Roasted Big Game and Vegetables

Grilling Indirect: al Fresco with Pesto

The pesto is from Tender is the Wild, the cooking method from Slice of the Wild: both available at


If you’ve never roasted big game, or cooked indirectly on your grill, there are a couple of tricks.  Let’s start with the grill.  To cook indirectly, you put the fire on one end of the grill, the roast on the other.  Or split the fire and put the roast in the middle.  You’ll need a covered grill that produces even temperatures whether you’re using propane, briquettes, or wood.  Indirect grilling is all about using the heat, but not letting the fire turn the bottom ½” of the roast into shoe leather.

The second thing with dry-roasting any meat but particularly big game because it has less fat, so less room to make mistakes, is that it’s not the weight that determines cooking time. It’s the thickness. The height, if you will.  So, stuck in the jar of useful tools—like measuring spoons and meat thermometers, is a cheap plastic ruler.  Once the roast is in the pan, I stand that ruler up ‘behind’ it and get my eyes down to ruler level.  Typically, a whitetail backstrap is about 2 inches tall, and takes about 35 minutes at 450F to reach 120F (rare). I always set

The timer for less time than I think a roast will take, then stick a meat thermometer in it: once it reaches 100F, internal temp, it only takes 1 minute to rise 2 degrees.  So it gallops.  Wild (big) game meat should not be dry-roasted past medium; if you can’t stand any pink, don’t dry-roast.  Save that wild meat for a moist, slow-cooked pot roast.

Indirect Pesto al Fresco Roast

Serves 6-8



  • 2 pound rump roast, or tenderloin/backstrap
  • 2 cups packed* fresh basil leaves
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste

*Packed: press the basil leaves into the cup, but don’t pile them on so they’re mounded over the rim of the measuring cup.  Level, but packed will give you the right amount.

Preparation: The Pesto

1.  De-stem, rinse and dry the basil leaves, then measure them.  Pulse the garlic and pecans in a food processor once or twice, then add the basil leaves and pulse 2 or 3 times more, just until pretty coarsely chopped.  Add the oil and pulse again until well mixed–but not soupy.  You want it to look chopped.

2.  Transfer the basil mixture to a medium sized bowl, add the grated Parmesan and pepper and stir it up well.  Taste it, then add the salt, slowly.  (Parmesan tends to be salty, and different Parmesans are different in saltiness.)


1.  Preheat the grill to 450˚.  Trim and dry the roast, patting it with paper toweling, then wrapped in the toweling for a few minutes while the grill heats up.

2.   Cut two long slits the length of the top of the roast, about 1 inch from the ends and 2/3 of the way through the roast’s thickness. Do not cut completely through the roast or you’ll lose all the flavor.  Fill these two slits with pesto, then rub another tablespoon or two of pesto into the top of the roast.   (Don’t double-dip; you’ll want the rest of the pesto to serve at the table.)

3.   Before starting the roast, measure its height by standing a ruler behind it.   A 2-inch tall roast will take about 25 to 35 minutes at 450˚ for rosy rare (125˚F on the meat thermometer).   Allow about 1/2 minute for each degree higher you want; about 130˚F for medium rare, 140˚F for slightly pink medium.  Remove the roast from the heat 5 to 7˚F below your ideal finish to allow for counter rise.

4.  To serve: bring the roast to the table hot, or chill and serve with your favorite potato salad or a quickly cooked peas and carrots combo as we did last week.

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