What Does Elk Taste Like? A Detailed Answer

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There may have been times when you have heard of people enjoying different types of gamey meat. Are you curious and wondering, ‘what does elk taste like?’ Then, you have stumbled upon the right article. This article has a definitive guide on the flavor of elk, along with a lot of other information.


The flavor of elk meat varies depending on the diet of the elk. Generally, elk feeds on the grass along with tree barks. This, combined with their constant grazing and moving, results in meat that is extremely rich and flavorful.

The flavor of elk meat is quite close to that of the beef. However, it is leaner in comparison to beef and can be more tender if prepared properly. People fond of the flavor of meat, in general, do highly prefer elk meat. Elk meat is flavorful, low in fat, and high in protein.

This is one of the reasons why people trying to add protein to their daily diet consider eating elk. Although gamey meats like elk don’t sound appetizing to everyone, there has been a high amount of increase in their overall consumption, even among people who live in cities. 

However, trying a new type of meat, especially something that is supposed to be wild, can be tricky. As meat does have a lot of flavor of its own, the same is with elk meat. Despite the addition of flavors, you can still get the natural flavor of the meat.

So, if you are wondering whether you will like the flavor of elk or not, it is best to know about the taste beforehand. Knowing the flavor of elk meat before trying it will make you understand what to expect out of it. So, without further ado, let me tell you all about elk meat. 

What Is An Elk?

I guess, many of you may already know what an elk is. But, there might be a lot of people reading this that don’t really come from a place where they see a lot of elks.

So, to make it easier for everyone, let me give you some detailed information about elk. I will also share some details about what the meat of elk is like. 

Elks are one of the largest species belonging to the deer family. They are considered to be one the largest terrestrial mammals in their native area. Most elks can be found in the colder climates of North America.

However, elks are also present in Central and East Asia. Quite often confused with moose, they both belong to the same family but are different species. Elk meat is quite often harvested and very common amongst hunters.

It is considered to be one of the sweetest types of gamey meats. It is less gamey than venison meat and more tender as compared to moose meat. In the past, most elk meats were eaten after hunting them.

However now, elks are farmed and raised, especially for their deliciously tender and popular meat. An average elk is really large in size and yields an average of 170-220 lbs. of lean, boneless meat, depending on the gender of the elk. 

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What Does Elk Meat Taste Like?

Elk, being a gamey meat, is often categorized to have the same flavor as other types of gamey meats, such as venison or moose. However, the flavor of elk is actually quite different from that of any of these meats.

Claimed to be one of the sweetest tasting gamey meats, those who have eaten elk never seem to go back from it. The combination of the texture and flavors present in elk meat gives a very different experience and mouthfeel. 

Most people who have eaten elk meat claim for it to have a flavor similar to that of deer and beef meat. Well, it would not really be a surprise for elk meat to taste like deer meat, considering that they belong to the same family!

However, compared to beef, elk meat is much leaner and can be tender, too, based on whether it is cooked properly or not. It does not have a very strong gamey flavor like other gamey meats do. In fact, it is sweeter in flavor compared to many types of gamey meats.

Even with farm-raised elks, their meat is really lean and low in fat. For this reason, to add a fatty flavor element to elk, a lot of chefs and home cooks prefer mixing the elk meat with fatty meat like beef or pork, especially for elk burgers. 

Although the texture of elk meat is generally quite lean and tender, this highly depends on how much the elk is cooked. If overcooked, the meat can turn very chewy.

For this reason, most people prefer cooking elk only to a rare or maximum medium-rare stage. This helps retain some of the moisture in the meat and gives it a more juicy and tender flavor and texture. 

Does Elk Meat Taste Gamey?

Elk, even though now also farm-raised, is considered to be gamey meat. That’s because it was hunted and eaten years ago. With gamey meat, they do have a specific flavor that is not really found in farm-raised meat.

This flavor itself is referred to as gamey and is a strong meaty taste that may also be slightly sour. However, previously it was mentioned that elk is really tender. So, does it really have a gamey flavor? 

The best examples of a gamey flavor in meat include meats like wild deer, bison, rabbits, and moose. However, compared to these meats, elk has a much sweeter and subtle flavor. Wild harvested elk can have a slightly gamey flavor.

However, this flavor is nothing compared to the taste of other such meats. The overall taste, especially of farm-raised elk, which is more popular, is much more subtle and sweeter and does not have a gamey flavor. 

Does Elk Meat Taste Wild?

There is not really a definition of a wild flavor. Most of us, when we talk about a wild flavor, we are associating it with a gamey flavor. However, some may expect the taste of elk meat to be wild and gamey, considering how people also eat wild elk. 

But, elk meat, whether farm-raised or wild, is sweeter in comparison to any other sort of wild meat. Wild elk can carry a slight iron-like and sour taste, similar to other wild meats.

So, all in all, the flavor of elk is very subtle. So, it can be said that elk meat does not really taste wild. 

Is Elk Meat Salty?

Some types of meat have a lingering salty taste attached to them. Of course, a lot of meats and meat cuts are salt-cured, which adds to the salty flavor. However, some types of meats do carry a natural salty flavor.

Unfortunately, most people, when they think of any sort of gamey meat, expect it to have a somewhat salty flavor. But, this is not necessarily true for elk meat. 

Elk meat actually has a very low sodium content. For this reason, the meat does not really taste salty and is more on the sweeter side.

Both wild and farm-raised elk meats are tender and slightly sweet. The only way elk meat can taste really salty is if it’s highly seasoned with salt. 

What Does Elk Burger Taste Like?

Elk burgers are considered to be a delicacy amongst many. In fact, people who have tried various dishes of elk end up preferring elk burgers over the classic beef or pork burgers.

The flavor combination of the tender meat with light seasonings and flavorings works exceptionally well. However, that is just an overview of the flavor.

To make a good-tasting burger, some amount of fat is required to give it a smooth mouthfeel. Elk meat is really lean and has a really low-fat content. So, to make up for that, most people prefer adding some amount of pork or beef meat to elk meat, just to give it a fatty flavor and smoother texture.

The combination of fatty meat with lean elk meat creates a perfect balance of flavors. Over that, once lightly seasoned, elk burgers have a hearty taste that gives you a tender sweet, and fatty flavor. 

What Does Ground Elk Taste Like?

Elk meat is usually ground to make elk burgers. Just like there is ground beef, ground elk is also a popular choice for those who do eat it. When cooked as it is without the addition of other fatty meats, the flavor of ground elk is quite similar to what you would expect out of an elk steak. 

The associated flavors in these smooth tender bites are sweet. Some may say it tastes like a slightly sweeter version of ground beef. However, if there is an addition of pork or beef meat to the concoction, ground elk will have a slightly sharper flavor and a fattier texture. 

What Does Farm Raised Elk Taste Like?

As I had mentioned earlier, elk meat can be farm raised or even wild. Most people do prefer farm-raised elk meat over wild elk meat. The reason behind this is that a lot of people do prefer the farm-raised flavor over the wild elk flavor.

Although the base flavor you would expect out of elk would remain the same in either case, there are some minor differences. The flavor of farm-raised elk depends mainly on the diet of the elk. Elks usually graze and feed on grass.

This ends up giving them a slightly sweet flavor, along with tender meat. The flavor you would expect out of a farm-raised elk would be quite similar to the flavor of a farm-raised cow. 

What Does Wild Elk Taste Like?

Wild elk is also very popular, especially amongst those who like hunting. The flavor of a wild elk is also very similar to the standard sweet flavor that you would expect out of elk meat. But, as I had mentioned before, there are certain differences between the flavors of farm-raised and wild elk meat. 

Wild elk meat will also have a slightly sweet flavor with a tender texture. However, when compared to the flavor of farm-raised elk, the flavor of wild elk is much more robust.

The flavor of wild elk can be slightly sour and gamey, given the high iron content. However, it will still not be as gamey as some other types of meat like wild venison and moose meat. 

What Does Elk Steak Taste Like?

Elk steak is also a popular choice of steak. A lot of people, in fact, do prefer it over standard beef steaks. Elk steak has lower fat content than beef steak does. But still, many people who have eaten elk steak do compare the flavor of it with beef steak. So, what exactly is the flavor of elk steak like?

The people who say elk steak tastes similar to beef steak are not completely wrong. There are similarities between the two in terms of the meaty flavor. However, elk steak is generally a little sweeter and smoother as compared to beef steak.

Moreover, as elk steak has barely any fat content, it is quite integral to cook it just right. Most people prefer cooking their elk steak just to a rare or medium rare stage.

This retains moisture inside the steak and gives it a better mouthfeel. If overcooked, elk steak will taste extremely chewy and rubbery. 

What Does Elk Heart Taste Like?

As elk meat was usually hunted and eaten back in the day, hunters didn’t really want to waste any part of the meat. Hence, eating all the organs of the elk along with the meat was a very common practice.

When it comes to offal, the taste can be very subjective. The taste of offal is usually much sharper than muscle meat due to its higher iron content. So, with an elk heart, you can consider a slightly similar situation. 

Elk’s heart has a more robust and sharper taste as compared to elk meat. You do get a strong iron-like flavor from the heart, which can be almost gamey.

This is generally the flavor you would expect out of any sort of offal. However, if prepared properly, it can taste quite similar to meat. It is said that the more veins you cut out of the elk heart, the closer it tastes to a regular cut of elk meat. 

What Does Elk Liver Taste Like?

Elk’s liver is considered to be a nutritious part of the elk’s body. Much like any other animal’s liver, elk liver also has a lot of health benefits. So, while some people do refrain from eating liver altogether, there are people that actually love elk liver. 

The flavor of elk liver is a little robust and sharp, just like you would expect out of organ meat. However, there have also been claims that elk liver can has a milder and sweeter taste than other organ meats of the elk.

In case you do want to eat elk liver without a sharp taste, you can always cook it with flavorings that mask the flavor of elk liver. 

What Does Elk Sausage Taste Like?

With all non-vegetarians, sausages are a hero! Most of us like the flavor combinations present in a sausage, regardless of any type it may be. Elk sausages are also a common preparation for those who are regular eaters of elk meat. Let me tell you what exact flavors you can expect out of an elk sausage. 

Most elk sausages are made with a combination of elk and pork meat. As elk meat is really tender on its own, it does not give the fatty mouthfeel that you would expect out of a sausage.

The addition of pork meat makes the elk meat a little fattier and gives you a more palatable taste. The flavor is quite similar to that of a lean meat sausage or bratwurst, with an earthy flavor. 

What Does Elk Taste Like Compared To Other Meats?

The flavor of elk meat is quite often compared to the flavor of different types of meats. Some of these meats include beef, wild venison, and moose meat. Although the overall flavor of elk meat is considered to be sweeter than any of these meats, there are also some similarities. 

Likewise, there are also some major differences in the flavors of these meats that should not be overlooked. Below, I have given a comparison of the flavor of elk meat with various other types of close-tasting meats. 

1. Elk V/S Beef

People who have eaten elk and beef commonly compare the flavors of the two. This is actually quite true, especially with farm-raised elk meat. While eating ground elk or elk burgers, you can barely tell the difference between elk and beef meat.

However, while eating a steak, you can tell the difference as elk meat tends to have a more earthy flavor. Elk meat is also more tender as compared to beef meat, that gives a fattier flavor. 

2. Elk V/S Deer

Elk meat is also quite often compared with the flavor of deer meat. As they belong to the same family, there are certain similarities in their flavors.

However, with deer meat, the flavor is much gamier. It gives out a gamey and sour flavor of its own, which does not really get masked with flavorings. On the other hand, elk meat is milder and sweeter and takes up the flavors of added ingredients more easily. 

3. Elk V/S Moose

Moose also belong to the deer family, just like elk. They have a very similar diet too. This may make it seem like they both have a similar flavor. However, the flavors of the two are quite different.

Moose meat will taste much tougher and have a gamier flavor than elk meat. Elk meat will taste much leaner and more subtle in comparison. 

4. Elk V/S Bison

Bison meat is available in both farm-raised and wild forms. If you eat the meat of a farm-raised bison, it actually tastes almost the same as a farm-raised elk. However, in the case of a wild bison, the flavor will be gamier as compared to elk meat. 

Different Cuts Of Elk And Their Taste

Just like most types of meats have different cuts, the same is the situation with elk meat. The flavor of each cut varies from the other. This all depends on what part of the body the meat comes from and how well it is exercised.

The flavor and texture can vary largely based on these criteria. To give you a better idea of the different cuts of elk meat, I have given a detailed description of the flavor of the most popular cuts. 

1. Tenderloin

Tenderloin is one of the best cuts of any sort of meat, whether it is beef or elk. It is also one of the most popular cuts of elk meat. The flavor is naturally a little sweet, with a tender and lean texture. 

2. Chops

Braised elk chops are a common preparation for many people that enjoy the flavor of elk. If cooked properly, elk chops have a sweet flavor with a perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. They are also milder in flavor compared to classic lamb chops. 

3. Ribs

Elk’s ribs have a slightly more gamey flavor compared to the rest of the body. They are also gamey compared to beef chops. If cooked properly, the meat will fall off the bone easily. 

4. Saddle

The saddle consists of back straps, rib racks, and half loins. All these three have a sweet flavor and tender texture. The flavor and texture of these three types of meats are actually quite similar to the flavor of the same counterparts in beef. 

5. Flank

The elk flank tends to have a little more fat compared to the rest of the body of the elk. It also has a little bolder gamey flavor. You can cook an elk flank the same way you would cook a beef flank. 

6. Offal

The offal is all the internal organs of the elk. This includes the heart, liver, and kidneys. Offal tends to have a more robust flavor than the overall meat itself. These flavors can be masked in case you do not like a strong meaty flavor. 

How To Tell If Elk Meat Is Fresh?

Wanting to use the freshest of ingredients is almost ingrained in all of us. Why wouldn’t it be, though? Because everyone wants to cook with ingredients that are at their peak freshness.

This is especially important when it comes to meat, as all of us know that spoiled meat can be lethal. It may not seem as easy as checking the freshness of chicken or beef, as elk can be new territory for many. 

But, there is no need to worry! There, in fact, are some easy ways through which you can tell if elk meat is fresh or not. The way to do this is by following three of our senses, namely sight, smell, and touch, and also checking the timing of when you got the elk. I have explained this further below. 

1. How The Elk Looks

The first way to check if your elk meat is fresh or not is by checking how it looks. Elk meat should be dark red in color, just a little darker than beef. If you see that the meat has started turning brown, there are high chances that it’s spoiled. Likewise, the meat should not have any cuts or bruises as that can cause a lot of bad bacterial growth.

2. How The Elk Smells

Raw and fresh elk meat is supposed to have a very neutral smell. It is easy to tell if fresh meat is spoiled or not by smelling it. The meat will start to have a putrid and revolting smell, probably similar to the smell of sewage if it’s spoiled.

In the case of frozen meat, it is best to thaw it first and then smell it. As soon as it starts to thaw, you will get a clearer idea of whether the meat is fresh or past its prime. 

3. What Elk Meat Feels Like

Touching the meat to check its freshness is another great way to judge the same. Fresh meat will always have a slightly wet and damp surface. However, in no way should the meat be slimy or slippery. If it does have that sort of a surface, the meat is probably already spoiled. 

4. Time Frame

In case you don’t use any of the above-mentioned methods, another way to judge elk meat’s freshness, is by judging it based on the time frame. Check when the meat was harvested and when you actually bought and stored it.

In general, by a rule of thumb, elk meat should stay fresh in the refrigerator for three days and in the freezer for three months. However, I still do believe that this way can sometimes be a bit misleading. So, it is always best to go by the senses mentioned above. 

How To Preserve Elk Meat?

Storing meat the correct way is really important. Storage plays an important role in the preservation of the flavor and freshness of meat. There are high chances that even fresh meat will go bad in a jiffy if it is not stored properly. Most of you may know how to preserve hardy meats such as beef. 

A very similar phenomenon actually applies to elk meat. Assuming that most people would buy fresh, farm-raised elk meat when they do buy it the first time, there are some easy steps that you can follow to preserve the flavor of elk meat. 

How To Preserve Raw Elk Meat:

1. In The Refrigerator

One of the easiest ways to store elk meat, especially if you plan to consume it soon after buying it, is to store it in the refrigerator. Firstly, dry the surface of the meat with a paper towel. Meanwhile, you can also cut out the fat, hair, and blood clots (if there are any) with a sharp filet knife. 

Once done, wrap the meat up tightly in wax paper, or better, vacuum pack it. Vacuum packing will preserve the flavor for a longer time. Make sure to use the meat within 2-3 days of storing it in the refrigerator. 

2. In The Freezer

Storing elk meat in the freezer is also a great way to preserve the meat for a longer time. In fact, storing it in the freezer will increase its shelf life to three months. To store elk meat in the freezer, follow the same procedure where you remove all the excess fat, hair, and skin lesions. 

Once removed, it is best to vacuum pack the meat as that will prevent freezer burn. However, you can also wrap it in parchment paper. Make sure you wrap the meat tightly to reduce the chance of freezer burn. Before using the meat, thaw it completely. Use it within three months of storing. 

How To Preserve Cooked Elk Meat:

  1. You can store the meat in the refrigerator or the freezer, depending on when you plan to eat it. However, it is still best and recommended to store it in the refrigerator and use it and consume it within two days of cooking. 
  2. In either case, store the meat in an airtight container. 
  3. Make sure your refrigerator or freezer is at its ideal temperature. 
  4. Keep cooked meat away from raw meat as that can contaminate both and can be lethal. 

How To Cook Elk Meat

Cooking with elk meat can largely depend on the cut of the meat and also what form of meat you are getting. There are different ways to cook different types of cuts.

In any case, it is very important not to overcook elk meat as that can make its texture really chewy and extremely unpleasant. Given below are some of the best ways to cook elk meat in different forms. 

  1. Elk Steak – Elk steaks are really popular due to their high nutritional value and tender flavor. While cooking elk steak, it is very important to cook it just to the right degree. Most people recommend not to cook elk steak beyond a rare or medium rare stage. Make sure the meat stays a little pink in the center, as that is the only way the juices will keep the meat tender. 
  2. Elk Burgers – With elk burgers, a very similar method has to be followed. As elk meat is really tender, using just elk in a burger might not give you that fatty mouthfeel that you would expect out of a burger. So, it is highly recommended to add some ground pork or beef to the mince, just to add flavor. Grill the meat on a cast iron skillet or a grill, just for a few minutes on each side. This will make sure that the meat does not overcook and stays juicy and tender. 
  3. Elk Chunks – Just like a steak, you can also cook chunks of elk meat. It is best to marinade the meat chunks with some acid, as that will tenderize the meat. You can cook the meat for a few minutes in a skillet to make sure it remains juicy and tender. These chunks can further be added to any dish of your choice, like pasta, lasagnas, rice, and even salads. 

Health Benefits Of Elk Meat

One of the reasons for the popularity of elk meat is how nutritious it is. It is a great source of protein and has very little fat in it. Moreover, it is also rich in various macro and micronutrients.

This is why many people prefer eating elk over standard red meat, such as beef. There are a lot of health benefits that you can get out of eating elk meat. Some of the best health benefits of eating elk meat are all given below. 

1. Good For The Heart

Elk meat, as mentioned earlier, is quite low in fat content. It also has a low cholesterol content. This makes elk meat great for the heart and overall cardiovascular health compared to highly fatty meats. 

2. Good For Maintaining A Healthy Weight

Elk meat, due to its low fat and high protein content, is favored by many who want to keep their weight under check. The high protein content makes you feel fuller for a longer time and is overall good for a healthy body. 

3. Good For Muscle Growth

Protein is an important nutrient that helps with muscle growth. Protein also, in general, helps keep muscles strong and healthy. Considering the protein in elk meat along with some vital nutrients, it is great for keeping muscles strong and toned. 

4. Good For The Immune System

Elk meat is a rich source of zinc, an important mineral to keep our immune system healthy. Zinc contains antioxidants that neutralize the effect of disease-causing cells, eventually promoting a good and healthy immune system. 

5. Helps Prevent Anemia

Anemia is mostly caused by a deficiency of iron and vitamin B12. Luckily, elk is a great source of both these nutrients. It reduces the chances of a deficiency and eventually prevents the risk of anemia. 

6. Strengthens Bones

Elk meat is a great source of L-methionine. L-methionine is an amino acid that helps keep the bones strong. This, in turn, reduces the chances of developing osteoporosis and fractures. Elk is also a good source of phosphorus, another nutrient that is quite vital for bone health. 

Nutritional Values Of Elk Meat

After reading about all the health benefits that elk meat can provide, many of you may have already considered adding elk meat to your diet. Elk is a great source of protein along with vitamin B12, iron, and various other nutrients.

But, how about I make this even better for you? Here, I have shared the nutritional values of elk meat. This will help you make up your mind as to whether to give elk meat a shot or not. 

NutrientAmount (Serving size 3 oz or 85 grams)
Calories164 kcal
Carbohydrates0 grams
Protein22.6 grams
Fat7.4 grams
Zinc37% of DV
Vitamin B1236% of DV
Phosphorous19% of DV
Vitamin B618% of DV
Iron16% of DV
Potassium9% of DV
Copper6% of DV
Magnesium5% of DV
Riboflavin16% of DV
Niacin23% of DV
Selenium11% of DV

(Note- Here, DV denotes Daily Value, and the percentage denotes the amount a nutrient can be a part of your daily recommended intake. )


Elk is an animal from the same family as deer. Elk meat is gamey meat as initially; it was mostly hunted and eaten. However, now there are elk farms that raise and harvest the meat of elk.

Elk meat, even though a type of gamey meat, actually has a sweeter flavor and is not as robust as other types of gamey meats. Elk meat also has a very tender texture, as it does not have too much fat.

For this reason, it is important to cook elk meat just to the right temperature, as overcooking the meat will make it chewy and unpalatable. Elk meat is a great source of protein and various other nutrients and can make a great addition to anyone’s diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is elk meat?

Elk meat is the meat harvested from elk, an animal belonging to the same family as deer. 

What does elk meat taste like?

Elk meat has a sweet taste with a very tender texture. 

Why is elk meat called gamey meat?

Previously, elks were eaten only after they were hunted. Any sort of meat that has been hunted and consumed is called gamey meat. 

Can elk only be hunted and eaten?

No, there are also elk farms that raise elks for their meat. 

How long do you cook elk steak for?

The recommended stage till which you can cook an elk steak is medium rare. This will keep the juices intact and keep the meat tender. 

What does overcooked elk meat taste like?

Over-cooked elk meat will have a very chewy texture.

Is elk meat healthy?

Yes, elk meat is very healthy as it is a good source of protein and other nutrients that are important for the body. 

Can you eat elk meat if you are trying to lose weight?

Yes, elk meat can be a good addition to your diet if you are trying to lose weight as it is high in protein and low in fat content. 

Is elk meat the same as venison?

No, venison is the name used for the meat of a deer.

Is elk meat healthier than beef?

Considering the lower calories and fat content in elk meat, it can be said that it is healthier than beef. 

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