Despite what critics say, domestic rabbit meat does not taste gamey or wild. In fact, it’s delicate and pearly white, with very little fat to speak of. When compared to chicken, rabbit meat is chewier, with a finer grain, so just a little fills you up.
It’s lower in calories and has more protein than any of the standard-fare meats (795 calories per pound for rabbit, versus 810 for chicken, 1,190 for turkey, 1,440 for beef, and 2,050 for pork). At just more than 10 percent fat (compared to 11 percent for chicken, 22 percent for turkey, 28 percent for beef, and 45 percent for pork), rabbit can be cooked similarly to chicken, but it benefits from added fat — such as olive oil or bacon — to keep the meat moist. Like other lean meats, rabbit cooks to irresistible tenderness when prepared “low and slow,” i.e. slowly over low heat, as in braising.
Cooked rabbit is extremely popular in Canadian, French and other European cuisines because of the animal’s small size. It’s a common backyard meat source, like chicken, and it’s easy to trap wild.
Domestic rabbit will always be best when sourced locally from a sustainable and humane farm. Use Local Harvest to find rabbit meat for sale in your area. If you find that no one locally is raising it, look in the freezer section of your supermarket. A national brand — Pel-Freez — sells fryer-broilers; I also found a plain-wrap version in my local market. The cost was around $15 for a whole, frozen rabbit.
If you obtained a frozen rabbit, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator (a whole rabbit will take 12 to 16 hours; pieces will take 4 to 9 hours). If you don’t have that kind of time, place the frozen rabbit in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. Rinse it under cold water and pat dry.
Familiarize yourself with how to cut up the carcass; the usual cutting pattern involves the two hind legs, the two front legs, the shoulders, and the saddle, split in two. Sharp kitchen shears or a meat cleaver work perfectly for the job. Once you have the rabbit cut into sections, you’re ready to start cooking.
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