Goat is one of the most widely consumed meats in the world. However, it’s been slow to gain traction in the United States, despite its relative affordability, rich flavor, and nutritional benefits. (Goat is lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories than beef or lamb.) Things are starting to change, though, thanks to influential chefs, writers, and famous foodies who espouse the virtues of this sustainable meat and a growing immigrant population accustomed to eating the ruminants.
Male goats—the kids are called bucklings, or wethers if they’re castrated—are a natural by-product of the dairy industry. Until recently it was a struggle for many cheesemakers to find an outlet for these offspring. Now an increasing number of ranches are specializing in the meat, and goat is becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors of the US livestock industry.
While young goat is more tender and milder in flavor than most Americans assume (think lamb versus mutton), most cuts still benefit from a tenderizing marinade prior to cooking. Shoulder, leg, shank, and neck are best prepared using slow-cooking methods such as braising, stewing, and roasting, while leg and loin chops, tenderloin, and ribs work well when marinated and grilled. Goat salumi—a popular preparation in other countries—is starting to catch on stateside.
Paired together, goat meat and chèvre make a harmonious dish, as they share grassy, subtly gamy flavor profiles. Don’t simply focus on goat’s milk cheeses, though: It’s possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to such assertive flavors. The key? Find balance with regard to fat, flavor, intensity, and texture.
“To have milk, you need to breed goats,” explains Brennan Buckley, director of operations for Colorado’s Avalanche Cheese Company. “Making salumi with our goat meat, which we combine with local, pasture-raised, heritage-breed pork to add necessary fat, is a way to keep our company sustainable.” When it comes to pairing, Buckley suggests a cheese higher in acidity to cut the richness and fat of the salami. Bloomy rinds are natural partners—they harbor a Penicillium strain similar to the one used to cure salami—but spice-rubbed cheddars are also good.
Cabrito, or suckling goat (slaughtered at four to 12 weeks), is best suited for grilling, as the cuts are smaller and extremely lean. When cooked, the smoky meat can be pulled off the bone and anointed with salsa and lime juice for tacos or sandwiches, or served as chops garnished with bright sauces such as salsa verde, pistou, or chimichurri. Finish either dish with a milky Mexican-style cheese or a cooling fresh chèvre.
Mozzarella Company Queso Blanco with Chiles and Epazote + grilled goat tacos
Flying Goat Farm Scapegoat + grilled goat loin chops
Classic dishes like Mexican birria and Jamaican curry feature braised or stewed goat, but it’s also sublime in tagines and ragùs. These low-and-slow cooking methods are ideal for the lean meat—adding acidic ingredients such as red wine or tomato paste helps further break down the protein, resulting in a final dish that’s rich, complex, and flavor packed. Bryce Gilmore, executive chef and partner of Austin’s Barley Swine and Odd Duck sources his goat meat from nearby Windy Hill Farm. He then braises it in brown butter and dried chilies before shredding the meat and warming it in a dried chile sauce made with Mexican spices. “A strong-flavored meat like goat can stand up to bold seasoning,” he says. “I love to finish it with chèvre since it’s tangy and creamy and balances the spicy, bitter aromatics. It’s like adding sour cream to a bowl of chili.”
Pure Luck Farm and Dairy Chevre + braised goat shoulder with dried chilies
Rivers Edge Chèvre Astraea + braised goat shoulder tagine with dried apricots and almonds