Elk Sliders with Roasted Bell Pepper Ketchup

A Guest Recipe By: Neal Zeller, Arizona 

I've often though of elk as a "gateway" game meat. It's a good place to start for folks who are not hunters or who may have reservations about eating wild game. Elk has a similar texture and flavor profile to beef, though much better. And in this dish, it's prepared in a familiar format-- burgers. Also, because I'm making sliders, it's a smaller commitment to those who want to ease into game meat.

For the rest of us, these are great TV game-watching snacks, tailgating, or maybe an appetizer to a larger game oriented feast. Roasted bell pepper ketchup adds an interesting sweet/spicy foil to elk. 

I usually grind my elk on an as-needed basis. If you have ground elk already, even easier. I add about 20% of fat to the elk for additional flavor. Most wild game is really lean to begin with. In this prep I used pancetta, an Italian-style pork bacon product which is usually unsmoked. However, you're welcome to add your favorite fat. 

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 6 (about 16-18 sliders)
Elk Sliders
- 2 lbs. ground elk
- 1/2 lb. pancetta, finely chopped
- 3 tbs. of bleu or Roquefort cheese (I know some folks don't care for the aggressive flavors of these classic cheeses, but in small doses, they really complement elk.)
- freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Ketchup
- 3 or 4 red bell peppers
- 2 tbs. finely diced carrot
- 2 tbs. finely diced shallots
- 2 tbs. brown sugar
- 1 chipotle pepper, chopped
- 1 tbs. minced garlic
- 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs. honey
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tbs. of olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
- slider buns/rolls (If I were a better baker, I'd make these myself.)

1. In a large bowl, combine elk and pancetta. Add bleu or Roquefort cheese and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Roast whole red bell peppers over an open flame or on the grill. High heat is important so the skins will char and blister. Place roasted peppers in a plastic bag or a bowl and cover. In a few minutes, the peppers will be easy to peel by hand. Seed and chop peppers coarsely and puree in a blender or processor. 

3. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan over moderate to high heat. Add carrots, shallots, chipotle and garlic. Sauté until tender. Add the remaining ketchup ingredients and puréed red peppers, except for salt and pepper, and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then purée in a blender or processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste and chill in the refrigerator.

4. Form burger patties a little larger than your slider buns. With the added fat, there will be some shrinkage while cooking. I grilled the elk burgers over pecan wood. You can use commercial charcoal or whatever. They can also be pan seared of broiled. I like them rare to medium. Wild game, even ground, will toughen with longer cooking times. 

5. Serve these little morsels up with your favorite burger condiments and fixin's. The ketchup can be served on the side or dolloped on the burgers. Maybe add some classic fries and perhaps, a cold beer, for all your efforts. I'm always reminded of the hunt that created the food I'm preparing. Happy memories and eating. 

About Neal Zeller
There's not a lot I can add to what others, far more eloquent than I am, have written about hunting.

I hike, backpack, cycle, run, fish and hunt. And although all of these recreational pursuits - even that term falls short - add something to my life, none of them contribute more than hunting does. No other experience engages more of my senses and amplifies my life as time spent pursuing game. Animals who have spent their lives in remarkable landscapes, eluding harm, and eluding me, deserve my respect. And they have it.

I hunt, and I also eat. It's important for me to be at least partially responsible for the deaths that sustain my own life. We all owe that, at a minimum, to our food sources.

I worked in the food and beverage industry throughout high school and college, both in the front and back of the house. Wait staff and line cook. The level of craft, skill and passion by real food professionals is astonishing. And it's really hard work. There are plenty of parallels between chefs and hunters.

So when I can combine hunting, food preparation, cooking... and eating, I'm all over it.

[Photo: Arizona, Unit 24A Javelina Bow Hunt. 2011.]

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Like us, Neal Zeller is a regular guy who loves to fish, hunt and cook. If you have a great fish or game recipe you'd like to submit, send it to foodforhunters@gmail.com 
Thank you Neal for sending in this wonderful recipe!


  1. That's what I'm talking about! Meal fit for a King, or a Queen, even my wife looked at that and said when are we having it!

  2. Wow! That looks delicious. Gonna cook some for dinner.

    Montana Elk Hunting


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