Saturday, May 3, 2014

Alpaca, the Next Other Meat?

Recently I received a roast from the owner, Dorothy, of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch to try my culinary hand at.  Alpaca is a very lean meat, so figuring out how to cook it best would be an experiment, but experimentation was the key reasoning behind it anyway.  Dorothy is considering selling meat from her alpaca, as well as their soft wool, but what recipes would work well?  What I should have done before cooking the roast was some in depth research; my big mistake was thinking that this lean meat would cook up the same as another lean meat, Elk.  I was very wrong, but she and I both learned from the mistake, and as I said before, this is an experimentation process.

First off, I'm going to post some information I found which I should have looked up before.
Nutritional Information
Nutrient-100g  Beef  Pork  Lamb  Alpaca
Calories  210  191  156  150
Protein  20.0   29  20  23.1
Fat 15   7.5  7.7  5.7
Cholesterol 12.1  9.1
Iron 15%  9%
Vitamin A


Approximately 50% of a carcass is used as prime cuts, such as loin cutlets and steaks, which are sold in either the fresh or frozen meat market. Secondary cuts are processed into sausages, hot dogs, ground meat and processed alpaca hams. Alpaca meat should be cooked quickly on a high heat, to retain its natural tenderness.  For the best results, alpaca meat should be served rare or medium and allowed to rest before serving.

Now the last two lines of the above paragraph is definitely where I went very wrong; I ended up slow cooking the meat to the point that it was tough to cut and too chewy to eat.  The roast I received happened to have rib bones and a thin plate of cartilage going through it.   I thought the alpaca meat would separate from the bones and cartilage, but it did the exact opposite.  I also cooked a sirloin tip roast with the alpaca meat to see how the both compared.  

Alpaca Roast in front, Sirloin Tip Roast in back.

I'm going to give you the original recipe which is "Beef and Mushrooms in Wine Sauce"; then I'll tell you what I really should have done in the first place.  Live and learn!

Beef and Mushrooms in Wine Sauce


6 small white onions, peeled and quartered
3 and 1/2 to 4 lb. sirloin tip roast
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb. portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 inch thick 1 cup beef stock
1 and 1/2 cups cabernet sauvignon


Spray inside of a 6 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Place onions inside crock pot and place roast on top of onions; the onions will act as a "rack" for the meat.

Mix the black pepper and flour together; sprinkle over the top and sides of the meat. Cover the meat with the mushrooms; mix the stock and wine together and pour over all.

Set the crock pot on low and cook for 8 hours. Remove roast; with a slotted spoon remove as much of the mushrooms as possible, but leave the onions. To make the sauce, use a hand blender in the crock pot, or pour the onions and liquid into a stand blender; puree till smooth.

Makes 6-8 servings

Now here are photos of how the alpaca meat looked; the meat did absorb the flavorings of the wine sauce, but alas, was too tough and chewy to truly enjoy.  Again, live and learn.

So, here is what I should have done from the get-go: If the Alpaca roast contains bones and connective tissue, it would be best to roast it like a Prime Rib.


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter; add the mushrooms, toss to coat, reduce heat to low, cover and let mushrooms cook down till softened.  Remove mushrooms from skillet, wipe skillet clean.

Wine Sauce

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter; add 3 tablespoons flour and one teaspoon ground black pepper; continue to whisk until all flour is incorporated and turns to a golden color.  Whisk in one cup beef stock plus one and one half cups cabernet sauvignon wine.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes; whisk occasionally to make sure it is not becoming too thick.


Serve mushrooms as a side to the meat, or add to the gravy and ladle both over meat.


Mary Cokenour