QUICK SUMMARY ↬ Assuming that you got the squirrel meat legally, then YES, you can definitely eat a squirrel from your backyard. Hunters love them for their meat because it provides some delicious table fare. But there’s always a risk eating them.
There’s been a surge of people taking an interest in squirrel meat recently—including you. It turns out squirrels can be made into a delicious and nutritious meal sufficient to feed a full-grown human. But can you eat squirrels from your backyard without any risks? Let’s see.
The legality of hunting squirrels
Squirrels are game animals. Yes, you can hunt them by either shooting or trapping them. But only during hunting or open season and you need to have a permit.
If you hunt other games, there’s no need to get into the details of the legalities of getting a hunting permit.
Check with your state DNR what kind of squirrels you can hunt and eat. In most states, only the red and gray squirrels can be hunted.
The greys are the most-hunted type of squirrel as they can be found everywhere in the United States. In most cases, they can be found on trees trying to get eggs from bird’s nests.
A squirrel’s meat is called squirrel meat or just squirrel. There’s no fancy name for it compared to cow and its meat which is called—you guessed it—beef.
Is squirrel safe to eat?
If you’re someone curious if you can eat squirrels from your backyard, understand that there’s always a risk in eating squirrels—or any meat for that matter.
You might get sick due to it being contaminated with bacteria during the butchering process or during the storage before cooking it.
Minimize the risks of having bacteria by wearing gloves when skinning and getting it on ice as quickly as possible.
Check out this step-by-step guide to skinning a squirrel.
If you’re hunting for meat, another recommendation is to not hunt squirrels during summer. The hot summer weather makes squirrels great hosts for fleas, mites, lice, and ticks.
To avoid the meat being contaminated with parasites and bugs, it is then best to hunt squirrels during winter. The cold weather won’t allow parasites to breed on squirrels’ corpses.
(Possible) diseases from eating squirrel
It’s definitely possible that you get sick from eating squirrels. That’s unfortunate but that’s true for any game animal as well. Even if you did your best in making sure that the meat is clean and well-prepared, there are still concerns that squirrels—which are a family of rodents—can transmit diseases either directly or indirectly.
Possible diseases from eating squirrels are Salmonella and Tularemia. And yes, you may also get worms from eating squirrels.
Some squirrels also may carry the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a.k.a mad-cow disease) which can zombify a person by eating holes into the brain.
Then there’s this rare fatal brain disorder that resulted in eating too much squirrel meat. Such is the case of a Rochester man who developed severe memory loss after eating a squirrel infected with prion disease.
In 1997 the New York Times published an article titled, “Kentucky Doctors Warn Against a Regional Dish: Squirrels’ Brains.”
What parts of a squirrel can you eat?
With doctors saying that some squirrels could be carrying the prion disease, it’s best to avoid eating squirrel’s brain, heart, or liver. And you should definitely not eat a squirrel raw.
Stick to eating squirrel’s lean meat. Avoid any of its spinal fluids (including blood) and cut out the glands in the squirrel’s limbs as well.
If you’re not an expert and would want squirrel meat without any risk of contracting disease, try a reputable restaurant that specializes in this delicacy.
The taste of the meat
Many hunters consider squirrel meat the best in the woods. Sweet and nutty, a squirrel is a highly sustainable and delicious meat that many would like to see on more plates. Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver are fans, and you can now regularly see squirrels in a growing number of restaurants.
Others describe it as a subtler version of a rabbit but if you don’t know what a rabbit tastes like, it’s more comparable to turkey than the ubiquitous chicken.
The meat is sweet, light in color, and finely textured which is ideal for casseroling or slow cooking and deep-frying.
Yes, slow cooking and deep-frying are the 2 favorite ways to cook squirrel.
Slow cooking is our favorite way of cooking squirrel. Brown the meat before transferring it to a casserole dish with vegetables (celery, carrots, and onion), stock, wine, and/or tomatoes.
Cook in a gentle oven for 4 to 8 hours until tender.
You can also braise the squirrel in milk and make a delicious sauce from the liquid. The acids will tenderize the meat and make it practically melt in your mouth.
This method is an old stand-by that makes an excellent tailgating dish instead of the plain-old chicken wings. You can make a batter using buttermilk, which will also make it tender. Add flour and your choice of spaces with salt and pepper.
We also suggest adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture. That will help the pieces crisp up faster and absorb less of the fat. You may find it helpful to put the coated pieces in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to help the batter adhere to the meat.
Heat a heavy-weighted skillet with neutral oil or shortening to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry a few pieces at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan and lowering the temperature of the fat too much. They should only take a few minutes on each side to get a lovely golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
Another variation on this theme is beer-battered squirrel tenders. Let the cut-up meat marinate overnight in beer with a splash of orange juice. Drain and roll the pieces in a mixture of panko bread crumbs, flour, and spices before deep-frying them in oil.
What to eat together with a squirrel?
Squirrel is an adaptable ingredient that can be enjoyed with a wide range of flavors. Unsurprisingly, it goes particularly well with nuts and berries but it also holds its own in big bold tomato sauces or creamy dishes.
Because squirrels are small, they don’t really have a ton of meat. Unless you’ve shot and skinned a lot of squirrels, we don’t recommend making the squirrel the main focus of your meal.
In this section of the article, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite side dishes to serve with your prepared squirrel meat!
Biscuits and Gravy
Okay, this is probably THE BEST way to eat fried squirrel. Because the squirrel is so small, the biscuits and gravy make for a filling addition to your fried squirrel meal. This is a superb woodsy breakfast meal, but is also a great dinner idea, too, especially when paired with fried eggs and orange juice!
Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes
Treat your cooked squirrel-like chicken fried chicken (or steak) and pair it with a hearty side of homemade mashed potatoes and green beans for a southern traditional meal that you don’t want to miss.
Put the Squirrel Meat in Stew
So, putting squirrel meat in stew isn’t necessarily a side dish, but it’s a filling, wholesome, and tasty option to consider. For example, you can substitute the chicken in your family chicken and dumplings recipe with squirrel, add squirrel to a veggie soup, put squirrel in gumbo, make a stew out of corn, potatoes, and squirrel, or make a warm squirrel chili for cold winter nights.
Garlicky Oven-Baked Potatoes and Carrots
You can’t go wrong with oven-baked ANYTHING and especially not with garlicky oven-baked potatoes and carrots. You can try making a sheet pan dinner and bake the squirrel and veggies together, or cook the squirrel and veggies separately and use the potatoes and carrots as a filling side dish.
If you need squirrel recipes, Practical Self Reliance has gathered 40+ of the most mouth-watering squirrel recipes we’ve ever seen! So be sure to check them out for more ideas.
A lot of people think that eating squirrels may not be a good idea. They think of a post-apocalyptic world where you have to eat anything to survive.
But some—even chefs—believe that squirrel meat may be the future of sustainable meat-eating. It’s no surprise that you can now find these fluffy critters on many restaurant menus.
Can you eat squirrels from your backyard? A big YES.
With careful preparation, squirrel meat can definitely provide some delicious table fare during special occasions.
To prevent the risk of getting sick from eating squirrels, hunt them during the winter season and avoid eating their brain, heart, liver, and other body fluids.
Don’t forget to follow safe cooking practices in the kitchen as well.