Wild game is having a renaissance in home kitchens and restaurants across the United States. Enjoying wild-caught meat can open up home cooks to a much more diverse world of flavors, including mallard, pheasant, venison, and crab.
Game cookbooks are a great jumping off point to learning how to prepare these less commonly eaten meats, and there’s a wide range available today. Older classics written by woodsmen often provide historical background, idiosyncratic anecdotes, and small-town sensibilities. Some are collectibles now, no longer in print. Newer additions, however, emphasize respect for nature, seasonal eating, and the joy of cooking. These books, many of which are self-published, focus on accessible recipes anyone can recreate in their kitchens. Below are some of the best volumes, both old and new, that teach us how to cook and enjoy wild game at home.
The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook (1983) by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones is a terrific single source—475 pages featuring more than 800 recipes from a company known for practical hunting apparel. This volume guides readers from field to feast, accompanied by warm and often hilarious anecdotes from the hunting world. You’ll learn techniques for preparing wild-caught meats in camp or in your home kitchen, and you’ll discover hearty and comforting recipes like stewed fricassee of pheasant and leg of venison with chocolate sauce.
Outdoor Life’s Complete Fish & Game Cookbook (1989) by A.D. Livingston is a wide-ranging recipe collection befitting a legacy outdoor magazine brand. The prolific author particularly shines in the wittiness of his game food lore, with intriguing stories accompanying the delicious recipes. You’ll learn how to make the most of nature’s bounty through culinary creations like crockpot goat with beer, venison coffee roast, and even a crow hash.
The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery (1977) by A.J. McClane, the former fishing editor of Field & Stream and a widely recognized authority on seafood, is a comprehensive guide that could serve as the first and last word on the subject. You’ll learn all about the unique characteristics of different varieties of fish and shellfish and how they’re caught. The book also offers a boatload of recipes (many of which come straight from the world’s most renowned seafood chefs), as well as techniques and best practices for preparation, preservation, and serving.
A Taste of the Wild: A Compendium of Modern American Game Cookery (1991), also by A.J. McClane, is a volume I like to think of as a companion book to the above, with a focus on game meat. The book offers lots of practical tips, including guidance in how to properly age and freeze game. You’ll learn how to prepare a wide variety of game meats, from partridge and quail to boar, buffalo, and snipe.
Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices (1960) by George Leonard Herter and Bertha E. Herter brings readers along on a worldwide romp through famous eateries and food curiosities, accompanied by vintage photography, side stories, and unconventional recipes. You’ll also learn quite a few skills; the book takes readers through the art of knife sharpening, the keys to making good wine and beer, and even guidelines for making French soap.
The Hog Book: A Chef's Guide to Hunting, Preparing, and Cooking Wild Pigs (2021), also by Jesse Griffiths, is a single-species cookbook in which the chef teaches readers how to hunt, butcher, and cook wild hogs. Across 420 pages, this massive self-published volume covers everything from butchering techniques—complete with helpful diagrams—to practical safety tips, all served alongside fascinating anecdotes from the field. More than 100 corresponding recipes teach readers how to cure meat, make sausage, and whip up sauces.
The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook (2018) by Steven Rinella, host of the podcast and Netflix original series MeatEater, is one of the best-known recent additions to the world of game cookbookery. This read is an exhaustive guide to game cooking, offering techniques and strategies for everything from butchering big game to cleaning freshwater fish. You’ll learn how to cook crayfish, snapping turtles, sea cucumbers, and mallards—with full-page photography to guide you through the steps.
Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish (2012) by Jesse Griffiths is a masterpiece from the co-owner of Dai Due Butcher Shop and Supper Club and New School of Traditional Cookery in Austin. Through Griffiths’s stories and lessons from his own hunting experiences, the book preaches the principles of living on the land, with a strong emphasis on the importance of sustainable food practices and seasonal eating. Jody Horton’s vivid photography further elevates the recipes, imbuing them with a strong sense of place.
Duck, Duck, Goose (2013), Buck, Buck, Moose (2016), and Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail (2018) is a trio of cookbooks by Hank Shaw, an award-winning food writer and host of the podcast Hunt, Gather, Talk. His books are as informative as they are stunning to behold, and the recipes make wild game cooking very accessible for the average home cook. Shaw also frequently emphasizes use of the whole animal; for example, he teaches readers to prepare tartare puttanesca from duck heart, incorporates gizzards and livers into other recipes, and adds duck fat to his hollandaise sauce and pie crust.