Despite their mean reputation, rattlesnakes have a delicate and light-flavored meat enjoyed mostly in the southern United States. Before cooking, it is important to ensure the snake is properly prepared.
When butchering, take great care to avoid any contact with the teeth or venom. It is recommended that protective gloves be worn. Even after death, a rattlesnake can bite and will continue to “crawl” for several hours.
Sever the snake head approximately 3-4 inches behind the skull and place in a covered container for disposal. For your saftey, do not handle the heads with bare hands. Hang the snake by the tail to allow the carcass to bleed properly. Be sure to do this in an appropriate area because the writhing of the carcass will splatter blood.
When the snake has finished bleeding, slice the snake’s belly from neck to tail. Pull the skin off by peeling from the neck toward the tail. Cut off the skin and tail just before the rattle. Remove entrails and dispose. De-boning is a simple matter of pinching the bones and pulling them off.
Option 1: Rattlesnake meat needs to be handled gently to prevent it from breaking apart. Carefully rub the meat under cool running water to remove any remaining blood which would give the meat a “gamey” taint. Set in a firmly covered container until the meat stops writhing.
Option 2: Set the snake meat to soak in a cold brine for several hours in a firmly covered container until it stops writhing. The brine is made by adding 1/4 cup of sea salt to 16 cups (1 gallon) of cold water. When the writhing has stopped, gently rinse the meat under cool running water to remove the excess brine.
Cut into chucks; most recipes call for 2-4 inch pieces and place in a covered container. Rattlesnake meat can be refrigerated or even frozen until needed.
Some people use heavy spices or marinades to mask any gamey flavor, however when either of the cleaning options listed above is used, the rattlesnake meat’s own unique flavor can be properly appreciated. Any further prep will be determined by the recipe you decide to use.
While some people simply replace the beef, pork or chicken in their favorite recipe with rattlesnake, this unique meat can be enjoyed in several easy-to-make dishes. The most common recipes are chilli where the beef is substituted with snake meat and a quick fry where the meat is rolled in seasoned flour and pan fried to a golden crisp. Rattlesnake Recipes is a website dedicated to tasty recipes using rattlesnake meat and Cooks.com lists several recipes, including Baked Rattlesnake and Southern-fried Rattlesnake.