These days, you might find bison burger, bison steaks and even bison pate served at your favorite restaurants. “Bison?” you might wonder. Don’t be wary. Bison is lean protein that’s worth a try.
Back in the Day
The great American buffalo (species Bison bison) grazed the Great Plains for hundreds of years. Hunted in the 1600s for their fur and later for their bones and meat, the bison was almost extinct by the late 1800s. Today, bison meat, which comes from managed ranches, has been making a comeback as the “new red meat.”
The Nutrition Facts
This meat is such a nutrition powerhouse that it’s no wonder the U.S. demand for it keeps growing. A three-ounce bison rib eye steak contains 150 calories and is very low in cholesterol. With just under five grams of fat and two grams of saturated fat, it has a much lower fat content than any other meat on the market. Bison meat is also an excellent source of zinc, irons and vitamin B-12.
Bison vs. Beef
Bison tends to have a richer and sweeter flavor than beef. When raw, it has a deeper red color because there is no marbling (i.e. the white layers of fat found in beef). Bison comes in identical cuts to beef, which makes shopping for it easier. You will find choices such as flank steak, brisket, ground and tenderloin.
Grass-Fed Bison vs. Grain-Fed Bison
Grass-fed means the bison is let out to graze, rather than given feed mix, which might have added hormones or antibiotics. Grass-fed bison has yellow fat (as opposed to white) because it has more beta-carotene and has slightly lower fat, cholesterol and calories and a higher percentage of omega-3 fats than grain-fed bison meat.
Handling and Preparing
While not widely carried yet, farmers’ markets and some supermarkets or specialty stores sell bison meat. You can also order it online and have it delivered. Use refrigerated bison meat within five days or store it in the freezer. Defrost frozen meat overnight in the refrigerator or run it under cool water.
Since bison meat is very low in fat, it cooks faster than other red meats; this means it can also easily overcook. As a general rule, use a low heat (325°F) and longer cooking times. Braising or stewing works best with large cuts of meat such as roasts or steaks. Try broiling or grilling thinner slices such as sirloin tip.
These days bison burgers are available in many U.S. restaurants. Bison steak, roasts or ribs are great addition to a weekly dinner menu. Use bison in stews or substitute ground bison for beef in lasagna or a meat sauce.
Photo by The Flying Chef/Recipezaar