Rabbit Barbecue

fresh rabbit

fresh rabbit

May 14th, 2013

At the Farmers’ Market on Sunday, I was delighted when the farmer gave me two wild rabbits. With the new season of spring vegetables coming up, rabbits are a real pest – they can have 3 – 12 babies every 2 or 3 months. It’s estimated that the population of rabbits in the the UK is in excess of 40 million. They are quite lean and eat vegetables – they taste good and we should eat more of them!

Rabbit is not an indigenous British species, it’s thought that they were brought here by the Romans or Normans, to farm for meat and fur. Rabbit meat has gone out of fashion, it’s not currently very popular in England and the majority of animals in shops come from France, where it it farmed (according to a recent Sunday Times article, farmed rabbit conditions can be worse than that of battery chicken).

grilled rabbit

grilled rabbit

For a change I decided to grill a whole rabbit on the barbecue. Since wild rabbits are lean they need to be cooked very quickly or very slowly or they meat will be tough. I don’t think that rabbit should be served medium rare (though I’d welcome an informed opinion on the subject), so in order to barbecue it until the juices run clear, the heat from the charcoal should be gentle. If I’d had a larger barbecue I’d have spread the hot coals around the body, providing indirect heat, as per roasting a whole pig. As that wasn’t possible I built a modest pile of charcoal and when it went white I spread it out evenly.

barbecue workout

barbecue workout

Drizzle some fresh lemon juice onto the rabbit to keep it moist and sprinkle on some salt, pepper and thyme. Grill slowly on a low heat for 30 – 60 minutes (until the juices run clear), basting occasionally. Serve with fresh Allioli (see my recipe here), salad and Patatas Bravas.

The rabbit turned out very tender – the saddle had the texture of chicken breast. I drank a glass or two of Marques de Altillo Rioja, which went perfectly with the garlic in the allioli and the heat in the salsa brava.

Other Rabbit posts

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52 Responses to Rabbit Barbecue

  1. Good spread-eagled pose! I still don’t understand why rabbit isn’t more favoured – it’s one of the best wild meats, you are right we need to eat more. I was on the Isle of May last week and I think the entire Scottish population was on the island – must be a real bun fight for burrows as the puffins arrive. I’m hoping now the goose season has closed, my friend will start supplying me with rabbits soon. If not, I need to make time to get out and get my own. BTW you are correct about farmed rabbit conditions, they are disgusting, wouldn’t eat them. Thanks.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks! I think people see rabbits as pets in this country and going back to the war it was one of the few meats people could get and maybe they got tired of it. I’m sure myxomatosis was also a very off putting factor.
      I was quite surprised and disgusted reading about farmed rabbit conditions, but at the end of the day, when there are millions of wild rabbits out there, eating fresh vegetables, who needs farmed.

  2. Conor Bofin says:

    I’ll add my voice to the cry of ‘avoid farmed rabbit’. There are plenty in the wild that are healthier and therefore better to eat. Healthier, that is until they end up on MDs barbecue. Looks delicious.

  3. ChgoJohn says:

    I’ve had rabbit plenty of times, MD, but this is the first I’ve seen it barbecued. You really know your stuff if you can grill a rabbit, as lean as they are, and it’s moist when served. Well done!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks John. I was very careful to build a small fire and cook it very slowly (no flames), with liberal applications of olive oil and lemon juice 😉

  4. Eha says:

    Big thanks for this way of cooking! I happen to love rabbit and it is truly underrated and ‘disliked’ by most in this country also. Had never thought of butterflying and barbecuing – having a flat electric grilling plate forever in use on my kitchen counter will do the job beautifully and thanks alo for the ‘slow method’ to retain moistness in a rather dry meat 😀 !

    • Mad Dog says:

      That should work well. I’ve had half a rabbit in Spain cooked that way and also whole rabbit cooked on a rotisserie. Both were very good 🙂

  5. Michelle says:

    I like rabbit very much. And bravo to you for grilling it without making it too dry! We’ve been looking for our rabbit lady at one of the farmers’ markets we frequent (I believe her to be a humane producer), but, alas, she’s seldom there anymore. I think the restaurants buy them all up, leaving nothing for us regular folks. I’d set my dad, The Great Hunter, on the wild ones, but we don’t have many on our land. I’ve read that the horrible fescue grass that predominates here causes rabbits to miscarry.

    • Mad Dog says:

      There’s some irony in that. Half the world is swimming in rabbits and people don’t want them. You on the other hand do, but you can’t get hold of them. I wonder if you could organise a swap meet and exchange venison for rabbit 😉

  6. Another great BBQ post MD. Very good points on the food provenance of rabbit meat too.

  7. Very, very good. I’d love to do that, but it would result in my wife spread eagling me over a bed of similarly hot coals.

  8. Fantástica idea MD! Ya sabes que aquí en España sí que comemos conejo con frecuencia, pero sobretodo en guisos, pero esta es una fórmula genial para cuando llegue el buen tiempo, si es que llega… 😉

  9. Tessa says:

    I like the idea of grilling rabbit Unfortunately, I’ve never seen rabbit sold in stores or at farmer’s markets here in Oregon. It’s been years since I’ve prepared rabbit. The only way to get that ingredient is to raise rabbits yourself or know someone who does…

  10. cecilia says:

    My grandparents ate a lot of rabbit, rabbit stew is awful, just for the record, too many little bones! I am sure your method is much tastier! c

    • Mad Dog says:

      I hate rabbit bones too, so when I make a stew, I cook the rabbit to make a stock and then remove all the meat from the bones and put it back in the stock 😉

  11. I agree that rabbit needs to be cooked really quickly or really slowly (a little like calamares!). Seeing Celi’s/your comment above reminded me of a great Rick Stein recipe I’ve done a few times for (I think) a Greek style rabbit stew which involves sweetness (prunes I think) and cinnamon – it sounds weird but it really is so good!

  12. Karen says:

    I almost bought a dressed and frozen rabbit over the weekend but then I looked at the price…it was $34.00. I instantly put it back. 🙂

    • Mad Dog says:

      Unbelievable! I’m sure you could buy some caviar or foie gras for $34. I was lucky to be given 2 wild fresh dressed rabbits by my vegetable farmer, but I can buy them from one of the other stalls at the farmer’s market for £3.50 or 2 for £6 😉

      • Karen says:

        Yes, as much as I would have loved cooking the rabbit there is no way I would pay $34.00. Now if we were talking about caviar, foie gras or truffles…that would be a different story. 🙂

        • Mad Dog says:

          I find it hard to believe, but apparently rabbits are in decline in your region. I just looked it up, wondering about the high price:
          You can have some of ours – either the Romans or the Normans brought them to Britain and they are unstoppable. Stupidly, the British took them to Australia and the same thing has happened there!

          • Karen says:

            I think it is probably better that you keep the rabbits. I’ll just drool over your rabbit and wild bird dishes that you prepare and just pretend that we are sharing one of your delicious meals together.

          • Mad Dog says:

            I think you are right, though I bet there are thousands of rabbits running wild, way out west. I’m sure Cecilia has a few eating her vegetables!

  13. Funny, don’t the Aussie blame the Brits for their rabbit problem? A bit like “The French pox” or “The Asian flu”…it’s always someone else’s fault! Anyhoo, I LOVE rabbit, but am more familiar with rabbit stew (conejo guisado). It looks heavenly on your grill! I have a cousin who has pet rabbits and I am forever tormenting her with rabbit recipe suggestions.

  14. Our University of Victoria has a similar problem.. from students buying pet rabbits and “freeing” them on the last day of class. It seems they have overpopulated and a cull was announced with a great uproar. I’m wondering if these rabbits would be the same as a wild one though? Or inedible because of their domestic beginnings?

    • Mad Dog says:

      Domestic rabbits should be the same as farmed rabbit – lots more meat and very tasty. Those freed rabbits would have been eating good food and living a nice life too, so quite ethical to eat, unlike a lot of farmed ones that are kept badly.

  15. expatchef says:

    Nice! I never actually tried it BBQ, but only because I don’t have a backyard or terrace, you know here in Spain it is usually braised! Looks delicious, healthy and lovely!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Carla, it was very good. I’d never tried it barbecued whole before, but was given two so it was worth trying something new 🙂

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