Processing, Preserving and Cooking
What is the best way to preserve my alligator until I can process it or get it into a walk-in cooler?
Alligator meat can spoil quickly under warm conditions, so until you can get your alligator refrigerated or butchered, try to keep it out of direct sunlight and as cool as possible by putting a sufficient number of bags of ice on top of it and covering it with a blanket or tarp. When possible, try to get your alligator under 45 degrees F within four hours of harvesting it.
Can I butcher a harvested alligator myself or am I required to bring it to a certified wild game processor?
You may skin and butcher your harvested alligator yourself or you can take it to a permitted alligator meat processor. If you plan to sell any of the meat, you can only legally do so if it was processed by a licensed alligator processing facility. Find a list of permitted alligator meat processors.
If you would like to process the alligator yourself, there are several videos on YouTube that show you how. You are required to label each package of alligator meat with the CITES tag number and the license holder’s name using permanent ink.
Learn how to properly dispose of an alligator carcass.
How do you skin and butcher an alligator?
You will need a steady table at a comfortable height, good lighting, a sharp knife and sharpener, a scraper and salt to get started. Watch this Florida Sportsman video to learn “How to clean, fillet, debone and skin an alligator.” Don’t forget, after handling raw alligator meat, thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges and hands with hot, soapy water.
See cut lines for skinning an alligator for commercial sale or use in the making of alligator leather products:
How should I dispose of an alligator carcass?
Please follow these guidelines for disposing an alligator carcass:
- Double bag carcass using 55-gallon commercial grade trash bags and make it available for trash pick up
- Double back carcass using 55-gallon commercial grade trash bags and take it to a landfill or a local government trash disposal site
- Bury it on private property
- Dispose of carcasses in ditches, waterbodies or anywhere they might be seen by the public
Learn more how to properly dispose of an alligator carcass.
How should I store my alligator meat until I am ready to cook it?
You can store fresh alligator meat in the coldest part of your refrigerator, where it’s near 32 degrees F, for up to two days. If you plan to marinate the meat, do so before freezing it. Prepare meat for the freezer by wrapping it tightly to prevent freezer burn. Also, write the date and type of meat on the package. You also are required to label each package with the CITES tag number and license holder’s name using permanent ink.
You can store the meat 0 degrees F for up to six months.
What’s the best way to preserve my alligator hide?
If done correctly, a brine solution for curing and storing alligator hides is one of the best ways. But close attention must be paid to keep the brine saturated with salt, and hides should be checked frequently to ensure proper curing. Information on this can be found on the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council’s website.
Am I allowed to sell any of the meat, hide or parts of my harvested alligator?
You are allowed to sell the meat only if it was processed by a licensed alligator processing facility. Green hides, meaning those that have not been tanned, may only be sold to licensed fur and hide dealers. Find a list of licensed Florida alligator meat processors and hide dealers.
Tanned hides as well as skeletal parts (including skulls) may be sold to anyone. But records must be kept showing who the parts were transferred to.
Where can I find recipes for cooking alligator meat?
Alligator meat is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. It has a mild flavor and can be substituted in most recipes for chicken, pork, veal, or fish. Always thaw alligator meat in the refrigerator. Discard any used marinade to avoid bacteria from raw juices. After handling raw meat, thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges, and hands with hot, soapy water.
Alligator tail and jowls are the choicest cuts. They are a mild-flavored white meat with a texture similar to veal. The legs and ribs are darker meat with a stronger taste and texture similar to pork shoulder. Leg meat is best when it’s chopped fine or ground to make patties, sausage or used in recipes such as tacos or spaghetti. Alligator meat can be enhanced with seasonings, sauces and marinades for jambalayas, soups, and stews. For extra tenderness, use a meat mallet to tenderize fillets and flatten meat to desired thickness. Cook alligator meat using either a short cooking time with high heat (as in searing, pan frying or deep frying) or a long, slow-cook method such as simmering in a sauce, stewing, or braising.
Find delicious and nutritious alligator recipes at FreshFromFlorida.com/Recipes/Seafood/Alligator.