Red Dead Redemption 2 is much easier on an all-alligator diet (2022)

Your stats in Red Dead Redemption 2 work very differently than you may be used to from other games. Getting a handle on this system, and learning the most efficient way to beat it, will give you a huge advantage in the game.

Your Health, Stamina and Dead Eye stats each have a Ring and a Core. The state of the Core determines how quickly the Ring regenerates, but the Core also acts as an emergency reserve for the stat when your ring is fully depleted. If your Dead Eye Ring depletes, continuing to use Dead Eye without replenishing the Ring will drain the Core. You cannot use Dead Eye when your Core and Ring are completely drained.

Taking damage works the same way: Your Health Ring is depleted first, then you can take a few more hits that will drain your Health Core. Your Health and Stamina will regenerate faster when your Core is full, and aiming in Dead Eye is more precise when the Dead Eye Core is full.

Each icon is entirely white when the Core is full, and it turns gray as it’s drained. Each Core will drain on its own over time, while you drain your Dead Eye Core and Ring by actively using the skill.

Depleted Cores can be refilled by eating different things you find or buy around the game’s world, but it’s much easier to buff your character with gold Cores. Golden Cores relieve much of the burden of managing your various stats. They won’t degrade for 24 in-game hours, unless you take too much damage or try to sprint or use Dead Eye with an empty ring.

Going into a mission with gold Cores means you can take a bit more damage and use more Dead Eye for longer. That extra margin for error can sometimes make the difference between success and failure, so maintaining the buffs is a good idea.

Gold Cores are generally hard to get, but there’s a trick that makes it easy to maintain them for all your missions.

The frontier foodie

Your Rings are regulated by Medicines and Tonics crafted from herbs, which are found on bodies or bought in General Stores. The Potent and Special-tier Tonics and Medicines will fortify your Ring, which means that you can take some hits or use Dead Eye for a bit before the circle starts depleting

Yellow Fortified Rings are powerful buffs, but there is not really any shortcut to stocking up on them; you have to go out and find the plant components to craft them or grind out the cash to buy the necessary buffs. These drinks are expensive to buy in stores, however, so crafting is generally more efficient. You probably also want to expand your inventory so you never have to leave anything useful behind, however.

Cooking and food items regulate your Cores, on the other hand, and this system can be gamed to maximize efficiency.

Eating stew in camp gives you a gold Health Core, and it will also give you a gold Dead Eye Core if you spend $175 to buy a chicken coop for the Camp. This system is limited, however; you can only eat stew once every few in-game days, it’s only available at your Camp and it may be unavailable while Pearson prepares it. It’s a nice bonus when it’s available, but you can’t always count on it when you need it.

So let’s focus on cooking. There are more than a dozen different kinds of meat that you can collect from hunting and fishing, but all meat does the same thing: Eating meat refills your Cores. Some kinds of meat yield more effective food than others, however. Venison, which comes from deer, pronghorns and elk, is better than Gamey Meat or Stringy Meat. And Big Game Meat, which comes from predators, is the best.

There are also three kinds of spices you can use in your cooking: Thyme is for Dead Eye, oregano is for Stamina and mint is for Health. Cooking a spice with a meat will increase the boost to the affiliated stat’s Core when you eat the meat. Just press left or right on the D-pad while you’re cooking to create spiced big game meat.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is much easier on an all-alligator diet (1) Rockstar Games via Polygon

Thyme, oregano and mint are common plants. Thyme seems to be especially common in wooded areas, oregano shows up in open areas and mint is abundant near water. Make sure you hunt and kill the Legendary Bighorn Ram, which will allow you to buy the Ram’s Horn Trinket from the Fence for $17.50. This item lets you harvest double the amount of spices from each plant you find. It’s worth the effort.

Even with the Trinket, your spices will be somewhat scarce, so you will want to use them to cook the best food possible. That means you’ll want to cook Big Game Meat, taken from predators like cougars, bears and wolves. While these animals can be dangerous and elusive, the meat will refill all your Cores and give you a gold Core for the affiliated stat when cooked with a spice.

The good news is that there’s an easy way to get as much big game as you want. You just need to focus on alligators.

Why you need to be farming alligators

Alligators don’t run at you at high speeds and kill you with one pounce, like cougars. They don’t surround you in packs and lunge at you, like wolves. They mostly just lie, relatively immobile, on the ground in the swampy area around Saint Denis. They generally won’t attack or do much of anything unless you’re right in front of them.

And there are a lot of them. Big Game Meat would be too scarce to use all the time were it not for alligators, but they’re so plentiful that it’s always easy to stock up.

I recommend hunting alligators with the bow. You will need to use an Improved Arrow and hit the alligator in the head to assure a one-shot kill, but doing so is easy. The alligator will just sit there while you line up your shot. Using more than one shot seems to reduce the amount of meat you harvest from the body; a clean kill by an Improved Arrow to the dome will yield five units of big game meat. You’ll only get three if you hit the body.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is much easier on an all-alligator diet (2) Rockstar Games

Craft Improved Arrows by combining a normal arrow with a Flight Feather, which you can get from skinning flying birds. The herons and spoonbills in the swamp near the alligators usually yield three Flight Feathers when skinned, but you can also get Flight Feathers by shooting flocks of ducks or blasting scavenging birds that show up to feed on the carcasses of your kills.

If you find a spot with several gators around — which isn’t an uncommon occurrence — you can farm enough meat to keep your Cores gold through hours of missions. It really is that simple. Harvest some spices, make some Improved Arrows and then stock up on as much seasoned and cooked alligator meat as you can carry.

Alligator meat gives you a significant advantage

Big Game Meat is generally difficult to get, but farming alligators provides a cheap away around that limitation and will give you a huge advantage throughout Red Dead Redemption 2. You can have gold Cores whenever you want as long as you eat nothing but alligator.

Big Game Meat is the highest tier of food in the game, but the time commitment and difficulty of farming it in quantity from alligators is trivial. This is the most efficient and effective way to manage hunting and cooking, and it will keep your Cores maxed out for as long as you need them.

A satchel filled with alligator steaks is basically the simplest way to play Red Dead Redemption 2 on easy mode.

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