Saturday, November 29, 2014

Whole Iguana - Sous Vide

I've had iguana meat twice previously. The first time the iguana was already prepared in bbq sauce, killed and cooked by one of my friend's Mexican farm workers. The second time I purchased parts of an iguana, already killed and cleaned and ready to cook. I've been wanting to get a whole iguana to skin, cut up and cook on my own. When I do that, I find that I learn more about and gain a greater appreciation for the animal and for the process of bringing it to the table. 

I was on the phone recently with Exotic Meat Market in Perris, California, and learned that they had some whole iguanas in stock. I purchased a three pounder and got a box with the iguana packed in dry ice the next day. 
A three pound iguana.
Judy mentioned that she had signed a schedule to cook a meal for the LDS missionaries in our ward. One of the missionaries told her he'd heard I cooked unusual meat and he was excited to come to our house. Hearing that, I asked them if they were willing to try iguana, and I got an enthusiastic "yes."  
I've never seen iguana skin cowboy boots (a quick look on-line confirms they are available), but the skin is perfect for it. It is thick, durable and has a beautiful shine and color. It does not rip easily - it required kitchen shears to open up entry points. I began pulling the skin off of the carcass, separating the meat from the skin. The front and hind legs were easiest: a slit up the length of each leg provided sufficient room to maneuver. I could have cut off the toes, but with a strong tug most of the skin came cleanly off.  I had to be more careful with the torso as the skin stuck more tenaciously there. The tail was even more difficult: the skin is rougher and more tightly connected to the meat. Note in the pictures the long white bands going up and down the tail. Those bands appear to be connective tissue that made it difficult to separate the meat from the skin. I liked the skin so much that I decided to preserve it by scraping off any attached meat and salting it. The stringy bands of connective tissue on the tail were the most difficult part to clean-off.  
The head was already missing and the innards had been removed. The toenails had also been cut off. 
Note the fingers, up front. The skin just pulled off of them. Also note a lower portion of the tail at the back and to the right. The skin is quite roughed up, evidence of the difficulty removing the skin from it. 
The belly side of the iguana. The cut mid-torso and the cut at the base of the tail were already there.
Cut into pieces and ready to insert into sous vide bags.
The iguana was easy to separate into pieces with kitchen shears. The ribs were separated by a cut down the spine. Olive oil was spread evenly over each piece and then pink Himalayan sea salt was sprinkled over the top. The iguana pieces fit into two sous vide vacuum packed bags. 
The pieces fit into two vacuum packed bags.
The sous vide cooked at 60 degrees centigrade for 9 1/2 hours. The long cooking time made it easier to separate the flesh from the small bones. 
One of the bags after it has done cooking.
As company arrived, the bags were pulled from the sous vide, the iguana was cut into smaller pieces and they were arranged into a serving bowl. The back legs and the tail provided lots of meat. 
The iguana cut into smaller pieces and ready to eat.
A piece of iguana leg along with bbq pork, salad and potatoes and beans. 
Judy, who watched the iguana preparation, said she was going to pass on this dish. But once it was cooked and separated into small pieces it looked more appetizing. Everyone enjoyed it, including her. Iguana is very mild and has a look and taste very similar to dark chicken meat. The olive oil and sea salt was the only seasoning needed. We had an additional friend join us, and all five went back for seconds or more of the iguana. 
One of the missionaries ready to dig in.
Another missionary holds up the iguana skin. 
I liked it so much that some day I'm going to have to do a larger iguana. It was fun to prepare and very good to eat. 


  1. This is one that took some courage to eat, but I must admit that it was quite tasty. Had I not known what it was, I would have probably had more of it to eat. However, watching the "farm to table" process dampened my appetite significantly.

  2. The local missionaries must love you--I can imagine their letters home. The finished meat actually looks quite tasty.

  3. I have 4 iguana pets and you are a most disgusting vile creature. Seeing your dishes is like seeing my own children cooked and served. I want to barf.

    1. By all means, go ahead and barf, you'll feel better. I worry for your sanity given the extreme reaction to something that has been a staple food for centuries for many people.