Why don't more people snap at the chance to eat crocodile?

Crocodile is a versatile and affordable lean meat that really should make it on to more menus. Try these recipes

07 January 2019 - 00:00 By Toni Jaye Singer and Hilary Biiller
Cornflake-crumbed crocodile strips.
Cornflake-crumbed crocodile strips.
Image: Christo Harvey

When you consider the scale of the world's hunger problems, and that meat is becoming increasingly expensive, it's a shame that crocodile, an affordable, lean protein, fails to make it on to menus. Even more so when you learn that crocodile meat is considered a waste product of the leather industry.

Just because it's a waste product, doesn't mean you can’t eat it. "The leather produced by crocodile farms is mostly exported to be used by high-end luxury brands, who have extremely strict hygiene and quality guidelines. So, luckily, this leads to very clean, healthy meat," says Nerike Uys, who researched the feasibility of crocodile as a meat alternative as part of her degree in food management at Pretoria University.

If croc is safe to eat, why don't more people snap at the chance to do so? It’s the concept of a crocodile being a carnivore that attacks animals and humans that puts people off eating the meat, says Uys.

Get over your squeamishness and you'll discover that crocodile is a versatile ingredient. Uys tells us more and shares inspiring recipes.

What does crocodile meat taste like?

It's low in fat and sodium; it has a fairly bland flavour, which means it carries other flavours well.

Where can you buy it?

 There are no abattoirs or producers that focus on crocodile meat. It is available at most crocodile farms that either produce crocodile leather or market the farms as a tourist attraction. These farms sell crocodile in the form of fillets, kebabs, steaks, patties and more.

What are the best cuts?

The easiest cut to work with is the tail-eye fillet. Crocodile farmers say the jowls are very tender and that the claws are very close to chicken wings.

Crocodile farmers say the jowls are very tender and that the claws are very close to chicken wings

The preferred meat comes from young crocodiles - approximately two years old - that have reached 2m from nose to tail before being slaughtered.

Small crocodiles are sometimes cooked on spit braais for large events, which gives the meat a nice smoky taste.

How should crocodile be cooked?

The more tender cuts of crocodile, such as the tail fillet, are most commonly used. This means quick, dry-heat cooking methods.

Crocodile meat should be served well-done, similar to chicken. Use a meat thermometer to check when it's done: the internal temperature should generally be between 75°C to 85°C.

How much does it cost?

 The average price of crocodile meat is R55/kg.

COOK UP SOME CROC WITH UYS' TASTY RECIPES

CORNFLAKE-CRUMBED CROC STRIPS

(Pictured above)

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

500g crocodile tail-eye fillet, cut into 20g strips

250ml buttermilk

5ml ground cumin

2.5ml ground coriander

5ml paprika

A grinding of black pepper

2ml dried thyme

5ml dried parsley

Cornflake crumbs:

200g cornflakes

2ml dried origanum

A pinch of cayenne pepper

A pinch garlic powder

5ml salt

Method:

  1. Place the crocodile strips into a bowl with the buttermilk, cumin, coriander, paprika, pepper, thyme and parsley. Mix to combine. Place in a plastic bag, seal and marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  3. To make the crumbs, place the cornflakes, origanum, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt in a food processor. Process the mixture until you have coarse breadcrumbs; pour into a bowl.
  4. Remove the marinated strips from the fridge and pour into a bowl.
  5. Crumb the strips in the cornflake crumbs and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, turning half way through the cooking time.
Rooibos-smoked crocodile kebabs.
Rooibos-smoked crocodile kebabs.
Image: Christo Harvey

ROOIBOS-SMOKED CROCODILE KEBABS

Makes: 4

Ingredients:

550g crocodile tail-eye fillet

50ml soy sauce

130ml honey

50g fresh ginger, grated

1 clove of garlic, crushed

50ml orange concentrate

25ml brown sugar

1 lime Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:

250ml sherry

1 red onion, sliced

250ml red wine

120ml rice wine vinegar

To smoke the crocodile:

10 bags of rooibos tea

250ml jasmine rice

80ml brown sugar

Method:

  1. Cut the crocodile into pieces and thread onto skewers.
  2. Mix together the soya sauce, water, honey, ginger, garlic, orange concentrate and brown sugar. Add the juice of the lemon, reserving the rind, to create a marinade. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place the crocodile kebabs, marinade and lemon rind in a plastic bag. Seal and marinate for an hour in the fridge.
  4. Meanwhile make the sauce: place the sherry, red onion, wine and vinegar in a pot. Bring to the boil, then let it simmer and reduce for about an hour, until the sauce is thick.
  5. Remove the crocodile kebabs from the marinade.
  6. Use aluminium foil to line a pot and cover the lid. Cover a ramekin and plate that'll fit inside the pot in foil too.
  7. To smoke the kebabs, remove the rooibos tea from the tea bags. Place the tea leaves, rice and sugar in the pot. Place the ramekin in the pot and balance the plate on top. Put the crocodile kebabs on the plate and cover with the lid. Place the pot on the stove over a low heat and allow to smoke for 7 minutes.
  8. Transfer the crocodile kebabs on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 12 minutes, depending on thickness, or until cooked through. Serve with the sauce.

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