Goat Meat Recipes: The Forgotten Food
What is Goat Meat Called in Different Countries?
By Patrice Lewis — Goat meat recipes may have slipped out of popularity in the United States, but goat is the most widely consumed red meat worldwide.
Goat aficionados know a lot about caprines. They can discuss milk ratios and foraging requirements with authority. They can tell you all about digestion issues and hoof care.
But the one thing many goat enthusiasts refuse to consider is the one thing goats have provided for thousands of years: meat.
Meat in American cuisine primarily highlights beef, pork, and chicken, but rarely ventures into the more exotic taste of goat. This is a shame, because goat meat (often referred to by its French name, chevon) is a delicacy appreciated the world over.
It’s obvious why meat goat farming has been popular through history. Caprines are well-suited to marginal habitats where cattle would not thrive, resulting in a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to harvesting calories from the available forage. Boer goats, Kiko, Myotonic (Tennessee Fainting Goat), Savannah, Spanish, or any combination of these goat types are ideal meat producers.
Today, goat meat is far more popular with immigrants for whom chevon is the preferred cultural choice — it’s a staple in Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian, African, Greek, and southern Italian cuisines, among many others — but less common among the rest of the country. Goat meat consists of 6 percent of meat intake worldwide. Numbers are not easy to find for American consumption, leading to the conclusion it’s statistically insignificant.
But within niche markets, chevon is increasing in popularity. In 2011, the Washington Post reported, “Goat meat production is ramping up in the United States. The number of goats slaughtered has doubled every 10 years for the past three decades, according to the USDA. We’re closing in on one million meat goats a year.”
Because of their small size, most commercial meat producers won’t touch goats. But what won’t work for commercial enterprises often works beautifully for small homesteaders interested in putting a couple of animals in the freezer every year, particularly those who are unwilling or unable to handle larger livestock. “Goats represent sustainability, without the curse of factory production,” summarized the Post.
Goat meat recipes won’t replace beef or pork in America anytime soon — but it’s well worth considering for a number of reasons:
- Goat meat is more environmentally sustainable than beef. Because goats are browsers (not grazers), they can thrive on land unsuited to beef production. Or — and this is something small landowners are discovering — goats can be pastured with cattle to eat things cows won’t touch (weeds, bushes, undesirable grasses), thus giving extra benefit from the same land.
- Because the market for goat meat is still relatively small, most chevon derives from humanely raised animals rather than massive factory farms. Meat-processing facilities are geared for large animals; and since the most a goat will yield is about 40 pounds of meat, slaughtering is usually done by local humane butchers. As a result, almost all chevon is “locovore” in nature.
- It is healthy. Goat meat nutrition has one-third fewer calories than beef, one-fourth less than chicken (and much less fat), and about two-thirds less than pork and lamb.
So why isn’t this über-meat better known and more widely eaten? Much has to do with experience or reputation. In some parts of the world, pungent cuts are preferred. “Caribbean cultures often prize the rankest, toughest bucks beyond their first rut,” noted the Washington Post. “It’s the meat from mature male goats that has the characteristic pungent barnyard aroma.” This, to put it mildly, is a huge turnoff for most American diners.
But chevon doesn’t have to be this way. Meat from kids six to nine months old yields tender, flavorful cuts. Many chefs have taken to kid as their signature meat.
In America, most goat meat comes in two forms. “Cabito” is meat from very young milk-fed goats between four and eight weeks of age, yielding buttery-soft tender meat. “Chevon” is meat from goats aged six to nine months and is more commonly available.
Since goat meat is so lean, the secret when cooking is not to let the meat dry out. Braising or cooking with moist heat, at lower temperatures, preserves the tenderness. Slow cookers, Dutch ovens, and other kitchen aids which keep moisture in with the meat are popular options.
When cooking chevon at home, it will be necessary to remove the caul, the fatty membrane found on goat meat. This can be done using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
Goat meat is not as sweet as beef. Because of its savory characteristic, it works well with bold flavors: curry, pineapple, chilies, onion, garlic, wine (red or white), red pepper, coriander, rosemary, etc.
Cuts of meat can be categorized as either quick-cooking or slow-cooking. Quick-cooking cuts include tenderloin, loin chops, and rib chops. As its name implies, tenderloin is tender no matter what; and loin chops and rib chops both lend themselves to hot sears, fast sautés, or grilling. “Tender cuts of meat are usually best when cooked by a dry heat method such as roasting, broiling, or frying,” advises the American Meat Goat Association. “Tender cuts of goat meat are the legs, ribs, portions of the shoulder cut, the loin roast, and the breast.”
But the rest of the animal should be slow-cooked. In part, this is because of the large amount of interstitial collagen lacing the cuts. This needs time to break down, and it contributes beautifully to rich, hearty dishes. Some people don’t like the “bonier” nature of goat cuts, but bone will actually help flavor the meat. Place chevon in a slow cooker for several hours, marinating in spicy liquids, and you’ll have ambrosia for dinner.
So are you hyped up to try this delicacy? Consider sampling any of the following goat meat recipes, reprinted with kind permission from American Boer Goat Association’s recipe page:
Curry Goat Meat
- 3-5 lbs. goat meat
- 3 tbsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 lg. onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- Salt to taste or seasoned salt
Clean and wash goat meat. Add curry powder, black pepper, seasoned salt, chopped onion, chopped garlic. Rub seasonings well into goat meat. On a cooking pan, place about 1 tablespoon butter or oil, whichever you prefer. Pour meat into pan with oil while it is still cold. Stir and cook until tender.
Spanish Goat Meat
- 2 lbs. goat meat
- 1/2 c. chopped onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 med. potatoes
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 c. lemon juice
- 1/2 c. vinegar
- 1 tsp. oregano leaves
- 3 cilantro leaves
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 pkg. Sazon Goya (seasonings)
- 2 c. water
- 2 leaves laurel
Take lemon juice and vinegar and wash goat meat. Let meat stand with that for 24 hours. Put all ingredients into large pot. Cover and put on slow heat. Cook until tender.
Spicy Leg of Goat
- 1 leg of goat
- 1-3 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tbsp. corn starch
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. dried minced onions
Combine salt and cinnamon and rub all over meat. Place in roasting bag in shallow roasting pan with 1-2 cups of water, or a mixture of water and wine. Close and tie bag, cut about six slits to allow steam to escape. Cook until tender or meat thermometer reads 175 degrees F for medium or 180 degrees F for well done. Serve warm with gravy.
Gravy: Pour drippings into saucepan. Add bay leaf and onion; simmer gently covered for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup cold water, stir until smooth. Gradually add mixture to simmering pan drippings, stirring constantly. Simmer for another minute or two. Serve.
Did You Know?
Goat meat prices spike around ethnic holidays. Producers are advised to plan accordingly to market their animals. Holidays in which goat is traditionally served include:
- “Crifests,” or independence days in Caribbean countries, occur in the fall and the traditional dish is curried goat.
- Filipino families often serve goat meat during birthdays, baptisms, weddings, or during Christmas. Popular goat meat recipes include stew and roast.
- Goat is often served on Christmas day in regions such as Mexico, Italy, and the North of Portugal.
- Islamic holidays such as Ramadan and Eid ul-Adha revolve according to a lunar calendar. Though goat is traditional, it must be slaughtered and processed via humane Halal laws.
- Goat is often cooked into festival foods and served during the Hindu holiday Diwali.
- The demand for curry goat meat recipes increases during the winter holiday season to correspond with multiple religions and cultures.