If you need an impressive, tender, juicy main dish for dinner, it’s time to make smoked rabbit. A quick brine, quick smoke and beautiful tender meat make this the perfect meal for your weekend BBQ.
🍽️ Why This Works
Quick Brine. You only need to soak rabbit meat for four to six hours in the brine, so even if you find out on the morning of and want to serve a rabbit for dinner – you can make it happen.
Easy Ingredients. If you don’t mind making your own buttermilk, you probably already have the ingredients for this entree on hand. A quick stop to grab the rabbit locally and you will be ready to go. Of course, grabbing buttermilk at the market is pretty easy too.
Great for effect. It’s not every day you have rabbit for dinner! This gives your family or friends something to talk about for weeks. And it’s so tasty, the talk will all be good.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Rabbit – You can sometimes find this frozen at your grocery store, at a farmer’s market, or at your local butcher, but you may have to go to a specialty store.
Buttermilk – You can usually find this with the heavy cream at the grocery store. If you need to do so, you can make your own.
Salt – Used for seasoning in the brine.
White Wine – Used in the bottom of the sheet pan to steam the rabbit while it smokes. you don’t have to go for quality for this wine application.
Dry Rub – You can use your favorite dry rub for this. We have a homemade all-purpose dry rub recipe that works very well.
BBQ Sauce – We used the Stubb’s brand, but whatever you have is going to be perfect.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Smoker. We use a Big Green Egg or a Traeger.
Container for brine. Use a glass bowl to make sure the rabbit stays submerged. You can also use a zipped plastic bag.
⅛ Sheet Pan. I like to have several of this size on hand to use just for the smoker.
⅛ Sheet Pan Rack. You just need a rack that fits into your sheet pan to hold the rabbit up off of the wine. Look for a cooling rack that fits.
Step One: Mix the smoked rabbit brine including buttermilk, salt, and water. Use a whisk and make sure to dissolve the salt in the buttermilk.
Note: You really do not need much salt. If you are sensitive to it, use a bit less.
Step Two: Place the rabbit in a glass bowl with the brine. Cover and refrigerate for four to six hours.
Step Three: Remove the meat from the liquid. Rinse the meat thoroughly and pat it dry.
Step Four: Add the dry rub or seasoning of choice.
Step Five: Place the meat on a rack that is on a sheet pan. Pour the wine into the sheet pan. Place the pan in your smoker which should be preheated to 275ºF.
Step Six: Smoke the rabbit until the internal temperature is about 145ºF. At that point, brush on the sauce (if desired). Use your favorite sauce or try something new! Continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
How long does it take to smoke a rabbit? Our rabbit is just under 3 pounds and took about 1 hour and 45 minutes total. Adjust timing given the size and always cook or smoke your meat to temperature, not time.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Rabbit is very lean and so easy to overcook. Don’t be tempted to keep it on the grill past 160ºF. Check it often. A wifi-enabled wireless meat thermometer is a great idea, if you don’t have one yet get one.
Use a mild-flavored wood for smoke — apple wood, cherry, pecan, or maple work wonders. Avoid hickory or mesquite unless you just really love the strong flavor, because it overwhelms the rabbit.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Remove the cooked rabbit from the bone and dice it up. Place it in airtight containers in the refrigerator for a couple of days or in the freezer for a few months or longer in a deep freeze. You can seal it in freezer-safe baggies.
Reheat the diced rabbit in a soup or stew.
If you are smoking rabbit for company, prepare your dry rub the day before so that it’s ready to go and not wasting precious time you need to be spending elsewhere getting ready for your guests.
Make sure to allow at least four to six hours for the brine. That will be enough to tenderize the meat and add extra moisture and flavor.
Additions and Substitutions
You can use a similar approach for smoking quail or Cornish Hens with buttermilk brine.
Change up your BBQ sauce to completely change the flavor. Use a nice sweet BBQ one month, a vinegar-based sauce the next month and a regional favorite like Mambo Sauce from D.C. the next time and you will never tire of this smoked rabbit recipe.
Smoked Rabbit can be served with Grilled Baked Sweet Potatoes in Foil, Grilled Carrots with Balsamic Glaze, or Grilled Beer Corn on the Cob. It will also work well with mashed potatoes, biscuits, or a fresh salad. Since it uses BBQ sauce, it will go perfectly with any dish you would serve with BBQ meat.
Pair your smoked rabbit meal with good white wine. The white wine you place in the bottom of the sheet pan doesn’t need to be high quality, but you can step it up a notch for your drinking wine with a good Chardonnay or Sauvignon-Blanc.
❓ Recipe FAQ
Our rabbit is just under 3 lbs and took about 1 hour and 45 minutes total. Adjust timing given the size and always cook or smoke your meat to temperature, not time.
Yes. Seal the meat in airtight containers and keep it in the freezer for three months. If you have a deep freeze it may keep for even longer.
275º for our recipe.
Apple or maple are both great choices, as are pecan and cherry. Hickory or mesquite may be too strong but if you love that flavor intensity go for it.
We recommend good quality white wine such as Chardonnay.
If you think smoked rabbit tastes a lot like chicken, you’d be about half right. Rabbit is wild game and does have a little bit a gaminess you won’t get with chicken, even if you buy farm-raised rabbit. It’s also tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat when properly cooked.
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- Container for brine or zipped baggie
- ⅛ Sheet Pan
- ⅛ Sheet Pan Rack
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 4 cups Buttermilk
- 4 cups Water
- 1 Rabbit ours was 2.75 lbs
- 1 cup White Wine
- ½ cup Rub
- ½ cup BBQ Sauce
- Combine the kosher salt, buttermilk and water into a bowl and whisk together.
- Place the rabbit into the brine and put in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Make sure the entire rabbit is covered.
- Remove the rabbit from the brine, discard the brine and rinse the rabbit well. Pat dry. Cover the rabbit thoroughly with the dry rub.
- Heat smoker up to 275°F.
- Using an ⅛ sheet pan with the rack, place it on the grill grate and pour the wine into the bottom. Place the rabbit on top of the grate.
- Smoked rabbit until the internal temperature is about 145 degrees. At that point, brush on sauce (if desired) and continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.