You don't have to be from the bayou or Florida swamplands to enjoy cooking and eating alligator meat. In his book "Miami Spice," grilling master Steven Raichlen describes the flavor of alligator meat as being similar to both pork and freshwater fish. The density of gator meat lets you cook it much as you would cook chicken or pork. Alligator meat is available at some gourmet markets, online vendors and alligator farms that specialize in gator meat. No matter how you prepare it, cooked gator meat should reach a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grilling Alligator Meat
Marinating alligator meat before grilling it is essential to help tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor to counterbalance the somewhat fishy aftertaste that it can have. Optionally, you can also pound it with a mallet to help tenderize the meat. Marinate alligator meat for at least 1 hour with an acidic marinade. Use your own favorite marinade or make a simple mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley. Longer marinating times gives you meat that's more tender and more flavorful. Alligator is best cooked quickly over relatively high heat. Preheat the grill to medium-high or high heat and grill the alligator meat for 6 to 10 minutes, turning it once.
Frying Alligator Meat
Deep-fried alligator meat is a tradition in the American Southeast. Battering and frying it also adds a pleasantly crisp texture. The tenderloin is a good cut to use, since the meat is very tender. Cut the meat strips or chunks. Marinate it or skip right to battering and frying the meat. If you marinate it, drain the meat, blot it dry and dredge it in flour that's been seasoned with salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper before frying it. Preheat the oil to 350 F and fry the alligator pieces in batches for approximately 5 to 7 minutes, or until the nuggets float to the surface and become golden. Drain the fried gator on a rack or a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season it immediately with salt and pepper.
Baking Alligator Meat
Use jaw or tail cuts when baking alligator meat. Avoid toughness by baking it in a covered dish or foil packets. Trim any fat from the meat and season it to taste. At a minimum, sprinkle salt and pepper over the meat. Add bold flavors with dry seasonings such as cayenne pepper and garlic powder, or drizzle some white wine or broth over the meat and dot it with butter. Bake alligator meat in an oven that's been preheated to 350 F for approximately 30 to 50 minutes, or until the meat flakes when it's tested with a fork.
Broiling Alligator Meat
Arrange the racks in your oven so the meat will be approximately 6 inches from the heat source. Lay the alligator in a single layer on a greased broiling pan. Season it with salt and pepper. Optionally, brush it with a sauce. Use your favorite commercially made sauce or make a quick citrus butter sauce by melting butter and stirring in fresh lime, lemon, grapefruit or orange juice. Broil alligator meat for 5 minutes, turning it 1 or 2 minutes so that it cooks evenly. Serve it with extra sauce on the side.
- Health Benefits: From Foods and Spices; John P. Hunter, III
- Mastering the Grill; Andrew Schloss and David Joachim
- Chefs Go Wild: Fish and Game Recipes from America's Top Chefs; Rebecca Gray
- Miami Spice: The New Florida Cuisine; Steven Raichlen
- The Culinary Herpetologist; Ernest A. Liner
- The Times-Picayune Greater New Orleans: How to Cook and Eat Alligator; Cuts, Tips and Technique
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Alligator
- USDA Food Safety Information: Game from Farm to Table