Alligator Meat may a bit of a daunting culinary prospect for many people, given the alien and prehistoric appearance of these fearsome beasts. However, although they don’t actually taste like chicken, as often claimed for reptiles and other ‘exotics’, the taste and texture is familiar enough that those who like chicken, will usually like Alligator Meat as well.
Where does Alligator Meat come from?
Virtually all Alligator Meat available commercially is from the species known as the American Alligator. There is only one other species of Alligator, the Chinese Alligator, but it is a seriously endangered species and protected as such (although, even as recently as the late 20th Century, people were still consuming in the belief that it was dragon meat).
The range of the American Alligator in the wild is pretty much restricted to the American Gulf States, but they are found up the Atlantic seaboard as far as North Carolina occasionally. Some hunting is permitted in a few states, but most Alligator meat available for consumption is from farmed Alligators. The packaged product pictured above, for example, is farmed meat from Palmetto, in the state of Louisiana.
What does Alligator taste like?
Alligator Meat, as you can see in the above picture, has an appearance a bit like lean pork. Indeed, there is very little fat in Alligator flesh, and it is touted as a healthy meat choice, and an excellent source of protein. The texture can be a little bit fibrous, but not excessively, or unpleasantly so, and it is generally as tender as many sorts of wildfowl, including Pheasant.
As for the taste, the best way to describe it as being like a composite of chicken thigh meat and fish. It doesn’t have an overly fishy taste, as such, but the fishy notes are sufficiently noticeable, that you will generally be immediately aware that what you are eating did not come from a hen-house. I say ‘generally’ because I have actually had deep-fried Alligator that I might have accepted as chicken if I was told that that was what it was.
How do you use Alligator Meat in Recipes?
Well, really, you can use Alligator Meat in any situation where you might use Chicken or Pork. In particular, since the fat quotient is so low, the meat cooks very much in the same way as Chicken Breast or Pork Loin, and would work well in any recipe calling for either of those meats.
In the above picture, I have prepared skewers of Alligator Yakitori style by grilling it with scallion and a Teriyaki sauce baste.
The first time I ate Alligator was from a road-side stand in Florida some 25 years ago, where it was served fried in a light batter rather like the sort in most Fish and Chip recipes. Since then, I have cooked it myself in a variety of different ways, but the only way I have had it served to me in restaurants since the Florida experience, has been as a deep-fried snack featuring nuggets breaded and seasoned ‘Cajun-style’. The dish you see above is seasoned in somewhat the same fashion and is a creation of my own I call ‘Spicy Fried Alligator Bites’.