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How to Clean and Cook Rabbits

Updated on December 5, 2010

Harvesting and Cleaning Rabbits for the Table

This page provides information about harvesting, cleaning and preparing rabbits for the table. Also included are tips on storing, cooking and serving rabbit meat.

Please be advised that this page contains graphic images and content. If you find this subject offensive, please exit this page now.

In North America, rabbits are available from a variety of sources. Throughout Canada, the USA and Mexico, hunters harvest species of wild rabbits for sport and as table fare.

In addition to wild rabbits, farmers, homesteaders, and ranchers grow domesticated rabbits for food. Rabbits are easy to grow and provide lean, delicious meat for consumption.

Part I - Removing The Skin

Removing the skin from a rabbit carcass is an important step in the process. Some people find the process easier if the carcass is hung up in a work area, while others prefer to work on a bench.

With either method, skinning starts by carefully making a slit along the underside from pelvic region upward towards the head. Next cuts are made laterally along the inside of each leg, working towards the foot.

Working from the belly area, carefully peel the skin outward and off each leg. Cut the skin free at each foot, the tail, and around the sexual organs and anus. Pull the skin upward to the head, freeing it entirely from the body. At this point, the head can be removed with the skin attached.

During the entire process, extreme care should be taken to avoid getting hair, dirt, urine or feces on the meat. If possible, have a helper handle disposal of waste items and clean the work area between tasks.


Part II - Processing the Carcass

After the carcass has been skinned and the head removed, use a meat cleaver to remove the feet. Using a sharp knife, open the body cavity and cut from the top of the breast down to the crotch, cutting around the anus and sexual organs.

Next, reach up thru the body cavity and pull the esophagus and stomach, downward, being careful to avoid spilling any fluid. The entire digestive system, liver, heart and lungs should come out together. Continue removing the mass, being careful not to allow its contents to contaminate the meat. To finish, cut any remaining items away from the carcass, including the bladder and other organs.

Now, inspect the carcass and remove any remaining items such as the windpipe and kidneys. This is good time to clean up any rough cuts at the ends of the legs or neck. Separate out any meats that will be used such as the heart, kidneys or liver.

Now the carcass and organs are ready to be rinsed. Using clean, cold water, rinse the carcass thoroughly and lay aside for inspection. Finally, remove any hairs or other debris from the carcass.

At this point, the body may be stored intact or cut into pieces. To separate the meat, lay the body out on a clean cutting board. Cut each leg away at the upper joint. Small legs can remain together but for larger rabbits, the hind legs may need to be cut into 2 pieces.

After all the legs have been removed, the body should be cut just above the waist. The upper section can be split, leaving the ribs intact. If necessary, split the lower body as well.

After cutting up the meat, everything should be rinsed once again with cold water. Chill the meat immediately or for long term storage, freeze the meat. For freezing rabbit meat, vacuum bags provide a simple solution at a reasonable cost.

rabbit meat, cut and ready to cook
rabbit meat, cut and ready to cook

How to Cook Rabbit Meat

Once rabbit meat has been processed, it is ready to be cooked. In North America, a traditional rabbit dish is pan fried rabbit. This delicious recipe is easy to prepare. Rabbit meat is simply coated with flour or another breader and fried like chicken. Some fried rabbit recipes include an egg wash and adding spices to the coating before frying. Deep fryers also work well for fried rabbit.

Rabbit meat can also be baked, stewed or cooked in other ways. One popular way to cook the lesser parts is to cook them for several hours in a slow cooker. Next, the parts are removed and the meat stripped from the bone.

The meat is then diced and returned to the stock and simmered with vegetables, herbs, spices and perhaps thickened with a rue mixture. The end result is a delicious rabbit stew.

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