Grilling the Big Birds: Barbecued Emu and Ostrich
When a bird is six or eight feet tall, you know it's got to produce some powerful big drumsticks. Barbecued emu, anyone?
Saturday, March 17, 2018
If you've gone to the zoo, happened across a pen of giant, exotic birds, and ended up thinking, "Hmmm, I wonder how barbecued emu would taste," well... join the club.
I got to thinking that way a while back. I've grilled many a chicken, along with a few turkeys and even a succulent duck or two. But until then I'd stayed with domestic fowl, since I could acquire them easily.
Old Birds for New
The thing is, in a big city like the one I live in, you can usually find exotic meats somewhere; and if all else fails, there's always the Internet. So you can get the big birds if you work at it.
I did, and let me tell you: barbecued emu is tasty. Emu is a lean red meat, and you can get it in nice thick steaks that you'd be hard-pressed to tell came from a bird at all (that's how big emus are).
I've not yet tried ostrich, which is harder to get, but it's apparently very similar to emu in its leanness and rich redness. Both meats have more iron in them than, say, beef, which accounts for their coloration.
A Nice Recipe
The recipe I like best with emu (after some experimentation) will probably work for ostrich as well. In any case, it's for sesame ginger steaks, which makes the meat even a bit more exotic than it already is. Here's what you'll need for two pounds' worth of quarter-pound steaks (in addition to the meat, of course):
2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of ginger powder
4 teaspoons of honey
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
Mix everything together in a bowl. Then start grilling the steaks over high heat until done to your taste, basting them repeatedly with the spicy mixture and turning them frequently.
Take it Easy...
Be very careful here. Both emu and ostrich tend to cook quite quickly, and because of their leanness, they won't shrink much as they do. This meat is very easy to overcook (believe me, I know from experience), and don't go by the visuals you'd expect with most meats; it turns darker red when properly cooked.
Otherwise, cook big bird steaks about the same length of time you would comparable beef and pork cuts. If you're worried, consider marinating the meat in the above mixture for a while, because that will help it lock in more moisture.
It's pricy, but it's worth the extra cost to taste a unique bird that you'd otherwise have to visit another continent to try. So do some experimenting, why don't you, and experience the culinary joy that is barbecued emu next time you grill?