Just like whitetail and mule deer, elk hearts are one of the most underutilized cuts on the animal. That’s too bad. They are pure muscle, just like a steak from the same animal, and taste delicious. Since elk hearts are big enough to make a family meal, we love to leave them whole and stuff them, then smoke them on the Traeger Grill.
Just like any wild game, heart is better when cooked to rare or medium-rare to prevent the meat from drying out. The flavorful spinach, mushroom, and Italian sausage stuffing for this one also helps keep the meat moist and juicy as it cooks.
To prep an elk heart, or that of any game animal, simply trim away all the thick fat from the top and outside of the heart. If you aren’t stuffing, you can open the heart up flat to make removing the tough inner fibers easier. If you want to leave it whole for stuffing, like this recipe, just use a sharp fillet knife to remove the inner chambers and all the fibrous connective tissue around them, leaving the heart shaped like an empty pocket.
1 well-trimmed elk heart (works for moose or large deer as well)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Traeger Big Game Rub
8 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled
8 ounces shiitake, button, or oyster mushrooms, chopped
8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
4 ounces Italian breadcrumbs
4 ounces parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon each salt and cracked black pepper
Make the stuffing. In a large skillet, brown the sausage and sliced mushrooms over medium heat. Once the sausage is just about cooked through and the mushrooms have softened and released their moisture, add the spinach, then stir well. Cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cheese and remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Add the stuffing mixture to the heart, using a spoon to pack it in tightly.
Combine the soy, Worcestershire, and honey. Brush the mixture over the outer surface of the heart. Coat the meat well with Traeger Big Game Rub.
Place the heart directly on the grill grate and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the thickest part of the meat (not the stuffing) registers 135 on a digital meat thermometer. Allow the heart to rest, covered loosely with foil, for 10 minutes, then slice into pinwheels with a sharp knife.
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