Tips for cooking wild pheasant?

I have 4 whole frozen wild pheasant to prepare for a dinner party next week - the hunter has donated them and has never found a pheasant recipe he's enjoyed (which begs the question why one would continue to hunt them, but I digress). I really want to make it particularly special and pull out all the stops (homemade demi-glace or pasta, etc), but at the same time make something that uses techniques they can replicate.

The only pheasant I've ever cooked has been farmed, and it was in a b'stilla - which was delicious, but I'm concerned about the gaminess of wild version impacting the recipe. Should I instead go the salaison of juniper/rosemary route and maybe confit, or just braise, or...?

  • Posted by: Reiney
  • September 13, 2012


Brain H. September 15, 2012
I went bird hunting today with my husband and my dogs. Once the dogs see the guns and take a whiff of the crisp autumn air, they become what they were born to be....bird dogs. It is a beautiful thing to hike in the mountains with dogs who are trained to find upland birds. We didn't shoot anything today, but that's ok; we had a gorgeous outing. If we do bring home a bird or two, I like to brine it, as noted above, adding lemon juice to the mixture. 24 hours is good. Then I like to filet the meat and pound it thin, roll it around a stuffing of wild mushrooms, and serve it with a white wine-laced buttery sauce. Game birds require some effort to prepare well, but that's ok. When you go to great effort to harvest wild birds, it feels right that you give them some extra-special treatment in the kitchen, and make a big fuss at the table.
ChefOno September 15, 2012
ChefOno September 14, 2012

Of course it makes more sense to enjoy eating what you kill, but as long as the game isn't wasted (a situation for which there is *no* excuse), there are other perspectives. I'll bet a conversation with the hunter will reveal some insight into his particular situation, including what he doesn't like about the birds. I trust you'll help him see some more possibilities (you're making me hungry that's for sure).

Reiney September 14, 2012
Thanks all - given there are 4 birds (and 8 people to serve) I might do two preparations...I'm reluctant to roast them whole because I'm itching to get at the carcasses for a stock.

Perhaps bacon wrapped brined breasts, roasted or pan fried, and confit legs in a clarified butter, served with a pheasant demi-glace? The grains mention has me thinking polenta - I've always learned to pair game with things that evoke the natural environment of the animal.

@SKK thanks for the link, excellent!
@ChefOno - At the risk of opening up another can of worms, as a non-hunter, I can understand the event of hunting being the objective rather than the take. I just wonder if it makes more sense to shoot something you like to eat :) But, hey, I get to play with 4 pheasants so I'm not complaining!
ChefOno September 14, 2012

I wouldn't be concerned with gaminess, preferring grain and other seeds as they do. Fat, or rather the lack thereof, that's an issue, and wild ones tend to get a lot of exercise. You can either fight or take advantage of that toughness, either way works.

As for the hunt being more important than the take, I doubt that could be understood by a non-hunter, especially if there's a dog in the equation. For me it's always been more about a crisp winter's day in the field with my best friend and companion than if we came home with a bird or two.

SKK September 13, 2012
I have always had great luck with the Hunter, Angler, Garden cook website's recipes. Here is a great recipe. I have used it for chukar a lot, and am sure it would be great for pheasant.

In my view, brining is necessary for wild game. If you feel that the bird might be too dry, I would consider adding bacon strips rather than duck fat.

Have to say I am jealous you get to work with these delicious birds!
Greenstuff September 13, 2012
Yeah! I've been sitting here thinking that those birds are wasted on your hunter friend! I'd love to be cooking four--count 'em, four--pheasants!
aargersi September 13, 2012
Dare I suggest a brine :-) ? And duckfat rules the world so I am 100% in favor of including that - as a baste or a slather ....
Reiney September 13, 2012
Ha! If you do, PIerino may jump in and rile up some proud Minnesotans...never mess with people that descend from Vikings.
Greenstuff September 13, 2012
My own thought is that duck fat would overtake the more delicate pheasant flavor. Of course, bacon is also strongly flavored, but somehow it seems to complement rather than overtake the pheasant. I also like a good butter slather. instead of a pork bard.

I have a great little book, Gourmet Game by Phillipa Scott. Most of her pheasant recipes call for roasting--the same as you'd do with farmed birds. She also has a Moroccan tagine, terrines, some recipes that call for cheese under the skin.
Reiney September 13, 2012
Thanks June! I was thinking duck fat if I went the confit route - pheasant fat would be in very short supply I agree.
ChefJune September 13, 2012
I think you'd lose the pheasant flavor if you went with duck fat. But maybe the hunter would like that better?
ChefJune September 13, 2012
I would be concerned about the leanness of the pheasant. The wild ones, in particular, have very little fat. You may wish to bard them or wrap them with bacon to add some fat for cooking. It would be very hard to confit a bird that has so little fat of its own.

I have a John Ash book with several great pheasant recipes in it. Sorry I'm not home where the book is, but you might want to check out his web site for ideas.
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