Mmmm, roast squirrel
April 18, 2008 2:39 PM   Subscribe

OutdoorSurvivalFilter: Why is it necessary to skin an animal before roasting over an open fire.

Gutting I can understand. But let's say you've hunted something to stay alive. what's the minimal amount of work required to safely roast it on a pit stick.

/ignorant, and slightly drunk
posted by hungrysquirrels to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd seriously consider taking the fur off. The skin, well, if you were trying to survive it'd be edible. But if you roast it up over the fire, and leave the fur on, chances are you'd be eating meat that tastes and smells like... burnt hair...

My question to you is, if you're lost in the woods and can still access metafilter, wouldn't you just order a pizza ;)
posted by br4k3r at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

More kind of a "tired of 9-5 grind", what if I hit the road to see where life takes me, but I'd have to eat. They don't teach this stuff in school. All theoretical at this point, just considering ALL options.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2008

because burnt fur tastes just like it smells
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:46 PM on April 18, 2008

A lot of small game have musk glands which if not removed will make the whole carcass just about inedible if cooked.

I've seen Australian natives roast a kangaroo by laying it directly on coals without skinning it, though. No idea if it's edible.

/vegetarian :-)
posted by oats at 2:51 PM on April 18, 2008

They don't teach this stuff in school. All theoretical at this point

Try something like this. There is a pocket edition which tells the what and how, but not the why (but it fits in your pocket), and a larger one, which I haven't seen, but I understand goes into more detail.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2008

Skinning a squirrel is not much work. (Slice - yank - nude squirrel.) Burning fur is appalling in ways that can't be conveyed to text. The payoff-to-work ratio is quite a lot higher than, for sake of comparison, peeling a banana before eating it, which I assume you consider an acceptable trade-off.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:09 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

For larger animals with thick, leathery skin, there is the toughness to consider. It's one thing to eat cow meat (beef) but it's something else trying to cook and eat cow skin (leather). It's tough to chew, has poor or no flavor, and slows down cooking/grilling time if you leave it on.
posted by junesix at 3:28 PM on April 18, 2008

Also, the skin can be useful, if it's not all burnt up. Shoes, clothes, bag, straps, etc. can all be made out of the skin, so roasting it would not only be smelling and unappetizing (depending on the animal, of course) but downright wasteful, too.
posted by rtha at 3:34 PM on April 18, 2008

smelly, that is.
posted by rtha at 3:34 PM on April 18, 2008

They don't teach this stuff in school.

Because that would put Ray Mears out of a job.
posted by afx237vi at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2008

You don't have to skin a chicken, but you do have to defeather it.
posted by gjc at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2008

I've been backcountry camping several times, solo, and with others. But food was always taken in. So, I guess if I pursue this as an option, what do I need to know to live off the land (given that I would have some cash for occasional forays into town for supplies. Again, all theoretical at this point.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:46 PM on April 18, 2008

Heck, up until the most recent edition, Joy of Cooking had sections on how to prepare game. (Small stuff like rabbits.)
posted by hattifattener at 4:05 PM on April 18, 2008

You know that burnt hair smell you get when you lean too close to a candle?
Imagine that smell but with more hair.
Now, imagine that smell with the added scents of dirt, fleas, ticks, and other detritus.
That's what a squirrel on a stick would smell like if you didn't clean it.

To answer your question, for a squirrel, the minumum you'd want to do is take off the skin, remove the insides and then cut off the front and rear feet.
Ideally, you remove the musk glands and you are good to go. This last step isn't strictly neccesary, but not doing it could very well make your squirrel inedible. I suppose it would depend on how hungry you really were.

If you plan on doing this in real life, I suggest you get some practice with it before betting your life on it. It's not hard, but it does take practice to do it with minimal waste.
posted by madajb at 4:30 PM on April 18, 2008

I pursue this as an option, what do I need to know to live off the land

Your state hunting regs for one.
posted by fshgrl at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2008

You probably don't need to take off the skin (after all, you don't remove the skin of most game birds, or chicken for that matter), but it happens to be the easiest way to remove the hair/fur, and that you definitely do not want burning in close proximity to your food.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2008

I'd assume it's mostly due to the fur.

We recently cooked a whole pig - the skin was left on, but the fur was removed. The skin, once sprayed with salt water and cooked properly, was mighty tasty.

So no, you don't have to deskin it. Just defur it.
posted by krisak at 8:14 PM on April 18, 2008

I've been to several pig pickings where the animal was not skinned. They do remove the hair first, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:16 PM on April 18, 2008

Or, what krisak said.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:17 PM on April 18, 2008

hattifattener is right. I have that Joy of Cooking with the 'Game' sections. Best line up a few shots...

It isn't a matter of throwing whateverthehellIcatch and tossing it over a fire. You may not survive and your Taco Bell tastes will be fucking jolted. You'll gag and puke and call it a day, no matter how fucking starving you are, I daresay. See below...just about verbatim from the Joy...[my first of many cookbooks]

I'll skip the bear, ok¿ well, say you did trap one in your tent [HA./] [remove all fat from the bear meat at once, as it turns rancid very quickly]

Right off the top:
Never handle rabbit or any wild meat without using gloves, because of the danger of tularemia infection.
Game shot in an unsuspecting moment is more tender than game that is chased and will also deteriorate less quickly. Avoid buying any trapped animals for food. [there goes the tent bear trap theory][j/k]. Immediate and careful gutting, immediate removal of all hair near exposed flesh and prompt skinning is essential.
I won't mention the week of hanging up to 4 weeks in 40 degrees temperature, cool, airy place, away from the sun, screened against insects and protected from predators.
Care must be taken, though, to remove all fat from any of these game animals themselves, as it grows rancid rapidly. Do not use it to grease pans or for sautéing or browning.

Preparing Game:
Immediately after the kill, the animal must be bled. [Description how to of various sizes of animals, either beheading or cutting the jugular vein]. Quick cooling, scrupulous cleaning and careful preservation greatly enhances the flavour which derived from the fruit, seeds, the berries or the grasses on which the animal has fed. Clean and cool the meat as rapidly as possible. Hang by the legs using rope or wire to a bush —so the animal will be steadied.
Cut all the loose organs for removal after tying off the colon and the bladder, which are removed through the anal cavity, being very careful not to pierce the intestines [push down on the organs while cutting through skin]. The colon will need a double tie before removal. Tie it tightly at each end. Cut between the ties so none of the feces can contaminate the meat.
Work if possible in such a way that after removal of the internal organs you will merely have to wipe the cavity with a dry cloth. If internal bleeding has taken place, however, and fluids from internal organs have touched the flesh, scrape or cut the flesh as clean as possible and wipe the areas with salted water. Dry carefully. If the weather is warm, dust the entire cavity with black pepper or powdered charcoal. To shorten the cooling time, prop the cavity open with sticks. Separate the heart and liver from the entrails, being careful not to pierce the gall [deer have no gall bladder]. This includes fish — don't pierce the gall bladder [yellow sac towards the head inside]

Skin furry animals as quickly as possible. Allow no hairs to remain on the meat. Over large areas the skin can be pulled free rather than cut. Keep the meat cool as possible.

Rabbits and Hares: Tells you how to identify a young or older animal, because this depends on how to cook it. To ensure tender meat, hang the animals by the feet from 1 to 4 days. They will , however, be tender without hanging if used before they have time to stiffen. Once stiffened, they are edible as long as the hind legs are rigid. Some of the most delicious game sauces use blood as a thickener.

you know what¿ There's so much stuff here, all I can suggest is you've a lot of research to do before going wild in the country with your buck knife and a match. A lot, otherwise, you may not return. BTW, how are you in the kitchen and what of your cooking skills. Seriously. Do you burn Mac&Cheese¿ You're in trouble. Big trouble. :)

Squirrels: Gray are the preferred ones; red squirrels are small and quite gamey. yes, they show diagrams on how to best skin them. Proceed as for rabbit, cutting off the head and feet and removing the internal organs, plus two small glands found in the small of the back and under each foreleg, between the ribs and the shoulders. Stuff and roast squirrels as for Pigeons, barding them or use in a Brunswick stew...or braised chicken. [Season gravy with Walnut catsup and serve with Polenta [oh, sorry, forgot where we were]]
Speaking of birds, some —snipe, woodcock, and plover are cooked with the trail [entrails] still inside. Small birds are usually used as fresh as possible, although they remain edible as long as the legs are flexible and should be dry plucked. In fact, some like snipe, plover, ring dove, and woodcock may be cooked undrawn, although the eyes and the crop are discarded before roasting. Small birds should be barded [lard spears pierced through meat] or you may wrap them first in fig or grape leaves.

Wild Boar: [which is mighty tasty./]
Raccoon: skin, clean and soak overnight in salt water...
Woodchuck: dress for rabbit, but watch for and remove 7 to 9 small sacs or kernels in the small of the back and under the forearm. Soak overnight in salted water...
Beaver: Use young animals only. Remove kernels in the small of the back and under the forelegs, between rib and shoulder...

Oh sure it's about survival, but do you want to eat shit¿ Spoil your catch and you won't bother ever afterwards... [you may think, that last squirrel made me gag, I'll pass] — this is why everyone should learn to cook. If you can't cook shit from the meat department, then what are the chances of survival in the wild¿ Shitty. Tasting. Head for the tree bark...Not./

Still think it's a good idea¿ This isn't tv's Survivor Man — he must know all this otherwise there'd be only one episode.
Stay in school, get a job, buy a Eurail pass or something, you just may not survive in the wild for leisure as you planned.
I see cooking school/forest ranger/environmental studies or something in your future./ :)

As a footnote, I love all animals. I do hunt duck and geese, abiding by the rules and am respectful of them in a First Nations kind of way, I eat what I hunt and share with friends. I love cooking. I love the taste of game. I'm a city boy, but spend a lot of time in back country canoeing, fishing, photographing and camping — that's why I bring in my freeze dried dinners from MEC [Mountain Equipment Co-op] along with topographical maps and survival gear.
When I was 12 years old, I went to a camp for a 2 week canoe trip where one canoe got separated then lost. For 5 days. It was raining a lot. It was base survival with whatever we had to get back to civilization. The lost group were found safe by rangers and search plane once we hit civilization. It was worse for another group, they split their canvas cedar strip canoe [hey, it was long ago] on a rock running rapids and lost everything. That sure taught me a lot about back country canoeing. Funny thing is that that experience didn't scare me off of back country tripping. I went back the next year — ok, Mom sent me packing off to tripping camp to get out of her hair for a while, which I looked forward to.
Keep your topographical charts with compass in a sealed waterproof plastic ziplock and on your person./
posted by alicesshoe at 9:16 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

When my friend Guapo and I killed and cooked 6 rabbits we took the skin off them. It was very easy. Easier than killing them. Certainly easier than removing the fur could ever have been.
posted by bilabial at 9:36 PM on April 18, 2008

They don't teach this stuff in school.

Depends on the school.
posted by namespan at 11:32 PM on April 18, 2008

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