Tenderloin is one of the most sought-after cuts from any game animal. When the loin comes from an old or rutting bull, however, a few extra steps can make the difference between a terrific and tough meal. 

Such was the case after harvesting an aged "Dagga Boy" Cape buffalo in Africa. While some would turn up their noses after seeing the scarred, haggard old-timer, our camp chefs taught us how to turn that meat into a legit delight. This recipe works as well on Cape buffalo as it does on a mature rutting whitetail or any other number of game animals.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Marinade Time: 12-24 hours, depending on the size of the loin
Cook Time: Varies
Serves: A hunting camp

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tenderloin from Cape buffalo or another large wild game animal
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Small onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Mrs. Balls’ Chutney or other sweet/savory chutney
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Cooking oil
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper

PREP INSTRUCTIONS

Cape buffalo after a hunt
The tough meat on this Cape buffalo requires special care to turn it into just the right meal. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Safari skinners hung and skun the animal as soon as we arrived back at camp, where we quickly removed the tenderloins. Prior to marinading, we removed excess silver skin, but little prep is needed otherwise. 

Place the trimmed whole tenderloin into a large stainless or non-aluminum pan for marinating. Combine the garlic, onion, splash of cooking oil, Worcestershire sauce, chutney, and seasonings. Use this mixture to coat the meat. Cover and allow to rest in the refrigerator for no less than 12 hours, or longer for those larger cuts. 

For those poor souls who have never experienced Africa’s gem, Mrs. Balls’ Chutney, its main ingredients are water, sugar, vinegar, apricots, salt, and spices. Either get creative in the kitchen and whip up your own variation using jam or substitute another savory chutney. The acid in the chutney’s vinegar blend likely helps tenderize the meat. 

GRILL/BRAAI

Cape buffalo tenderloin on a grill
You can simulate a braai here in the states with a fire pit or grill. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

As with every camp we’ve been to in Africa, high end or bush, game meat gets cooked over a braai or open fire. We can do the same thing at home in the states, be it on a fire pit or pellet grill. We cooked this particular loin on a large indoor fire grill at our safari camp in Africa’s Free State. 

First, remove the meat from the marinade, and then add the marinade to a small saucepan. Add a bit of butter or oil if needed. The idea is to lightly sauté the onion and garlic as well as to make the marinade safe to re-add to the meat on the grill. 

Our dangerous game professional hunter, Stephen Bann, is also experienced at cooking these monstrous beasts. Because this loin was so thick, he opted to butterfly it open prior to marinading and then clamp it inside a grill basket after topping it with the onion, garlic, and marinade blend. 

RARE, MEDIUM RARE, OR BUST

A hunter cuts Cap buffalo tenderloin
Use a meat thermometer to ensure you get the meat to rare or medium rare. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

As with any tenderloin, backstrap, or wild game steak – especially drier meats that could be considered tough – cooking them no further than medium rare is absolutely essential. We want those cuts to be juicy and tender. Using a quality meat thermometer is the best insurance. 

To that end, we pulled the tenderloin from the fire when it reached an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit, expecting it to continue cooking to the ideal finish while resting. Remember, you can always throw a cut back on the heat to increase doneness but never vice versa. 
 

FINGER FOOD FEAST!


Remove the full loin from the grill and allow it to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Covering it with tin foil is never a bad idea. After the elapsed time, our professional hunter sliced the loin into 1/2-inch-thick pieces that were grabbed from the kitchen serving platter before they ever hit the dinner table. The result, from an old warrior Cape buffalo, was a melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavorful camp meal made even better through sharing memories of the hunt during the braai. 

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