Everything You Need to Know About Rabbit

July 11, 2014

Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.

Today: We're learning all about rabbit: the newest supermeat, and your gateway to home butchery.


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In case you didn’t already know, rabbit is the new supermeat. Because they are herbivores and don’t require grains or soy for fattening, rabbits are inexpensive to raise and have a low impact on the environment. They also reproduce like, well, rabbits, which means that they can be raised and processed quickly.

More: Choose and store your meat with confidence.

In addition to being an environmentally sound meat option, rabbits are absolutely delicious. They have a mild flavor similar to chicken but with slightly more depth, and, when cooked properly, they're unbelievably tender and juicy. Like any four-legged animal, the shoulders and legs of the rabbit work the hardest -- this means they'll be be tougher and leaner than the loin, but also more flavorful. The legs are the meatiest part of the rabbit, and are a popular choice for a confit or slow braise. Rabbit shoulders are often braised for traditional ragouts and eaten bones and all, and the loin is delicious roasted or grilled. Because rabbits are so small, you can even cook them whole.

More: If you’re feeling adventurous, try de-boning a rabbit and turning it into a beautiful porchetta

Rabbit Porchetta

Rabbits are also a great introduction to home butchering, since they’re a manageable size and can easily be broken down with nothing more than a large knife. Grab the sharpest one in your knife block, then follow along -- you'll be a butchering expert before you know it.

Here's How to Break Down a Rabbit:

First: Unwrap your rabbit and lay it on its back. Grasp one of the hind legs and cut along the seam of fat where the leg meets the body until the leg releases. Do the same with the other hind leg. 

Rabbit  Rabbit

Next: Grab the front legs and place your knife right underneath them, perpendicular to the body. Slice until the legs separate from the rest of the body. Remove the neck if it's still attached, and cut off the tailbone from the loin.


Lastly: Split the hind legs right down the middle by placing your knife along the spine, and pressing down forcefully. If you wish, remove the ribs from the loin by cutting between the second and third rib bones (on the tail end of the rib plate) until the saddle flaps are released. Do this on both sides. (We skipped this step, and simply left our loin whole.)


Now that you have your rabbit in manageable pieces, go forth and braise, sauté, or grill them to your liking! See if you're a convert to the newest supermeat.


Have you cooked a rabbit before? What's your favorite way to prepare it?

Photo of rabbit porchetta by Alex Farnum, all other photos by James Ransom. 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • taochild
  • Sietske van Schaik
    Sietske van Schaik
  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • Trevor Thomas
    Trevor Thomas
  • Winifred Ryan
    Winifred Ryan
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog, Yummy-Books.com, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.


taochild July 14, 2014
I like to fry it and finish it in a cast iron Dutch oven filled with homemade potato soup, cooked low and slow.
Sietske V. July 11, 2014
I love simple foods. Slow roasted rabbit is the best. Their thighs... goodness they're delicious. Treat it like you would an older chicken. Just some salt and pepper, low oven. Mmm. The flavor is like a very mild venison/chicken hybrid.

In Europe rabbit is a lot more common. I have yet to find it in the US although the amount of backyard farmers and homesteaders raising them is increasing as people want to get closer to their meals. I've been debating on it myself. I already raise chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits are not that different. And they cut the lawn for you ;-)

Fun fact: in Europe butchers must leave the feet attached, so the buyer knows they are getting a rabbit and not a cat. Less than savory sellers would catch cats and butcher them, especially in the years after WWII, once butchered they look very similar.
CarlaCooks July 23, 2014
In France, they keep the heads on to tell the difference between a rabbit and cat!
cucina D. July 11, 2014
I was raised eating rabbit, goat, lamb and other meats. I was taught as a young child to understand the difference between pets and food sources, and never felt that slaughtering was cruel as my famiglia treated all their livestock with pride, grace and a great appreciation for the sustainance they gave to our family members.
Sietske V. July 11, 2014
I raise chickens. I tell the kids early on: if it's a cockerel, it's dinner.. don't get attached to them. My eldest understands. I'm wanting to get into either meat rabbits or muscovy duck, I'm just hesitant on the rabbits.. they're a bit too close in likeness to "cute and fluffy pets". Chickens on the other hand lose the "cute" very quickly when they start crowing ;-)
Winifred R. July 11, 2014
I don't disagree with your family's treatment of animals or choices. It's classic for many farm families to treat their animals well and to know that the food animals will be dinners. Rabbits are unique in that the are seen as both pets and food within the same culture (in the US). Where I had pets buns, eating rabbit is not for me. No complaints for those with other perspectives. (Just please don't serve me rabbit)

In return I won't serve you fish species that might be in your aquarium if you let me know, especially those whichmay be invasive species so I may be experimenting with cooking. Unfortunate side effect of being in fisheries science.
Trevor T. July 11, 2014
As a hunter, 75% of the meat that I eat I harvest myself. I've recently started eating more wild cottontail as another source of game meat and it's delicious, lean, and another reason to get out in the woods. A simple way to prepare it is just to sections it as in the article, lightly toss it in seasoned flour, sear in a cast iron pan and finish cooking until just cooked through in the oven. Then make a roux gravy from the leavings in the pan and serve with roasted Brussels or any other fresh veggies in season.
Winifred R. July 11, 2014
Much as I can appreciate rabbit as a meat source for those who choose, for me it will be a difficult choice. As many in the US eschew horse because they had a pony while a child, I had companion rabbits for a lovely part of my life. Please don't take this a bashing, just noting. In graduate school I had a classmate who looked down on me for having a rabbit as a pet - to her they were food.
Jan W. July 11, 2014
If you want to put it in perspective - pet keeping in the Western world as we know it really only dates to the 18th century, and really didn't become commonplace until the mid 19th century. Before then, practically all animals were either for food, working, hunting, or transportation, with the exception of animals brought as novelties from other parts of the world like capuchins and tropical birds.

Every culture has different concepts about which animals are venerated or protected, and which are not, and the reasons for that can vary wildly. Some people keep pigs as pets and buy pork products at the same time. There really isn't a solidly identifiable rationale for which animals are pets and which aren't worldwide, and there probably never will be.
Sietske V. July 11, 2014
I've eaten horse. It's dry but flavorful. To me, it seems a lot less wasteful to eat horse than to.. do whatever it is they do with horses after they get old or injured.

I've had rabbit, it's delicious. I also had pet rabbits as a child.

I currently raise chickens and I love their antics, but if I got one crowing, it's dinner.

I actually have wished that we could use other animals to feed folks. It's a downright shame that shelters kill pets and burn them. I fully believe the most respectful thing to do to anything that must be killed is to waste nothing. But, that's just my slightly unconventional two cents.
Winifred R. July 11, 2014
Jan, do you have data on that? As an anthropologist, I think I'd challenge that with your definition of pet. Many of those definitions of transportation, working and hunting also fall within the pet purview.
Jan W. July 12, 2014
Even in the Mediterranean basin of antiquity, the most common pets were usually primates from Africa. Cats and dogs were only really taken on if they could catch vermin or hunt (or in the case of dogs, herd livestock, kill people or defend property). Pets as a 'family member' or as a companion was usually not the primary reason for keeping them, especially if it was an animal that was commonly slaughtered for food.
Jan W. July 11, 2014
I braised a rabbit this spring using a Portuguese recipe Coelho à Caçador "Rabbit Hunter-style" - red wine (Cabernet Franc & similar is a good choice), tomatoes, bacon, roasted hazelnuts, forest mushrooms/porcini, onion & garlic, and oregano. Basically, some recipes will tell you to only cook for under 2 hours until done. Don't believe them - you want to cook low and slow after searing the meat for at least 3 hours, and more wouldn't hurt. Rabbit will never get to the point of melting in your mouth like the much less lean beef braises, but it will be satisfyingly tender with some structure. You want to leave the bones in during cooking and if desired, remove them on a cutting board prior to plating. I wouldn't bother though, as the meat separates from the bone quite easily.

If you purchase a whole rabbit from a butcher, ask him or her to remove the silverskin (as much as possible) from the carcass. It will save you a lot of time.
cucina D. July 11, 2014
we braise rabbit with tomatoes, olives, garlic and herbs along with a good white wine... This is a fall and winter favorite served with pasta or simply with crusty bread and sautéed greens
Catherine L. July 11, 2014
That sounds incredible! Do you braise it in pieces, or whole? Sorry, I'm a bit unfamiliar with rabbit cooking...
cucina D. July 11, 2014
I braise the rabbit in pieces so it cooks more evenly. It is a very lean meat so you do not want to over cook it at all!
cucina D. July 11, 2014
love, love, love this article... Thank you so much for featuring rabbit, a staple in my famiglia's food file. I am currently seeking a place to purchase fresh rabbit as it is impossible to find locally in SW Florida
denise December 19, 2018
Can get rabbit in markets (publix and small grocery store ) in sw Florida
denise December 19, 2018
Meant se Florida