My hands are numb. Well, mostly just my fingertips, but I finally find the roast I’m looking for deep in my chest freezer. It’s from an elk I hunted with Garrett Johnson in southern Utah in 2019. It was cold then, too.
Five pounds of healthy, lean, and ethically sourced red meat is searing my hand. It needs defrosting. Roasts are a fantastic way to feed large groups of people, and this one I saved for Christmas Day. I’ve cooked many like it, but this one is special, a reminder of good times in the mountains.
Wild game roasts from deer, moose, elk, and bear usually come in 3- to 8-pound hunks from the hindquarter and are always lean. They need to be fully defrosted, which I start a few days before the cook, leaving them covered on the counter at first, then moving them to the fridge. Defrosted, the next best step is to soak them in a brine. Brines break down some of the internal connective tissues and add moisture to an otherwise dry slab of meat that’s easy to overcook.
To brine, put 1 cup sea salt and 1 cup brown sugar in a large pot with a half gallon of water. You can get creative with other spices, but salt and sugar are a must. Bring to a boil and stir. This dissolves the salt and sugar in the water and makes for better saturation through the roast. Let the mixture cool, then add the roast. Top off with cold water so the meat is completely submerged, cover, and set in a refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
At least 6 hours before you want to cook the roast, remove it from the brine and set it on the counter covered, so it can come to room temperature or an internal temperature of 55 degrees. This will help the meat cook evenly.
When the meat is at temperature, preheat your grill to 325 degrees and do some quick math. You’ll need between 15 and 20 minutes of cook time for each pound of meat. For instance, a 5-pound roast will take almost 90 minutes to cook through.
Rub the meat with a seasoning of your choice. I’m a fan of the Cacao Carne seasoning from Torie Borrelli at The Vida Well.
With your roast on the grill, prepare some sides. My go-to with game meats is roasted purple potatoes and grilled squash or roasted butternut squash.
The final ingredient to make this roast drip with flavor is to have a small cooler standing by in your kitchen. Check the meat’s internal temperature and pull it when it hits 125 degrees. Wrap it quickly in butcher’s paper, and place it in the cooler. This lets the meat rest evenly without a dramatic temperature drop and prevents an uneven finish — or worse, cold meat at the table.
Let the meat sit in the cooler for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve your wild game roast on a cutting board and slice at the table for a fine holiday meal. You won’t find a better-cooked, juicier Christmas roast anywhere.