Sports
Is wild pork good eating?
By Luke Clayton
Jan 22, 2023
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If you have been reading my weekly column long, you probably have ascertained that ‘Ole Luke’ enjoys hunting and eating wild hogs. I wrote a book on the topic a few years ago and tried to include enough information to help the beginner hog hunter/cooker. I’m often asked, “Luke, are wild hogs really good eating?”  This is a loaded questing with no ‘pat’ answer. I always answer by asking another question. “If you were going to a livestock auction to purchase a hog to butcher, would you buy an old, tough boar or a younger, fatter animal.” This is about the best answer I can give. Yes, some wild porkers are excellent eating while other, well, not so much!

I fully understand that with wild hog numbers are running rampant across the state and much of the south and southwest, not every wild hog killed by hunters will be turned into pork chops. Well over half their numbers need to be reduced each year to keep them in check and numbers are not decreasing, on the contrary. Wild hog populations are rapidly increasing across the state to the point the almost all counties have a contingency of wild porkers. We as hunters can’t eat them all but we can make good use of some of this wild, free pork roaming our fields and woodlands.

Are wild hogs good eating? They can be! Read Luke’s column this week for the straight scoop. (photo by Luke Clayton)

Cooking methods for wild pork differs a bit from domestic hogs. Wild hogs have to work for a living rather than being penned in tight quarters and are fed a consistent diet designed to make them gain weigh quickly. Wild hogs use their muscles and as a result, other than very young pigs, are never as tender as their domestic counterparts. Take pork chops for instant...put a store-bought pork chop on the grill and it -- if not overcooked -- will turn out pretty tender. The same cut off a wild hog will usually be dry and tough. There are exceptions; of course, a very fat wild sow that has been hitting corn feeders on a regular basis can be almost as tender as a domestic hog.

I often cook wild pork much the same as venison with the exception of how I deal with the fat. Fat on wild pork is a good thing that ads flavor to the meat when cooking but fat on deer gives the meat an ‘off’ flavor and must be trimmed before cooking. There is no marbling on cuts of pork; hogs have their fat on the outside of muscle. A venison ham steak placed on a grill over hot coals with dry out quickly, just like wild pork, probably even more so because of the lack of any fat to help baste while cooking.  

I love chicken fried steaks and it matters little whether the meat comes from wild pork or venison. I place the steaks in a Zip Lock bag and dust it with salt, pepper and garlic powder and then add enough Louisiana Hot Sauce to moisten the meat. I prefer to leave the steak in the refrigerator or on ice a day before frying but this is not absolutely necessary. I simply flour the steaks and fry in hot oil until well done but not crispy. Placed side by side, most folks can’t tell the difference between the pork and venison, both make very tasty chicken fried steak. Served with rice and gravy or with a bit of A1 Sauce, it’s the stuff great meals are made!

Take that same piece of steak and grill it and it’s a good bet it will be less flavorful and defiantly tougher. I love the flavor charcoal or wood embers give meat and have devised a method of cooking these ‘lean’ steaks that is both flavorful and tender. I get a fire going with wood or charcoal and place the steaks right over the coals for a couple minutes on each side. This gives them the ‘grilled’ or wood smoke flavor.  I have a cast iron skillet with butter and a good bit of freshly chopped garlic on the grill. The steaks go directly from the grill to the skillet and I give them a few minutes cooking time, turning them often. I honestly enjoy ‘wild’ steaks prepared in this manner better than choice cuts of beef. Backstrap steak is perfectly suited for this method of cooking and I like to cut them about an inch thick. 

The key to cooking wild pork roasts or even ribs is long, slow cooking with moisture. Just last week, I was hunting wild hogs with a neighbor and a friend that lives nearby called and said he had just shot a fat sow that weighed about 140 pounds. He inquired if I wanted the meat. Our hunt was cut short when I responded with a resounding YES. To my way of thinking, there is no game meat as tasty as a fat wild sow. We made short work of the butchering process and I was home with a couple of trimmed, cleaned backstraps in a few minutes. These cuts I seasoned with a dry rub, placed them in an aluminum pan and gave them a generous amount of good BBQ sauce. I covered them loosely with foil, added some hickory wood to the wood box on my Smokin Tex smoker, set the thermostat at 190 degrees and went to bed. The next day about 7 am. I checked the backstraps and they were tender and flavored through and through with the seasoning and sauce. I had left a good bit of fat on the meat which helped baste throughout the durations of the cook. 

Ribs from wild hogs can be excellent eating but they also require slow cooking and I always wrap mine in foil after a liberal amount of BBQ sauce has been applied.

Hopefully these tips will cause you to bring some of that tasty  wild pork out of the woods and onto your dinner table.

To watch a video of Luke cooking this pork, check out this week’s A SPORTSMAN’S LIFE on YouTube or Carbon TV www.carbontv.com  Contact Luke via his website www.catfishradio.org.