It’s a common misconception that squirrel meat is not safe to eat. When prepared the right way, and also under the right conditions, squirrel meat can not only be very safe but also delicious.
Squirrels are safe to eat when they’re devoid of mites, lice, ticks, fleas, parasites, and bugs. Its skin and fur should appear to be in good condition and not blemished or patchy. When the squirrel is cut open the liver should be a maroon color, affirming that the squirrel is healthy. If you notice odd behavior in the squirrel before it died then avoid eating it as it’s likely diseased.
After a squirrel is hunted, there are specific ways to butcher, gut, and prepare it for optimal flavor. Squirrels can be very nutritious and are high in vitamins and protein.
How to Know When Eating Squirrel Is Safe
There are a few factors to take into consideration when trying to figure out if a squirrel is safe to eat. First, the condition of the fur and the skin. The first thing to examine to determine whether the squirrel is safe to eat is its behavior. You can tell a lot about the health of a squirrel — or any animal for that matter — from the way it behaves. Abnormal behavior can indicate the presence of either poison or a disease like rabies. If the squirrel is acting abnormally erratic, it is likely ill. If it is getting irregularly close to humans and not showing any sort of inhabitations, the squirrel is likely unsafe to eat.
The next step to determine whether a squirrel is safe to eat is to look at its fur and skin. If the squirrel is missing patches of fur and seems to have experienced hair loss, it is likely diseased and not safe. After getting past the fur, examine the skin of the squirrel. If the squirrel has any sort of pox or markings that indicate that it is diseased, skip out on eating the squirrel. Discard the animal immediately. If the squirrel looks like it has any types of mites, lice, ticks, fleas, parasites, or bugs, it is obviously contaminated and should not be eaten.
The last thing to consider to figure out if a squirrel can be eaten without consequence is to check the condition of the squirrel’s liver. This step occurs after the squirrel has already been cut open, while it is being field-dressed. The liver of a healthy squirrel should be dark red, almost maroon, in color. If the liver is not this color or has white spots on it, the squirrel meat should be discarded to ensure safety.
How to Butcher a Squirrel
Before preparing a squirrel, it is important to properly butcher the animal. You will need a cutting board, a small knife like a pocket knife, kitchen shears, water, a trash bin, and a plate to put the finished pieces of the squirrel on.
The first step is to snip off the head, feet, and tail of the squirrel with shears. Unless you intend to consume the brain, which can be a delicacy in some places, toss these parts of the creature. Next, with your knife in one hand, pinch the loose skin located on the center of the squirrel’s back. Make a perpendicular incision, about two to three inches long, perpendicular to the squirrel’s backbone. Through this incision, you will skin the squirrel. Pull hard in opposite directions to get a majority of the skin off the torso of the squirrel. Then, use the knife to loosen the belly skin and the leg skin, and pull that skin off as well.
Next, you’ll want to gut the squirrel. Cut the squirrel along the chest, underneath the ribcage. The guts should come out relatively easily. Then, reach up a bit into the torso of the squirrel and pull out the heart and lungs of the squirrel. You may want to save the liver and kidney, as they can both be rather tasty. Finally, use the shears to split open the pelvis and empty out the poop.
Finally, you’ll want to wash the squirrel out well with cold water. First, you’ll have to remove the legs and put the meat aside to cook later. Then, slice down behind the front leg all the way down to the ribcage. Slice along the squirrel’s neck, contouring the bones until the forelegs come loose. Do this on both sides of the squirrel. To remove the hindlegs slice the inside of the squirrel’s leg until you can see the ball and socket joint, and then bend the leg backward until it pops out. Free the skin of the leg with your pocketknife.
Now, you’re left with just the torso of the squirrel. Use the shears to cut the ribs off and save these bones if you plan to create a squirrel stock. Then, pull out the backstrap with either your shears or cleavers. Cleavers tend to be easier and more exact. Then, cut off the hip and neck portions of the meat. After you’ve separated all this meat, you’re ready to start cooking!
How to Prepare Squirrel Meat
There are many delicious ways to prepare squirrel meat. It can be cooked in a slow cooker, which will ensure that it is tender and juicy. You can put a number of vegetables in the slow cooker alongside the squirrel, for instance, onions, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and more. Let the squirrel and vegetables sit in the slow cooker throughout the day and you’ll have a delicious meal by dinner time.
Another great way to cook a squirrel is to fry it. Start off by coating the squirrel in seasoned flour and then dip it in a buttermilk and egg wash. Once again, toss it in the flour so the crust is thick and crispy. Then, coat it in your seasoning. Finally, deep-fry or air-fry the squirrel. If you deep-fry it the squirrel is more likely to be juicy and tender.
Another delicious way to cook squirrel is stewed. Throw it into a pot with some butter, flour, water, potatoes, onions, and chopped tomatoes then let it sit throughout the day until the stew achieves the desired texture. Season the squirrel to taste.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Squirrel?
There are numerous health benefits to eating squirrels. Squirrel meat is an excellent source of protein and contains about the same density of protein as there is in both chicken and beef. It is also a good source of iron, which the body needs for growth and to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body.
In addition to iron, squirrel meat is also high in vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and niacin. Vitamin B12 is necessary to form red blood cells and DNA, and also helps the brain and nerves function. Vitamin B6 helps to keep the nervous system and immune system in good shape. And niacin helps turn food into energy, as well as keep the skin, digestive system, and nervous system healthy.
The only downside to eating squirrel is that it can be rather high in cholesterol, more so than most other meats. That means it should be avoided by those who have heart issues or already have high cholesterol.