When on safari in Africa, it’s customary to sample the meat from every animal harvested. While some are better than others, kudu is one of the best – especially when it’s the inner loins known as backstraps. This is the prime cut on any animal, differing in size and location from the more well-known and much larger tenderloins that run the length of the dorsal spine.

When hunter Jerry harvested his largest male kudu to date, the cooking competition was on between him and professional hunter Stephen Bann. The winner? All of us who got to sample their variations of kudu Backstraps on the Braai! 

This recipe combines the tricks of both men’s cookoff on the Dark Continent. As such, it was originally cooked in the traditional way on a braai. For all of us Americans technically without a home braai, grilling over the coals of an open fire will certainly suffice. Of course, most of us are also painfully short on kudu meat – unless a recent Texas exotic hunt has been on the list. In that case, almost any large wild game backstrap can be substituted. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Marinading Time: 4-12 hours, depending on animal harvested
Cook Time: 8-15 minutes
Serves: 6-8 hungry hunters
 

Ingredients
 

Meat grilling over coals
If you don't have access to a braai, you can also simply use a grill grate or basket. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

 

  • 2 kudu backstraps/inner loins (can substitute other wild game loins)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • Olive or canola oil for drizzling
  • 1 fresh Lemon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika is great here)
  • Sea salt & coarse pepper, or your seasoning of choice
     

Prep Instructions


Remove the backstraps from your animal of choice. This is best done immediately after harvesting or these loins inside the body cavity will quickly dry out. When using a commercial butcher after the fact, these cuts are often sadly lost. 

Trim so you’re left with a fairly lean cut of meat. In the case of the short and thick kudu loin, our professional hunter butterflied his cut so it would not only lay flat but also sear more quickly. The other was kept intact. This is your choice, but cooking time should be adjusted accordingly as medium rare is the goal for this melt-in-your-mouth cut. 

Lay the loins in a flat pan large enough to accommodate their size without tight rolling or folding. Finely mince the fresh garlic cloves and onion. Drizzle and rub the meat lightly with oil. Add the minced garlic and onion along with the freshly squeezed juice of one small lemon. Use less for a smaller game animal. Gently rub this into the meat. 

Finally, sprinkle with the paprika and your seasoning of choice. As for seasoning, I usually prefer plain old sea salt and freshly ground coarse pepper. However, our dueling African hunters each opted for their favorite seasoning, one on each loin: South African Six Gun Grill and America’s Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning. Cover and refrigerate.
 

Important Marinading Notes
 

Knife slicing meat on cutting board
Your goal is to keep the natural flavor of the meat, ideally cooking it to be medium rare. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Enjoying wild game does not mean masking its natural flavors, but many cuts of meat – even the finest backstraps of older animals – benefit from enhancement with other fresh ingredients. Many chefs prefer to marinate wild game, but it is important to note the extended marinating times for this particular recipe. This was a big, old kudu bull in the heat of the rut. Adjust your marinating time based on the game being used. A young whitetail, for instance, may only be sauced for an hour, while something expected to be tougher and stronger in flavor may need to rest in the ingredients for 12+ hours. 
 

Fire!


Build a hearty fire with local hardwoods, allowing a bed of coals to form. You’ll do the cooking over the coals – not a raging open flame. This is an ideal time to enjoy an adult beverage while sharing tales of the hunt. With a sufficient bed of coals, you can either lay the intact loin on a grate above or, in the case of the butterflied loin, clamp it lightly inside a grill basket. 

While the former will need to cook slightly longer, the key to making a mouth-watering backstrap is not to overcook it. This is the finest cut of meat from an animal in terms of tenderness, so please don’t ruin it by killing it again on the grill. It’s always better to err on the side of cooking rare and allowing the meat to rest for at least five minutes before slicing into it. Don’t be afraid to use a meat thermometer for verification, working to an internal temperature of 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 
 

Slice and Devour


Even with straps from this old, rutting kudu, our meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender with a rich, pleasing flavor. After a short resting time, both loins were sliced against the grain and eaten right off the cutting board around the fire. It was so delicious that there was no time for side dishes until after the meat was gone. If you don’t want to do the same, be sure to have your sides ready at the same time as the game. Finger lickin’ not required, but likely. 

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