Cook Wild Game & Fish: Tips From TV’s ‘MasterChef’

MasterChef, restauranteur, and TV personality — Graham Elliot knows his way around a kitchen. He created a video for GearJunkie readers looking for tips on cooking fish and wild game.

Want to know the best way to treat venison? How about tips for saltwater fish? Graham Elliot is a well-known chef who has appeared on Iron Chef, Top Chef Masters, and he currently serves as a judge on the reality-TV cooking show MasterChef.

In this video Elliot leans on his years of experience to answer a set of questions from a GearJunkie editor.

Number one tip? Don’t overcook wild game! Watch the full interview to learn more from this master chef.

Note: The video has a few plugs from Elliot’s sponsor, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but we can let those slide for the good information he shares. Try out one of his tips the next time you bring home some fresh walleye or venison steak.

Want to try one of his personal recipes? Check out some of his favorites below.

The GrahamBurger: Reinvention of Hamburger

Serves 4

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1 pound ground sirloin beef
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 red onion, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces brie cheese, sliced into 4 thin pieces
  • 4 pretzel rolls
  • 1 bunch upland cress

Put the garlic cloves and the 1 cup of olive oil in a small saucepan and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Lift the garlic from the oil, using a slotted spoon. Transfer the garlic to a blender, add the mayonnaise and blend for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth. Spoon into a small container and refrigerate until needed. The mayo can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Mix the sirloin and pork together and season with salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties, each about 1/2-inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to grill.

Put the onions in a bowl and add the vinegar and the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the onions marinate for at least 30 minutes but if possible for 8 to 10 hours or overnight. (The longer the better!)

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill so that the heat is medium-high.

Gently put the onions on the grill and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Turn them carefully so that they don’t slip between the grilling grates.

Put the burgers on the grill alongside the onions and grill for 7 minutes. Turn them over and grill for 7 minutes longer, or until cooked through. Three minutes before the burgers are done, lay the brie on the burgers to give it time to melt.

Spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the buns. Top with a cheeseburger and then garnish with the onions and cress. Serve immediately.

Grilled Chicken with Watermelon-Olive Salsa: Reinvention of Plain Grilled Chicken Breast

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 chickens, each weighing 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon espelette , cayenne, or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac, optional, see Note
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Watermelon salsa
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac, optional
  • 3 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • ½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (and seeded if you like less heat)
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt

Trim any excess skin from the chickens around the necks and cavity. Using poultry shears, carefully remove the backbones. Season the chickens on both sides with salt and pepper.

Put the espelette, sumac, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and poppy seeds in a blender or spice grinder and process to a powder. Add the yogurt, garlic, honey, red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and lemon zest and blend until well mixed.

Lay the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to hold them in a single layer, or put them in a large sealable plastic bag. Cover them with the yogurt marinade, turning them to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling so that the heat is medium-high.

Lift the chickens from the marinade and let the excess drip back into the dish or plastic bag. Scrape off any that does not drip off. Lay the chickens on the grill, skin side up, spread out so that they are as flat as possible. Cover the grill and brush the chickens with the marinade every 10 minutes or so. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when the dark meat is pierced in a thick place and the internal temperature of the white meat is 165ºF.

Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, honey and sumac.

Add the watermelon, cucumber, olives, jalapeno, parsley, cilantro, and mint. Toss gently to coat with the dressing. Season with the lime juice and zest and then adjust the seasoning with salt. Serve with the chicken.

Artisan Grit Cakes: Reinvention of Corn on the Cob

Serves 6

  • 2 ears corn
  • Olive oil, for rubbing
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup grilled corn
  • 1 cup artisan grits (I like Three Sisters’ Garden Grits)
  • 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup Wondra flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill so that the coals or heating elements are medium hot.

Remove the outer leaves from the corn husks, leaving most of the husk in place to protect the corn during grilling. Pull the husk back to expose the ear of corn, but do not remove the husk. Remove and discard the silk. Rub the corn with a little olive oil and replace the husks. If necessary, tie the husks closed with kitchen twine.

Lay the corn on the grill and cook for about 15 minutes, turning the ears every few minutes to encourage even grilling. When the outside of the husks start to char and you can see outlines of the corn kernels through them, the corn is done.

Lift the corn from the grill and when it’s cool enough to handle, remove the husks and then slice the corn from the cobs. You should have about 1 cup of corn kernels.

In a deep pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the onions and garlic, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until the onions are translucent and aromatic.

Stir in the milk and 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the grits, making sure they don’t clump. When all the grits are in the pot and the mixture is smooth, lower the heat to low and cook gently for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the grits are thick and creamy.

Fold the corn into the grits and then pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the grits out as evenly on the baking sheet as you can and let them cool.

Using a knife or cookie cutter, cut the cooled grits into shapes. Dust them with the Wondra flour.

In a sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat and when hot, gently sauté the grit cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Season with a little more salt and serve.

Summer Peach Cake: Reinvention of Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 12

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large, juicy peaches, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan

In a mixing bowl, sift the flour with the salt and baking soda.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the brown sugar and butter on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.   Add the egg and beat until incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, alternating between them. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the peaches. Spread the batter in the pan, smoothing it as evenly as possible.

In a small bowl, whisk the granulated sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.