and cook for one hour. Serve with crackers, elbow macaroni or beans, onions, sour cream and grated cheese.

Bear Taco & Enchilada Meat

  • 1 lbs bear meat
  • 1 lbs pork putt
  • 2 pkgs McCormick taco spice blend
Combine meat and grind through coarse die. Grind a second time through the medium die. Cook meat, drain fat, add spices, add water as stated on package, and cook until water has evaporated. Server taco meat with copped onions, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Or place in soft flour tortilla and refried beans, green chilies, salsa and cheese. Top with enchilada sauce and bake.

Fresh Hot Italian Bear Sausage

  • 2 1/2 lbs bear meat
  • 2 1/2 lbs pork butt
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seed
  • 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup red wine
Mix spices and toss with meat. Add wine and toss again. Mix well and grind meat through 1/4 inch die (twice). Make into patties or stuff into hog casings for links. You may also store this as bulk and use of lasagna, meat sauce or pizza. Other variations work just as well, such as bear meat, tomato sauce with ricotta cheese and penne pasta, bear meat meatballs, bear meatloaf or stuffed peppers.


Teriyaki Bear Loin

  • 2 lbs bear loin
  • 8 oz Lawry's teriyaki marinade
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp kosher slat
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
Remove all fat and silver skin from loin. Tie meat with butchers twine. Mix spices add to marinade. Add marinade to meat and marinate for four hours. Cook on grill at medium heat, sear outside, browning well. Baste meat with marinade, cook meat well done, approximately 45 minutes. Stick meat with fork; if juices run clear, it is well done. Serve with baked potatoes and glazed carrots. 
Originally printed in the Pennsylvania Game News, November 2001. Visit for more recipes and to order my books, "The Art Of Cooking Venison", "The Art of Barbecuing and Grilling Game"  and the dvd, "The Art of Backyard Butchering".

NRA News Cam & Co Interview Chef Wutsch

Chef Wutsch is interviewed by Cam Edwards of Cam & Co. at the 2014 Great American Outdoor Show. Chef Wutsch was also interviewed by Cam & Co. Interview by phone.

Just Added

We added a new section to our website, As Seen At Sport Shows The section contains recipes demonstrated at sports shows around the country, relevant articles, an image gallery and products I recommend.

“Our attendees have raved about Chef Al’s seminars on game cookery. He is an excellent choice for a seminar presenter!”

Chris O’Hara, Event Director of Great American Outdoor Show by the NRA.

“Chef Wutsch's delicious recipes and handy preparation tips underscore his mastery of the true art of cooking venison."

Jackie Bushman, CEO & Publisher

“Chef Al’s Grilled Turkey Breast with Peach Chutney is out of this world!”

Mark Drury, Owner, President
Drury Outdoors, Bloomsdale, MO

 “When it comes to barbecuing and grilling game, it doesn’t get any better than this!”

Steve Stoltz, World & Grand National Champion Turkey Caller, Hunter's Specialties, MO.


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