The Easiest Way to Cook Rabbit (Shredded Rabbit Recipe)

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For centuries, rabbit was a mainstay in the European and American diet. It fell by the wayside in the mid-20th century...perhaps because after rationing during World War II, there was a big push to get beef, pork, and chicken back into our now-unrestricted diets. (Rabbit had been one of the easiest-to-obtain meats during the war.) Today, there is a resurgence in interest in both eating rabbit and raising rabbits at home for food. Trouble is, very few people have ever tasted rabbit, let alone cooked it. Two common questions I receive are "What does rabbit taste like?" and "How do you cook rabbit?"

What Does Rabbit Taste Like?

"It tastes like chicken," is a common trope about any unfamiliar meat, but in the case of rabbit, it's pretty apt. Some people literally cannot tell the difference between rabbit and chicken. Others can taste a difference, but conclude that rabbit is "like the very best chicken you've ever had." To my family, rabbit has a "cleaner" and slightly more complex flavor than chicken. And unlike chicken, rabbit has only white meat.

Also note that domestic rabbit tastes different from the wild rabbits found in North America, for a couple of reasons: 

#1, they are a different species! Domestic rabbits (also known as European wild rabbits) are Oryctolagus cuniculus. Cottontails are the only wild rabbits in the New World and are in the genus Sylvilagus. (Hares are in the genus Lepus.) 

#2, rabbit meat flavor depends, in some part, on what the animal eats. Wild rabbits generally have quite a different diet from domestic rabbits and their flavor may even change depending upon the time of year they are hunted.

Prepping Rabbit Meat

If you purchase rabbit from a butcher's shop, grocery store, or farmer's market, the proper preparation of the meat has already been done for you. But if you are preparing your own freshly butchered meat, it's important to know what to do once the rabbit is dispatched and cleaned. Without this vital step, you can end up with very tough food.

After cleaning a rabbit, you may either immediately cook it or you may let it rest before cooking. All animals go into rigor mortis after death; this process includes the tightening of muscles. If you eat an animal that's in rigor, the meat will be very tough and difficult to chew. But by letting the carcass rest, it will pass through rigor mortis - and natural enzymes in the meat will make it much more edible.

There are several ways to rest rabbit, but the two most common are as follows:

1. Place a whole, cleaned rabbit in a pot with a lid in the refrigerator. This method results in the red rabbit meat often seen in Europe. For better air flow around all parts of the meat, place a rack in the bottom of the pot.

2. Place a whole, cleaned rabbit in a container of ice water (which is usually salted). This is the method I use; I like that the salt also helps draw out any blood that might still be in the meat. Just be sure you keep adding ice as it melts.

How long should you rest the rabbit? In my experience, at least 2 days. (Personally, I feel 3 days is best.) After resting, you may either cook the rabbit or freeze it.

The Easiest Way to Cook Rabbit

If you're new to rabbit, in my opinion the best way to prepare the unfamiliar meat is to cook it, then shred it and use it as a chicken replacement in your favorite shredded chicken recipes.

To Shred Rabbit in an Instant Pot:

1. Pour 1 cup of chicken or rabbit broth/stock into an Instant Pot, then add a whole rabbit.

2. Secure the lid in place. Cook on Manual for 45 minutes. 

3. Quick release the steam and carefully transfer the rabbit to a rimmed baking sheet or baking pan, using slotted spatulas or spoons. Allow to cool until you can easily touch the rabbit without burning your hands.

4. Using your hands, remove the meat from the carcass, pulling it into smaller pieces that resemble shredded chicken.

To Shred Rabbit in a Crock Pot or Slow Cooker:

1. Place a whole rabbit in the crock pot and cover with 1 1/2 cup of chicken or rabbit broth/stock. 

2. Cook until meat is falling off the bones. If you cook on high, that will be around 2 to 3 hours; if you cook on low, it can be up to 6 hours. 

3. Using a pair of slotted spatulas or spoons, carefully remove the rabbit from the crock pot and allow to cool. Then follow step 4, above.

To Shred Rabbit on the Stove Top:

1. Place a whole rabbit in a large pot and cover it with water or stock/broth.

2. Bring the pot to a simmer and keep it just barely simmering for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone easily. Do not boil or the meat will be dry and tough.

3. Carefully remove the rabbit from the pot, allow to cool, and follow step 4, above.

IN ALL CASES:  Store the leftover broth in a glass jar in the refrigerator and use it in place of chicken stock; you may also freeze the broth. Keep the rabbit bones to make more stock.

Shredded Rabbit Recipes To Try

The resulting shredded rabbit can be used right away in any recipe calling for shredded chicken. (Or, you may freeze the shredded rabbit for later use.) Recipe ideas include tacos, enchiladas, pot pie, casseroles, and "BBQ" sandwiches. Three of my family's top choices are: Keto Rabbit Pot Pie, Keto Salsa Rabbit (shown in this post's title photo), and Keto Enchilada Rabbit. You could also try shredded rabbit in my "Barbecued" Burritos, BLT Salad, and Chicken Fajitas.

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