Alligator meat is not the first meat you have in mind when your tummy rumbles, but it’s gaining more popularity through the years and has been incorporated in many dishes and cuisines in the South. In fact, it has become quite the staple in Louisiana and Florida, where they are most plentiful in North America.
The Creoles have been using alligator meat in their dishes for years, but it’s understandable that you find it daunting if you’ve never tried it before. If your greatest fear is the taste, then be happy to know that it tastes like chicken (I know you’ve heard that one before). It has the same texture and mouthfeel as chicken, with fishy undertones. Think of a chicken who married a bass and had a mutant kid. Hard to imagine? That’s how it is, and it’s surprisingly delicious.
The texture of alligator flesh depends on the preparation, with some recipes yielding a chewy texture, while some techniques that require deep frying or roasting produce more tender results. The meat usually is taken from the tail and backbone of the alligator — considered the prime cuts of the gator. The inner part of the tail is considered to be the alligator’s filet mignon, the tenderest and most desired part.
Before deep-frying (the addition of fat, buttermilk, butter, and all the good stuff that’s bad for you), alligator gets top points on nutrition, especially in the protein department. A four-ounce serving has 110 calories (20 from fat), 2 grams total fat, .5 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 55 milligrams sodium, no carbohydrates and 24 grams of protein. It’s also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12. The fat content is low because the fat is situated outside the meat, not marbled like beef or pork.
If you’re going to try alligator for the first time, it’s best not to sample a dish that’s too adventurous. Start with a simple dish so that you can decide if the flavor fits your palate. Deep-fried alligator nuggets are a fantastic way to begin. Just think that’s it chicken, and don’t be afraid to pop one in your mouth. The way it’s prepared and cooked is identical to how you’d prepare chicken, using the usual ingredients like buttermilk, salt, pepper, and seasoned flour. You might find yourself deciding that you’d think it’s chicken if you didn’t know better.
The alligator’s leg meat is its dark meat and considered tougher than the tail and back white meat. Cook it long and slow over coals, smoke it for hours, or boil and reduce it down in a saucy stew. On the flipside, the gator’s white meat should not be cooked too long, since its high water content would dry up and make it tough as rubber.
For tips on how to hunt, clean, and cook alligators, you can also visit Rob Arrington’s Youtube channel called deermeatfordinner. He usually only uses Everglades spice on EVERYTHING he cooks, so feel free to explore other sources for tips on the cooking part.