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I have never cooked rabbit before, and my charts don't include rabbit. Are there food safety considerations speaking for thorough heating, as with chicken, or is it acceptable to cook it medium rare? Also, what temperature corresponds with the different grades of doneness? I intend to roast half a small rabbit in the oven; the meat doesn't look suited for collagen-based cooking, the animal is probably too young.

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I remembered that my copy of Joy of Cooking has some game recipes, including rabbit, but none of them have temperatures - one roasted ~1.5 hours, and the rest simmered a couple hours, except it does say if the rabbit is very young you can sautee it like chicken (just until tender) - maybe that helps? –  Jefromi Sep 15 '12 at 2:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In the food safety section of Modernist Cuisine (1-138) it says that all wild rabbit must be cooked through:

Wild rabbit must be cooked well done to kill any tularemia bacteria; for rare or medium cooked rabbit dishes, chefs can substitute farm-raised rabbits that have been kept segregated from their wild relatives by trustworthy breeders.

The section on meat (3-96) recommends bringing rabbit loin to an internal temperature of 59C (138F) and going by the section I've just quoted this is obviously only for farmed meat. The recommendation for the legs is to cook sous vide for 1 hour @ 66C (151F) which again obviously refers to farmed because that's definitely not long enough to tenderise wild rabbit meat.

I would really recommend cooking the leg meat and loin separately as I find that the loin dries out long before the legs are cooked through. The legs are much nicer braised too.

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Rabbits are host to a bacteria called Francisella tularensis which can cause a nasty disease, Tularemia (also called Rabbit Fever). This causes lesions, fever, lethargy, and if untreated, possible death. For that reason it is advisable to cook rabbit as thoroughly as you would, say, chicken. It can also be a good idea to wear gloves when handling the meat, just in case.

In any case, wild rabbits spend their lives sprinting about the countryside and so the meat is naturally quite tough, despite being lean. Most recipes I have seen use braising as the cooking method. Treat it as you would chicken thighs and you should be fine - perhaps rabbit cacciatore?

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Interesting info. In my case, it is a farm-grown rabbit, probably raised without space to sprint and butchered as soon as the meat weighed more than the bones. So definitely not braising meat. I wonder if farm-raising increases or decreases the chance of this disease. –  rumtscho Sep 14 '12 at 20:57
    
In that case I'd still cook it like chicken, but the leanest parts (the loin, small though it is, for example) I'd treat like breast and the legs etc more like thigh. –  ElendilTheTall Sep 14 '12 at 21:11

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) says 160F (71C) is sufficient as an internal temperature for rabbit (and other red game meats) to be safe. They also say that it is ok for the meat to still look "pink", so long as this temperature has been reached.

USDA Information Page on Game

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Good source for the "very secure" option, although I can imagine that the meat I had when I asked the question would turn to a shoesole at 71 degrees. –  rumtscho May 2 '13 at 15:08

I baked it to 72 dec C with bacon on top to keep it moist and it was way over cooked and tough but still tasted good. Next time I will cook it to 66 deg and let it sit for 10 mins before eating.

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You always treat rabbit like chicken ;) temps are same. cook well. internal temp 165 . 2pounders are best for pan frying. Stew ..braising... baking..roasting.. all great ways to make rabbit :)

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