Squirrels have been a popular meal among homesteaders, mountain men, and other self-reliant folks since the first days of settlement in America. Such famous pioneers as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were known to enjoy squirrel.
Bushytails have even made it to the White House dining room – squirrel stew was the favorite dish of President James Garfield.
Squirrel meat is low in fat and high in protein. It’s also delicious. The old saying “you are what you eat” definitely applies to wild game.
Wild animals take on the flavor of the things they eat. That’s why diving ducks taste like fish and opossums (sometimes) taste like garbage. Squirrels spend their days eating nuts and fruit, so squirrel meat takes on a clean, nutty flavor.
Whether you are living off the grid, learning survival skills, or just want to enjoy some free-range meat, squirrel is a great choice. But what do you do once you catch a squirrel? We have the answers below.
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One of the classic squirrel dishes is fried squirrel. Frying is a fantastic way to cook very lean game meats for two reasons. First, frying adds fat back to the dish so it isn’t so lean as to be try. Second, frying seals in moisture and keeps the meat tender.
Frying is best suited for squirrels that have been cut into big pieces. You can fry the legs, back, and saddle just like you are frying chicken.
Here are some of the best squirrel-frying methods around.
Just like the name says, this recipe is a very basic method for frying squirrels. It does take the unusual step of finishing the squirrel in the oven for tenderness. This is a good recipe for frying older squirrels that can be pretty tough.
This recipe uses corn flakes for the crust to get some extra crispy goodness. It works equally well for squirrels or rabbits.
Is there anything better than fried food? Yes – fried food with gravy. Here’s a way to fry up squirrels, then smother them with gravy. Delicious!
Another way to deal with tough meat is to tenderize it before cooking. In Texas, tough rounds stakes are tenderized by poking the repeatedly with a fork before cooking. This recipe uses the same technique to tenderize squirrel.
Using buttermilk to help the crust stick makes this recipe extra-crispy. The buttermilk adds for a little extra tanginess, too.
When plain fried squirrel gets too boring, this recipe includes a spicy, smoky hot sauce.
This recipe features a spicy Buffalo sauce for squirrel legs. This sauce is a simple combo of butter, hot sauce, and a touch of sugar. No word on whether you need to find a squirrel with wings to make the recipe work, though.
Another Buffalo squirrel recipe, with a little more complicated sauce. It includes vinegar and Worcestershire sauce for a more complex flavor.
The other classic way to cook squirrel is in a stew. There are a lot of different recipes for squirrel stew. Some are made with squirrel only, but many use a variety of meats.
Stewing is a good way to use squirrels that were somewhat damaged in harvesting. Since the meat is diced or shredded before you eat it, it doesn’t matter if the meat is a little bit torn up from shooting.
In Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia, a stew with squirrel and other meats is called burgoo. Here are some great burgoo recipes:
This recipe uses squirrel, venison, and pheasant for a real outdoors eating adventure. It also offers some nice history of burgoo.
This recipe doesn’t call for squirrel, but you can substitute squirrel for the chicken. You can also add squirrel along with the chicken and other meats.
This is a smaller recipe that only makes about a gallon of stew – perfect for smaller families.
In other parts of the south, the mixed-meat stew is called Brunswick stew. It’s very similar to burgoo, although Brunswick stew tends to be a little thinner. Brunswick stew recipes are also more likely to call for just one meat as well.
This simple stew is a good way to make use of older squirrels with tough meat.
Bacon gives this stew some extra flavor. It also includes a touch of brown sugar if you like a sweeter stew.
This recipe doesn’t specify what meat you should use. It would work great with squirrel, chicken, pork, or just about any other meat you care to use.
This recipe calls for a mix of meats. You could substitute squirrel for one of the meats or just add squirrel on top of everything else.
All these stew recipes (but one) call for fixed amounts of particular meats. With either burgoo or Brunswick stew, you can mix and match the meats. Feel free to add squirrel, rabbit, or other game to any recipe. Add or delete domestic meats as well. These stews don’t need to be the same every time.
Of course, the upper south isn’t the only region that hunts squirrels and makes stew. Here are a few other regional specialties for stewing squirrels.
Creamy chowders are a regional specialty in New England. This is a milk-based stew that is popular with hunters in the northeast.
Manhattan chowders use a base of tomatoes instead of milk for the broth. If New York City had an official recipe for squirrel, it would probably be this tomato-based chowder.
The Cajun trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery make this stew a great taste of the bayou. Don’t call it gumbo, though. Gumbo must include either file powder or okra; this recipe doesn’t call for either.
This recipe calls itself gumbo, but also omits okra and file. Add a cup of diced okra to this recipe, then it’s gumbo.
This recipe from across the pond uses venison and squirrel along with potatoes, carrots and parsnips.
Baked and Roasted Squirrel
Roasting in the oven (or over a fire) is another good way to cook squirrel. Squirrels can be roasted whole and cut up after cooking, or you can roast the pieces. These recipes range from fancy to practically Neanderthal.
From England comes this recipe with some great fall flavors. It’s a simple dish that is surprisingly sophisticated.
This easy recipe calls for just squirrels and onions. It’s a quick and easy way to bake up some bushytails.
Blackberries, cranberries, and oranges add huge flavor to this recipe. It’s the opposite of the previous recipes, but the extra work is worth it.
This recipe for campfire-roasted squirrel is so simple, you don’t even need a kitchen. If you are ever in a survival situation, this is the recipe you need.
Savory meat pies have gone out of favor in this country, but meat pies were once a staple of game cookery. Like stews, this is a good way to use pieces that aren’t whole.
Most of the recipes call for the squirrel to be diced, either before or after cooking. Here are some tasty ways to cook squirrel with a flaky pastry crust:
A hearty feast in a crispy crust. This recipe will probably make you want to never eat the frozen kind of pot pie again.
This simple recipe puts a thin crust over a thick, stew-like base of squirrel and vegetables.
For the hunter on the go, these hand pies have all the flavor of a traditional pot pie, but wrapped up like a sandwich. They are a great way to stow a meal in your pack for a day in the field.
These empanadas bring a taste of Mexico to hand pies. It’s still squirrel and vegetables wrapped in a crust, but the addition of cumin and other spices make it very different from traditional squirrel pie recipes.
Other Ways to Cook Squirrel
Squirrels are like the chicken of game meats. The small pieces, mild flavor, and tender texture lend themselves well to a wide variety of cooking methods and seasonings. These recipes range from traditional to really out there.
Squirrel and dumplings is a traditional recipe, somewhere between a stew and a pot pie. Feel free to use your grandmother’s recipe for dumplings to go with the squirrel.
This slow-cooker recipe cooks the squirrels until they can be shredded, then tops the meat with BBQ sauce. Shredded squirrel makes a great sandwich, but it’s good on its own, too.
Cooked and diced squirrel gets folded into pouches of pasta dough for an Italian treatment of everybody’s favorite small game.
Squirrel braised in milk makes a rich, delicious sauce. It’s great for a cold winter night.
Another recipe that is great for cold weather, this time using hard apple cider and mushrooms for extra flavor.
This isn’t your grandma’s squirrel recipe. It’s a spicy, smoky twist on small game that is sure to be a hit with lovers of hot peppers.
Salted, dried squirrel makes a great snack. Make a little jerky to take with you on your next hunting trip.
Between catching the squirrel and cooking it comes processing. There are probably more methods of skinning and cleaning squirrels than there are squirrel hunters.
To clean a squirrel, you need a good, sharp knife and a source of running water. You might also want a good pair of game or poultry shears. Here are some step-by-step instructions for cleaning squirrels:
Of course, once the squirrel is processed, you need to cut it up for cooking. Here are a couple of guides to doing that:
By the way – save the tails. You can make a little bit of cash by sending them to the Mepps fishing lure company to be used in making fishing spinners.
Get familiar with how to process and cook squirrels now and you’ll be ready to feed yourself and your family no matter what happens.