Rabbit is a unique treat, mildly flavored and boasting the highest protein per pound of all domestically-reared meats. Rabbit is all white meat, very low in fat, and easy to digest, making it a suitable substitute for some individuals who have sensitivities to chicken. It’s a personal favorite of mine!
Being so very lean, rabbit likes to be treated with a little extra care in the kitchen. Some people have known rabbit to be tough or dry, but this is always a result of improper cooking rather than a fault of the animal itself! Properly cooked rabbit should be tender, juicy, and fall off the bone.
There are two main factors in cooking rabbit correctly: keeping it moist, and keeping the cooking temperature low.
Keep your Rabbit Moist
Rabbit, unlike chicken, has been skinned before it reaches your kitchen. This leaves the exposed meat vulnerable to drying out during the cooking process. To prevent the meat from drying out, I recommend the following:
Coating the rabbit generously in fat such as butter or oil before cooking will help keep moisture from escaping, acting as a skin-like barrier to moisture loss. Especially when roasting a rabbit on an open rack in the oven, this is very necessary.
Wet Brining the rabbit before cooking, especially if you intend to pan-fry or roast it.
Cooking in liquid such as broth or sauce, like this stewed recipe, will always result in nice juicy meat. Even just adding a small tablespoon of oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar to your cooking pot will contribute a lot of moisture to the meat without altering the flavor.
Cooking in a closed container such as a crock pot, dutch oven, or cast-iron pan with a lid will prevent the moisture already contained in the meat from escaping. This is the single most effective method!
Rabbit is easy to over-cook, as it tends to cook more quickly than other types of meat and poultry. Your mileage may very, but cooking at a low temperature will make your life easier by preventing your rabbit from becoming tough — you won’t have to babysit it as much as high-temperature cooking.
In the oven, this means 250f is sufficient for roasting in a dutch oven, which will take ~2-2.5 hrs depending on the size of the rabbit. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the rabbit, which should reach 165f.
In the crock pot, always use the Low setting. A mild simmer or just barely bubbling liquid is an indication you’re on the right track. If you’ve got liquid in the crock pot with the rabbit, you can continue to let it cook on low heat for several hours and it will continue to tenderize. Don’t let all the liquid evaporate.
In the pan, young rabbit can be pan-fried on medium or high heat with care that it is well-coated in oil or fat, and not left on the heat any longer than necessary. A quick braising on the surface, and then turning the temp down for further cooking usually gets good results. With a sauce or curry, pieces of rabbit can be simmered in a pan on low heat and retain its tenderness.
How to Cut Up a Rabbit
I love to use whole rabbit, since just like our chicken, you can get many meals out of one animal with minimal effort! But some recipes call for rabbit in pieces, so we recommend a pair of poultry shears or a sharp knife and this awesome guide to help you get your rabbit cut up the right way.