All About Elk Meat

Important Note: When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Content, pricing, offers and availability are subject to change at any time - more info.

Elk meat’s flavor confidently strides between the robust wildness of deer and the more familiar taste of beef. Elk has carved its niche in the realm of gourmet cuisine, with its rich and slightly sweet taste transforming traditional dishes like beef bourguignon or steak tartare into something adventurous and unique. This is elk meat, a tantalizing detour on your gastronomic journey. We’ll be taking you through a comprehensive exploration of elk meat, its unique taste, health benefits, cooking techniques, and where and how to find the best cuts.

    Key Takeaways

    • Most cuts of elk are handled similarly to beef, just with a shorter cooking duration due to the meat being leaner. Adding additional fat in the form of other meats or a basting, rub, or marinade is beneficial for bringing out the depth of flavor and tenderness. 
    • The first thing to keep in mind when cooking elk is just how lean it is. The leanness results in a delicate and sweet, mildly gamey flavor. It’s one of the easiest tastes for newcomers to wild meat to become accustomed to, and the already-light gameyness can be reduced by means of simple steps. 
    • Elk meat offers a sustainable protein choice compared to other meats, as elk are typically raised in their natural habitat, requiring minimal human intervention and reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional livestock farming methods.

The Unique Flavor Profile Of Elk Meat

Elk meat brings to the table a rich, slightly sweet taste that is less gamey than deer but more robust than beef. It’s a meat that challenges your palate, pushing the boundaries of the familiar. The texture compliments the flavor, presenting a lean and tender cut when cooked correctly. Elk is devoid of the greasiness often associated with some meats, making it a standout choice for those who crave a cleaner, more natural meat-eating experience.

Picture the flavor wheel of meats – elk sits somewhere between venison and beef, sharing the wild heartiness of the former and the sweet familiarity of the latter. Yet, it’s not quite as intense as bison and far from the mildness of chicken. The hint of sweetness is a surprising note, not typically found in meats, setting it apart from other game meats like boar or rabbit. It’s a flavor profile that encourages exploration and rewards the adventurous.

Elk meat presents a texture that complements its unique flavor. It’s a lean meat with little to no marbling, resulting in a cleaner, less fatty mouth-feel than beef. Elk steaks are tender, offering a satisfying chew without being overly tough or stringy. Imagine the tenderness of a well-cooked beef steak but with an added element of leanness that elevates the eating experience.

Comparatively, elk meat isn’t as dense or heavy on the palate as bison, nor is it as light and delicate as chicken. Think of it as the middle ground between these two extremes. Elk meat’s firm texture, when cooked to perfection, melts in your mouth, similar to a perfectly seared steak, yet retains a heartiness that is distinctively it’s own. This combination of tenderness and leanness provides a satisfying bite that is both familiar and refreshingly new.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the natural lifestyle of the elk plays a role in the quality of its meat. Wild elk, living on a diverse diet of plants, contribute a complexity to the meat that transcends the traditional taste profile. In essence, when you taste elk meat, you’re experiencing more than just a meal, you’re partaking in a taste experience that’s steeped in the natural world.

A Detailed Analysis Of The Nutritional Value Of Elk Meat.

Nutritional InformationElk (100g)Bison (100g)Venison (100g)Wild Boar (100g)Beef (100g)
Calories117 kcal109 kcal117 kcal122 kcal250 kcal
Total Fat1.9g1.8g1.5g3.5g20.0g
Vitamin B126.17 mcg2.46 mcg3.18 mcg3.53 mcg2.66 mcg
Iron3.20 mg2.50 mg3.42 mg2.90 mg2.04 mg
Zinc4.22 mg3.95 mg4.04 mg3.22 mg5.20 mg
Selenium38.9 mcg27.5 mcg35.6 mcg37.4 mcg15.1 mcg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)4.02 mg4.11 mg4.42 mg3.60 mg4.46 mg

Let’s pull back the curtain on the nutritional powerhouse that is elk meat. Elk meat stands tall in the realm of wild meats when it comes to nutritional value. 

Elk meat is a rich source of protein, a crucial nutrient for muscle growth and repair, hormone production, and overall body function. It provides just under 23 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, comparable to beef and chicken, but with one key difference – elk is far leaner. It contains less fat, especially saturated fat, which means you’re getting a high-protein punch with fewer calories. This lean quality makes elk a great option for those watching their calorie intake or seeking to increase their protein consumption without the added fat.

In terms of vitamins and minerals, elk meat shines with its content of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Iron is a key player in the production of red blood cells and DNA, and elk provides a form of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body than the iron found in plant-based sources. Zinc is essential for a strong immune system and wound healing, while vitamin B12 plays a role in nerve function and the creation of red blood cells. A single serving of elk meat covers a substantial portion of the daily recommended intake of these essential nutrients.

Let’s not forget about elk meat’s low cholesterol content. High levels of dietary cholesterol, found in many animal products, can contribute to heart disease. Elk meat, however, contains less cholesterol than beef, pork, and even some poultry. This makes it a heart-friendly choice for those looking to enjoy meat while maintaining a diet that supports heart health. Moreover, the cholesterol found in elk meat is primarily the ‘good’ type, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which plays a crucial role in carrying cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s broken down and eliminated from the body. This is in contrast to low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or ‘bad’ cholesterol, which can build up in the walls of your arteries and form plaques, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Finally, for the vegans and vegetarians considering a transition or those simply looking to understand the nutritional differences, elk meat provides nutrients that can be harder to obtain from plant-based sources. The vitamin B12 in elk meat is a nutrient exclusively found in animal products and is crucial for nerve function and the production of DNA and red blood cells. Similarly, while plant-based sources provide iron, it’s in a form that is less readily absorbed by the body than the heme iron found in elk meat.

Elk Farming And The Environment: A Sustainable Choice

Elk farming is an innovative practice that’s redefining sustainable agriculture. Unlike traditional livestock farming, which often leads to environmental issues such as deforestation and overgrazing, elk farming presents a refreshing alternative. Elk have naturally evolved according to various climates and landscapes, thriving on land that might be deemed unsuitable for other livestock. This ability to adapt minimizes the need for large-scale land modifications or the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Contrast elk farming with other forms of meat production, and the advantages become clear. Traditional cattle farming is resource-intensive, requiring large amounts of feed and water, and it is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Elk, on the other hand, have a diet largely composed of grasses, shrubs, and other plants, which reduces the need for grain-based feed. Furthermore, elk produce less methane than cattle, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Elk farming also plays a crucial role in preserving these magnificent creatures. By promoting elk as a sustainable meat source, we can help ensure a continuous supply of this nutritious meat while also assisting in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems where elk have a crucial role.

Elk Cuts

From tenderloin to ground elk, each cut of elk presents its own unique characteristics, ensuring a delightful dining experience that showcases the natural richness of this majestic game meat. Here are all the basic varieties of elk commonly found in butcheries. 

Elk Tenderloin

As the most tender cut of the elk, the tenderloin is a luxury. This delicate, lean meat is situated beneath the ribs, next to the backbone. Cooking tip: Given its premium quality, it’s best to keep things simple with the tenderloin. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and a dash of olive oil, grilled to medium-rare, will keep its natural flavor intact.


This cut is a magnificent representation of what elk has to offer, marrying tenderness with a deep, earthy flavor. The backstrap, comparable to a beef ribeye or NY strip, comes from the rib and loin area of the elk. The backstrap shines when seared on high heat, then allowed to finish cooking slowly on lower heat, maintaining its juiciness.

Rump Roast

Lean and teeming with rich flavor, the rump roast from the elk’s hindquarters is perfect for slow cooking. Cooking tip: Consider marinating the roast before slow-cooking it in a crockpot or dutch oven, allowing the flavors to permeate and tenderize the meat.

Osso Buco (Shank)

This cut is from the lower part of the elk’s leg. The shank, or osso buco, is characterized by its tough connective tissue, which, when braised, yields a melt-in-your-mouth, gelatinous texture. Slow-cooking shank in a wine-based liquid is an Italian tradition that ensures a flavorful and tender result that’s exceedingly popular.

Ground Elk

A powerhouse of flavor, ground elk brings versatility to the table. It’s lower in fat than beef and offers a leaner option for any dish calling for ground meat. Be mindful of its lean nature; overcooking may make it dry. A brief, hot sear will retain its juiciness.

Elk Stew Meat

These chunks of meat may come from tougher cuts, but don’t underestimate them. When simmered slowly in a stew, they become tender morsels bursting with flavor. Browning the chunks before slow-cooking will unlock a depth of flavor.

Elk Sausage

Combining ground elk meat with spices and a small amount of fat gives birth to a flavorsome sausage. Grilling or pan-frying until they’re crispy on the outside but juicy within hits the sweet spot for elk sausages.

Mastering The Art Of Cooking Elk Meat

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to cooking elk. With time, you’ll develop a feel for the perfect cooking times and temperatures for your preferred level of doneness. Experiment with different seasonings and cooking methods to find your personal favorite way to enjoy this delicious and sustainable meat.

Cooking Ground Elk

Cooking ground elk can result in a dish that’s both flavorful and succulent when done right. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Basic Preparation

Start by gathering your ingredients. You’ll need ground elk, olive oil, and your chosen seasonings. Options could include salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, or a mix of herbs like rosemary and thyme.

Heat The Pan

Place a skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. This step is especially important because elk meat is quite lean and can stick to the pan without it.

Add The Ground Elk

Once the oil is heated, add the ground elk to the pan. Break up the meat into small chunks with a spatula.

Season The Meat

Sprinkle your chosen seasonings over the meat. A generous amount of seasoning will help bring out the unique flavor of the elk.

Stir Frequently

Keep the meat moving in the pan. This will ensure it cooks evenly and doesn’t stick. Remember, because elk is so lean, it cooks quicker than other meats.

Check For Doneness

Ground elk should be cooked until it’s no longer pink inside, which usually takes about 7 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook it, as this can make the meat tough.

Rest The Meat

Once it’s cooked, remove the pan from heat and let the meat rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it even more succulent.

Improving Ground Elk

To elevate the flavor and consistency of your ground elk, give these tips a try (adding extra fat works particularly well):

  • Add a splash of red wine to the pan after the elk is cooked. This will deglaze the pan, picking up all those tasty browned bits (known as ‘fond’) and infusing the meat with a rich, deep flavor.
  • Try mixing the ground elk with another type of meat. Adding a bit of ground pork or beef can increase the fat content, resulting in juicier, more flavorful meat.
  • Incorporate finely diced vegetables, such as onions or bell peppers, into the meat while cooking. They’ll add flavor, moisture, and a bit of crunch to your dish.

Cooking Elk Burgers

With elk, the goal is to achieve a juicy, flavorful burger while still celebrating the meat’s natural flavors. It’s also worth considering the addition of moisture-enhancing ingredients. A bit of grated onion or a spoonful of barbecue sauce mixed into the ground meat can go a long way in ensuring a juicy, flavorful burger. Here is exactly how to cook elk burger patties:

Step 1: Preheat The Grill

Start by preheating your grill to medium-high heat. You want a hot grill to sear the outside of the burgers while keeping the inside juicy.

Step 2: Prep Your Burgers

Prepare your elk burger patties by either getting them out of their packaging and defrosting them or shaping them by hand. Those making their own from ground elk should aim for a size of about 1/3 pound each. Be careful not to overwork the meat, as this can make the burgers tough.

Step 3: Season Liberally

Season your patties generously with salt and pepper. You can also add other flavors, such as garlic powder or your favorite grilling spices.

Step 4: Prepare The Grate Or Pan

Oil the grill grates lightly, or get your pan oiled and piping hot. This will prevent the burgers from sticking.

Step 5: Grill For 5 Minute Per Side

Place the patties on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. This should give you a medium-rare to medium burger. Remember, elk meat can easily dry out if overcooked.

Step 6: Remove And Rest

Once your burgers have reached the desired doneness, remove them from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Step 7: Build Your Burger

Serve your elk burgers on toasted buns with your choice of toppings.

Grilling Elk Meat

Grilling is a popular method for cooking elk, especially for cuts like steaks and burgers. The key to grilling elk meat lies in the heat. Elk is leaner than beef, so it cooks quickly and can become tough if overcooked.

Step 1: Preheat Your Grill

Preheat to medium-high heat. Around 400°F is ideal.

Step 2: Season The Elk Meat

Season to your desired degree. Simplicity is key here; salt and pepper often suffice, but feel free to experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.

Step 3: Grill The Elk Meat

Now it’s time for grilling. For an elk steak that’s about 1 inch thick, grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remember, elk cooks quickly, so keep a close, constant eye on it.

Step 4: Let It Rest

Remove from the heat. After removing the elk from the grill, let it rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

Roasting Elk Meat

Roasting is ideal for larger cuts of elk, like roasts or whole legs. Slow and steady is the game here, allowing the meat to become tender while locking in flavor.

Step 1: Preheat Your Oven

A temperature of 325°F is a good starting point.

Step 2: Season Your Elk

Again, salt and pepper are the basics, but a rub of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil can take your elk roast to the next level.

Step 3: Roast The Elk

The cooking time will depend on the size of the roast, but a general guideline is 20 minutes per pound for medium-rare. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be 145°F for medium-rare.

Step 4: Allow The Roast To Rest

Rest and carve your cooked roast. Allow the roast to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to ensure a juicy and flavorful elk roast.

Slow Cooking Elk Meat

Slow cooking is a great method for tougher cuts of elk, as the long, slow cooking process helps to tenderize the meat.

Step 1: Seasoning

For slow-cooked elk, consider a marinade or rub that will infuse flavor over several hours.

Step 2: Sear The Elk

Before adding it to the slow cooker, sear the elk on all sides in a hot pan. This adds a layer of flavor and helps to lock in the juices.

Step 3: Slow Cook

Add the seared elk to your slow cooker with your chosen vegetables and liquid (broth, wine, or a mix of both works well). Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Step 4: Shred Or Slice The Elk

After slow cooking, the elk should be tender and flavorful, ready to be shredded for tacos or sliced for a hearty elk sandwich.

Pan-Searing Elk

Pan-searing is a quick and easy method that’s great for smaller cuts of elk, like steaks or medallions. It provides a deliciously caramelized crust while keeping the inside juicy and tender.

Step 1: Preheat Your Pan

A heavy-bottomed skillet or cast-iron pan is ideal, heated over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Season The Elk

A simple seasoning of salt and pepper can allow the natural flavors of the elk to shine.

Step 3: Add Oil And Sear The Elk

Add a high-smoke-point oil like grapeseed or avocado oil to the pan, then add the elk. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Step 4: Let It Rest

As with grilling, allow the elk to rest for a few minutes after cooking to ensure a juicy, tender bite.

Elk-Heart Ceviche

Ceviche is a method of “cooking” using citrus juices, typically used for fish but also delicious with elk heart. It’s a unique and adventurous way to enjoy this cut.

Step 1: Trim The Elk Heart

Remove any tough outer layers and/or connective tissue, then cut the heart into small, bite-sized pieces.

Step 2: Marinate The Elk Heart

Combine the cut elk heart with the juice of citrus fruits (like lemons, limes, or oranges), minced garlic, chopped fresh herbs, and a dash of salt. Cover and refrigerate.

Step 3: Wait

The citric acid in the citrus juices will “cook” the elk heart. This process typically takes at least 2 to 3 hours but 

can be extended up to 24 hours for a more pronounced flavor.

Step 4: Serve

Drain off the marinade, then serve the elk-heart ceviche with fresh vegetables, crackers, or tortilla chips.

Seasoning Advice For Elk

Seasoning elk meat is an art that can enhance its natural, delicious flavors. Given elk’s unique flavor profile, it’s essential to use seasonings that complement rather than overpower the meat. Here are a few must-know tips.

Use Simple Seasonings

Salt and pepper are often enough to bring out the natural flavor of elk. A dash of each before cooking can do wonders.

Incorporate Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage pair well with game meats like elk. They can be used in marinades or simply sprinkled on the meat before cooking.

Add A Touch Of Sweetness

A hint of something sweet, like maple syrup or brown sugar, can help to balance the richness of elk meat. Just be careful not to add too much, as it can easily become overwhelming.

Consider Adding Acid

A bit of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, can help to tenderize the meat and add a refreshing note to balance the rich flavors.

Marinades For Elk

Marinades play a crucial role in transforming elk meat by infusing it with flavors, tenderizing the meat, and reducing the gamey taste. To create a marinade, combine acidic ingredients like citrus juice or vinegar, aromatic herbs and spices, and a touch of oil. Place the elk meat in a resealable bag or container, pour the marinade over it, and refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate. Remember to discard the marinade and pat the meat dry before cooking for optimal results.

Cooking Elk Tips

Integrate the insight offered by these tips, and your elk will be taken to all new heights. 

  • Bring elk meat to room temperature before cooking to ensure even cooking throughout.
  • Utilize a meat thermometer to achieve precise cooking temperatures: medium-rare – 135°F, medium – 145°F, medium-well -150°F.
  • Enhance the flavors of elk by pairing it with complementary herbs and spices such as rosemary, juniper berries, or garlic.
  • Adjust cooking times based on the thickness of the elk cut: approximately 6 to 8 minutes per side for a 1-inch thick steak.
  • Consider adding fat during cooking to prevent dryness, as elk is lean. Basting with melted butter or bacon fat can add richness and moisture.
  • Allow cooked elk meat to rest for a few minutes before slicing to retain its juices and ensure maximum tenderness.
  • Experiment with different cooking techniques like grilling, searing, roasting, or braising to discover the optimal method for your preferred elk dish.
  • Remember that elk’s leanness requires careful attention to prevent overcooking and maintain its tenderness.
  • Embrace the versatility of elk meat by trying it in various recipes such as stews, stir-fries, or even tacos.
  • To add extra fat, consider wrapping elk cuts in bacon or marinating them in an oil-based marinade to enhance juiciness and flavor.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them When Cooking Elk Meat

When it comes to cooking elk meat, a few common pitfalls could hinder your culinary success. Fortunately, these can easily be avoided with a bit of knowledge and preparation.

  • Elk meat is lean and can dry out if overcooked. To avoid this, use a meat thermometer and aim for a medium-rare to medium finish (130 to 140°F).
  • Do not forget the crucial resting period. After cooking, it’s important to let the meat rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, leading to a more flavorful and juicy bite.
  • Don’t opt for the wrong cooking style for the wrong cut. Elk is versatile, but certain cuts are better suited to specific cooking methods. For example, tougher cuts like shoulder are best for slow cooking, while tender cuts like backstrap are ideal for grilling or searing.
  • Avoid over-seasoning. Elk has a unique, robust flavor that can be overshadowed by too much seasoning. Keep it simple to allow the natural flavor to shine.

Reducing The Gamey Flavor Of Elk

Reducing the gamey taste of elk meat requires a multi-pronged approach that includes proper handling post-harvest, aging, seasoning, marinating, cooking, and pairing with the right accompaniments. Soaking the meat overnight in either a salt or vinegar solution can help to mellow the distinct gamey flavor. A salt solution consists of 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of cold water, while a vinegar solution consists of 1 cup of vinegar per quart of cold water. Use enough solution to fully submerge the meat and allow it to soak in the refrigerator overnight.

The meat can also be marinated to infuse it with a savory flavor and to tenderize it. Marinating should be done in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days for game animals like elk if you want the best possible results. After marinating, it’s crucial to boil the used marinade before basting the meat or using it as a sauce on the cooked meat to ensure safety. Any uncooked leftover marinade should be discarded.

In addition to these soaking and marinating steps, ingredients like garlic, rosemary, thyme, juniper berries, and a splash of red wine can be used in the cooking process to complement and soften the robust flavors. Slow cooking methods, such as braising, can make the meat tender and flavorful, accentuating the unique qualities of elk meat without an overpowering gamey taste. The gamey flavor can also be balanced by the right accompaniments, like a tangy sauce or a robust red wine.

Procuring Elk Meat: A Buyer’s Guide

Procuring top-quality elk meat involves more than simply walking into a grocery store. It’s a process that demands some understanding and thought. Freshness, quality, and ethical sourcing are all paramount considerations when buying elk meat. Elk meat should be rich in color, indicating freshness. Quality can be determined by factors such as the cut of the meat and the reputation of the provider. Ethical sourcing is equally important, as it ensures that the elk was raised in a humane, sustainable manner.

Local butchers are often the best source of fresh, quality elk meat. They can provide valuable insight into the source of the meat, and many can even provide specific cuts on request. High-end grocery stores may also stock elk meat, especially in areas where game meat is popular. However, selection may be limited, and it’s important to check the source of the meat.

Online specialty meat stores have emerged as a convenient option for procuring elk meat. They offer a wide range of cuts and often deliver straight to your doorstep. However, do your research to ensure the company is reputable and committed to ethical sourcing. No matter where you choose to buy your elk meat, remember that you’re investing in a nutritious, sustainable, and above all, delicious protein source.

Differences Between Elk

In the vast landscapes of the United States, multiple species of elk roam, each with its unique attributes contributing to the culinary world. The six subspecies of elk in North America include the Rocky Mountain elk, Roosevelt elk, Tule elk, Manitoban elk, Eastern elk, and Merriam’s elk. The two primary species sought by chefs and food enthusiasts alike are the Rocky Mountain elk and the Roosevelt elk.

Rocky Mountain elk, indigenous to the Rocky Mountain ranges, are favored for their larger size and, thus, a more generous yield of meat. They are also found in the plains of the Midwest and some parts of the East Coast. Their meat is lauded for its gamey yet accessible flavor profile, pairing wonderfully with a broad spectrum of cuisines. Many chefs prize this variety for the taste and the versatility it brings to the plate.

In contrast, the Roosevelt elk, native to the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, present a different but equally delightful taste profile. Roosevelt elk are known for their dark, richly flavored meat, a result of their diet abundant in ferns and lichens of the rainforest. For chefs desiring a more robust, earthy flavor, the Roosevelt elk becomes a prime choice.

What To Look For When Buying Elk

  • Pick Pastured-Raised Antibiotic-Free Free-Roam Elk – Opting for pastured raised antibiotic-free elk, which were grass-fed, ensures higher quality and more ethically sourced meat, allowing you to savor the natural flavors while supporting sustainable farming practices.
  • Consider Locally Sourced Elk – Supporting local farmers and ranchers by purchasing locally sourced elk not only promotes sustainable agriculture but also allows you to enjoy fresher meat that has traveled shorter distances, preserving its quality and flavor.
  • Check for Certifications – Look for reputable certifications such as Certified Humane or Organic to ensure that the elk meat you purchase has met certain standards of animal welfare and environmental practices.
  • Buy Aged Elk If Available – Choosing aged elk, if possible, adds an extra dimension of tenderness and flavor development, as the aging process allows the enzymes to break down the muscle fibers, resulting in a more enjoyable dining experience.
  • Select Fresh Meat Over Frozen – Opting for fresh elk meat over frozen guarantees a vibrant and superior texture, as freezing can sometimes affect the quality and moisture content of the meat, compromising the overall taste and tenderness.
  • Opt for Whole Cuts – Purchasing whole cuts of elk, such as roasts or loins, gives you more flexibility in terms of cooking techniques and allows for better control over the final result, whether it’s a juicy roast or a perfectly seared steak.

Elk Meat Affordability – How Much Does Elk Meat Cost

Elk meat typically falls into the higher price range, not only in comparison to more commonly consumed meats like beef, chicken, or pork but also in relation to other wild game meats. The limited availability of elk meat, and the costs associated with hunting, processing, and regulations all contribute to its relatively higher price. However, the investment in elk meat offers exceptional quality, distinct flavor profiles, and nutritional benefits that set it apart, making it an appealing choice for those seeking a premium and sustainable protein option within the realm of wild game meats. 

Depending on the quality and source, ground elk meat ranges anywhere between $12 and $35 per pound. Elk medallions are typically around $20 to $35 per pound. Elk steaks cost in the range of $25 to $60 per pound. Whole elk meat offers significant discounts, and prices vary greatly depending on the supplier and region.

Where To Buy Elk Meat Online In The USA & Canada

We’ve evaluated all the best online elk meat suppliers and classified these best butcheries according to the region they’re based in. That’s right. You can have various types of elk meat delivered using just a few clicks. Most offer nationwide shipping, but given the logistics, most would want to order from a nearby supplier and receive a speedy delivery instead. 

Leading Nationwide Suppliers






Appalachian Region


Properly Storing and Preserving Elk Meat: Ensure Freshness and Flavor

Proper storage of elk meat is crucial to maintaining its freshness and flavor. The moment elk meat is procured, the clock starts ticking on its shelf-life. Here’s how to store elk meat for maximum freshness:

Storage For Immediate Use

If the elk meat will be used within a few days, store it in the refrigerator. Keep it in the coldest part of your fridge, typically the back, and make sure it’s wrapped tightly to prevent air from reaching it. It’s also a good idea to place it on a tray or in a shallow dish to catch any drippings.

Long-Term Storage

If the elk meat won’t be used right away, it should be frozen. Elk meat can be frozen for up to a year without losing quality, but it should be packaged properly. Use a vacuum sealer if possible to remove all air, or wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil.

Long-Term Preservation Methods For Elk

Preserving elk meat extends its shelf-life, maintains its quality, and often enhances its flavor. Let’s delve into the techniques of freezing, curing, and smoking elk meat, along with a few additional methods:

Freezing Elk Meat – How To Freeze Elk

Freezing elk meat is a valuable technique for preserving its freshness and extending its shelf life. Whether you’ve acquired a surplus of elk meat or want to store it for future use, proper freezing methods ensure that the meat retains its quality and flavors until you’re ready to enjoy it. On average, a whole elk can take up approximately 8 to 12 cubic feet of freezer space. However, if the elk is broken down into individual cuts and properly packaged, it can be more efficiently stored in around 4 to 6 cubic feet of freezer space. It’s always recommended to plan ahead and ensure you have enough freezer capacity to accommodate the size of the elk you intend to store. Here’s exactly how to freeze elk. 

Portion The Elk Meat

Cut the meat into meal-sized portions. This allows for easy thawing and reduces waste.

Package Properly

Use a vacuum sealer to remove all air and seal the meat. If a vacuum sealer isn’t available, tightly wrap the meat in plastic wrap, then add a layer of aluminum foil.

Label And Store

Label each package with the date and contents, then place it in the freezer. Elk meat can be frozen for up to a year without significant loss of quality.

Curing Elk Meat – How To Cure Elk

Curing elk meat is a traditional preservation method that not only enhances its flavor but also extends its shelf life. Through the process of curing, the meat is transformed, developing unique and complex flavors while becoming more resistant to spoilage, resulting in a delectable product that can be enjoyed over time. Here is exactly how to cure elk meat. 

Prepare A Curing Mixture/Rub

Mix together salt, sugar, and curing salts. The exact proportions depend on the specific recipe and personal preference.

Apply The Cure/Rub

Rub the curing mixture all over the elk meat, ensuring every part is covered.


Place the meat in a sealed container or a zip-top bag, then put it in the refrigerator. The curing process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the size of the meat and the desired flavor intensity.

Smoking Elk Meat – How To Smoke Elk

Smoking elk meat is a time-honored technique that imparts a distinctive smoky flavor, enhancing the natural richness of the meat. The slow, low-temperature smoking process infuses the elk with enticing aromas while creating a tender and flavorful final product. Here is exactly how to smoke elk meat. 

Season The Elk Meat

Apply a rub or marinade of your choice. Allow the meat to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to let the flavors penetrate.

Preheat The Smoker

Preheat the smoker to about 225°F.

Smoke The Meat

Place the elk meat in the smoker. The smoking process can take several hours. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat reaches a safe internal temperature.

Rest And Store

After smoking, allow the meat to rest before slicing. Smoked elk meat can be refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for longer storage.

Additional Preservation Methods

Here’s a look at canning and drying for those who are looking for even more elk preservation methods. 


Canning involves sealing the elk meat in airtight containers and heating them to kill bacteria, yeasts, and molds that could cause spoilage. This method allows the meat to be stored at room temperature for a year or more.


Drying or dehydrating removes the water from the elk meat, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and molds. This method is often used to make elk jerky, which can be stored at room temperature for several months.

Frequently Asked Questions: All About Elk Meat

Have you been left wondering anything about elk meat? From general health queries to how to cook elk, we may have the answers you need waiting here. 

Is Elk Meat Good to Eat?

Indeed, elk meat is not only good to eat, but it’s also incredibly nutritious and versatile. With its high protein content, low-fat levels, and a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, it’s a powerhouse on the nutritional front. Plus, the absence of growth hormones and antibiotics often found in conventionally farmed meats makes it a healthy choice. However, what sets elk meat apart is its sustainability factor. As a game meat, elk farming has a lower environmental impact compared to traditional livestock farming, which might just make your meal taste even better, knowing it’s a choice that supports our planet.

What Does Elk Meat Taste Like?

Elk meat has a uniquely rich, slightly sweet, and robust flavor that sets it apart from other game meats. It’s more complex than beef but not as gamey as venison, striking a balance that’s appealing to many palates. Elk meat’s taste is often described as clean and crisp, likely attributed to the elks’ natural diet of grasses, forbs, and tree bark. Its texture also plays a role in its distinctive taste. Elk meat is lean and dense, giving it a mouthfeel that’s tender yet substantial, much like a well-marbled steak without the excess fat.

How Do You Make Elk Not Taste Gamey?

Taming the inherent gamey flavor of elk is a culinary challenge worth undertaking, and with a few simple techniques, you can transform the meat into a palatable delight even if it’s not normally your or another diner’s type of thing. 

How Should Elk Meat Be Cooked?

Elk meat’s leanness means it benefits from methods that preserve its moisture and enhance its flavor. Slow cooking, braising, and stewing are excellent techniques for larger cuts like roasts, allowing the meat to tenderize while absorbing flavors from herbs, spices, and liquids. For smaller cuts like steaks and chops, quick cooking at high heat, such as grilling or pan-searing, works beautifully. It’s essential to avoid overcooking elk meat; aiming for medium-rare to medium doneness ensures a juicy, flavorful result. A good rule of thumb is to cook elk meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F, then let it rest before serving.

Can You Cook Elk Like Beef?

Elk meat can indeed be cooked in much the same way as beef, but there are some key differences to consider. Its lower fat content means it cooks quicker than beef and is more susceptible to drying out. Therefore, whether you’re grilling an elk steak or slow-roasting a larger cut, it’s crucial to monitor the cooking time and temperature closely. Also, marinating elk meat can help to tenderize it and add moisture, enhancing the flavor and preventing it from drying out during cooking.

What Herbs and Spices Pair Best With Elk Meat?

Elk meat’s rich, distinct flavor pairs well with a variety of herbs and spices. Traditional favorites include rosemary, thyme, and garlic, which complement elk’s robust flavor without overpowering it. For a bit of spice, black pepper, juniper berries, and mustard seeds work well. On the sweeter side, consider spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. But don’t shy away from experimentation – elk meat can stand up to bold flavors. Try it with smoky paprika or chipotle, or give it an Asian twist with five-spice powder or a miso glaze.

Recent Recipes