Buffalo meat is leaner than beef, and some cuts can be quite tough if cooked improperly. Overcooking steak and under cooking roasts leads to chewy meat. If you cook buffalo — technically bison — properly and it still comes out tough, switch to marinating and pounding out the meat to increase its tenderness.

Typically tender cuts of buffalo, such as tenderloin or strip steaks, are best cooked medium rare to medium, or a temperature of 135 to 155 F. Sear the steaks in a hot skillet, then reduce the heat to medium low and finish cooking them to the desired level of doneness. Note that buffalo cooks more quickly than beef, so keep your attention on it. Medium-well and well-done buffalo steaks will most likely be tough, no matter what you do.

Roasts and chuck benefit from braising and stewing for hours over low heat. These cooking methods break down the connective tissue that makes them tough and chewy. If you try to quick-cook a roast, you’re sure to end up with a tough bite of buffalo.

Tips

Ground buffalo is naturally tender and should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F.

Marinate flank steak or chuck steak overnight or for several hours before cooking to help tenderize the meat. Citrus juice, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar are examples of flavors that meld well with buffalo and contain acid that break down connective tissues.

  • Combine the acidic ingredient with an equal amount of vegetable oil and seasonings, such as dried thyme, fresh rosemary, minced garlic, chili powder or cumin. 
  • Ginger is another ingredient that can help tenderize buffalo; use it in a marinade with Asian flavors including soy sauce and garlic. 

Mechanically tenderize buffalo with a hand-held mallet or a device called a jaccard, which pokes multiple tiny holes in the meat at one time. The pounding action of mechanical tenderizing physically breaks down the connective tissue and some of the muscle fibers that make up the meat, as well. This process is best when you want thin steaks for a preparation like chicken-fried steak, but isn’t optimal for high-quality tenderloin or ribeye cuts. Punching the meat can make it mushy and not palatable.