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How to Cook Pheasants (With Four Recipes)

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Faisan au vin (pheasant in wine)

Faisan au vin (pheasant in wine)

Pheasants are game birds that can be legally hunted only at certain times of year, the season varying depending upon your location. Although this limits when fresh pheasant is available, techniques such as deep freezing and vacuum packing have made pheasant available to be purchased and enjoyed at any time of year, especially from online suppliers via mail order.

The two pheasants featured on this page were shot in Scotland in October, during the British pheasant shooting season, which runs from the beginning of October to the end of January.

Pheasants must be hung in order to develop their gamey taste

Pheasants must be hung in order to develop their gamey taste

How to Prepare Pheasants for Cooking

While pheasants are normally plucked, cleaned and roasted whole, I made the decision with these two birds to skin and butcher them instead, allowing a variety of different dishes to be prepared.

Pheasants can be cleaned and eaten immediately after they are shot—but in order for the gamey flavour to develop, the birds must first be hung. They can be hung for anything from three days to three weeks, depending principally on the temperature but also how gamey you wish your pheasants to taste. The colder the temperature, the longer they can safely be hung. These two birds were hung in a cool outhouse for 10 days after they were shot before being cleaned.

When these pheasants had been skinned and cleaned, the leg and thigh portions were firstly removed and set aside. The fillets from each side of the breast were likewise removed. This leaves a fair amount of meat still on the main carcass, but the recipe I wanted to prepare required this meat to be left in place.

The net result of this cleaning process was two meaty carcasses, four leg and thigh portions and four decent-sized breast fillets. The leg portions and the breast fillets were frozen, as depending upon how many are going to be dining, that could be a lot more pheasant than is required.

All the recipes featured on this page are designed for—and quoted in the quantities required to serve—two people.

Caution: Always be careful when eating pheasant and other game birds, whether cooked at home or in a restaurant, of pieces of lead shot remaining in the meat. No matter how careful you are when cleaning a pheasant, the chance of a little bit of lead shot or two remaining hidden in the depths of the flesh always remains.

Wild game stock

Wild game stock

Recipe 1: Wild Game Stock

Wild game stock can be made from virtually any type of wild game and subsequently used for a wide variety of purposes. It can be used in stews, game pies or—as in this instance—soup.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour (includes cooling time)

Cook time: 2 hours 30 min

Read More From Delishably

Ready in: 3 hours 30 min

Yields: Approximately 2 pints

Ingredients

  • 2 raw pheasant carcasses
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 6 pints cold water

Instructions

  1. Put your oven on to preheat to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Wash any excess blood of the pheasant carcasses, pat them dry with kitchen paper and rub them with olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay them on a roasting tray and put them into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove, cover and set aside to let them cool enough that they can be safely handled.
  3. By hand, pull all of the remaining meat off the pheasant carcasses and place it in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. If you wish, the carcasses can be returned to the oven for further roasting at this stage but that option wasn't taken in this instance.
  4. Sit the carcasses in a large stockpot. Peel and quarter the onion and wash and roughly chop the carrots and sticks of celery. Add the veg to the stockpot, along with the cold water, dried thyme, sea salt and whole black peppercorns.
  5. Put the pot on to a high heat and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer for around 2 to 2½ hours, until the water level has been reduced by half. Turn off the heat, cover and leave for around 30 minutes to partially cool.
  6. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the pheasant carcasses and vegetables from the stock, all of which can now be discarded. Line a sieve with three sheets of kitchen paper and sieve the stock through this in to a large bowl (you may need to change the paper if it becomes clogged with grease).
Pheasant and root vegetable wild game soup

Pheasant and root vegetable wild game soup

Recipe 2: Pheasant and Vegetable Game Soup Recipe

Many people prefer their soups hale and hearty, rather than comprised principally of liquid. This is entirely understandable and appreciated, but when making soups with game the soup should be more about the flavours imparted by the meat, rather than an excess of other added ingredients. For this reason, this roast pheasant soup is best served as a starter to a main meal, rather than as any form of meal in its own right.

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 30 min

Ready in: 40 min

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pints fresh game stock
  • Pheasant meat removed from roasted carcasses
  • Stem (white part) only of a leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pour the stock in to a soup or stockpot and place it on to a high heat.
  2. Wash the leak, top, tail and scrape the carrots. Slice the vegetables into 1/4-inch-thick discs and add them to the stock. When the stock reaches the boil, reduce the heat and simmer fairly gently for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the pheasant meat to the soup along with the parsley. Simmer for 10 more minutes, taste and season.
  4. Serve immediately with optional fresh crusty bread.
Pheasant breast is cooked wrapped in bacon and served with vegetables and a redcurrant and cider sauce

Pheasant breast is cooked wrapped in bacon and served with vegetables and a redcurrant and cider sauce

Recipe 3: Pheasant Breast in Bacon With Redcurrant and Cider Sauce Recipe

Pheasant is a very lean meat, which means that if we are not particularly careful how we cook it, it can be served tough and dry. That is why these pheasant breasts are wrapped in bacon prior to being cooked. These pheasant breasts were originally frozen and therefore allowed to fully defrost in the bottom of the refrigerator overnight but fresh ones work equally well.

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 45 min

Ready in: 1 hour

Yields: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless pheasant breast fillets
  • 4 rashers back bacon (or 6 to 8 of streaky/American bacon)
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
  • 2 ounces (½ stick) butter
  • 2 teaspoon chopped chives
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Put your oven on to preheat to 350F/180C.
  2. Peel and chop the potatoes. Add them to a large pot of cold, slightly salted water and put them on a high heat until the water boils. Similarly prepare the carrots and parsnip and add them to a separate pot of water. They will take about 15 minutes of simmering to cook, while the potatoes take a few minutes longer. Reduce the heat under both pots when the water boils.
  3. Wash the pheasant breasts in cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season with freshly ground black pepper and wrap each breast in two rashers (3 or 4 strips) of bacon. Melt half the butter in a non-stick frying pan and fry the breasts over a medium heat for 5 minutes each side.
  4. Transfer the pheasants to a foil-lined roasting tray and pour over the juices from the frying pan. Oven bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven. Cover with more foil and rest while you make your sauce and finish preparing the potatoes, carrots and parsnip.
  5. Pour the cider into a small saucepan and spoon in the redcurrant jelly. Bring to a fairly rapid simmer to firstly melt the jelly and thicken the sauce by evaporating the cider.
  6. Drain the potatoes and return to the empty pot. Allow to steam off for a couple of minutes to dry out. Add half an ounce of butter and season with white pepper. Mash with a hand masher before adding the chives and stirring them through with a spoon.
  7. Drain the carrots and parsnip and return them to their pot. Add the last bit of butter and the nutmeg. Swirl gently to mix.
  8. Plate the potatoes with an ice cream scoop and spoon the carrot and parsnip alongside. Lay the pheasant breast on the plate and pour a little of the sauce next to or over it, depending upon preference. Serve immediately.
Faisan au vin (pheasant in wine)

Faisan au vin (pheasant in wine)

Recipe 4: Faisan au Vin (Pheasant in Wine)

Coq au vin is an old French peasant dish, made principally from pieces of chicken, vegetables, stock and red wine. This recipe is based on the same principle, only using pheasant. Perhaps it could be deemed to be a peasant pheasant dish?

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 2 hours 30 min

Ready in: 3 hours

Yields: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pheasant leg and thigh portions
  • 2 tablespoons plain (all purpose) flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ large onion
  • 1½ pints fresh chicken stock
  • 1 standard bottle red wine
  • ½ small Swede turnip (rutabaga)
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large potato
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Put the flour into a large bowl and season. Add the pheasant legs and carefully turn them around in the flour with a wooden spoon until they are evenly coated.
  2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the leg portions. Evenly brown on all sides, turning with cooking tongs, over a medium heat before adding the roughly chopped onion to cook for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock and red wine. Increase the heat until the liquid boils, then reduce and allow to simmer for 1½ hours.
  4. Peel and roughly chop all of the root vegetables. Add them to the pot for a final hour of cooking (2½ in total). It may be necessary during this final stage to top the liquid up a little bit with some more stock or boiling water, depending upon how gentle a simmer you have achieved or otherwise.
  5. The roughly chopped parsley should be stirred through 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
  6. If you so desire, you can remove the pheasant legs immediately prior to adding the parsley and sit them on a warm plate (covered with foil) to rest. This does help make them a little bit more tender but it is not essential.
  7. Ladle the vegetables into serving bowls and sit two pheasant legs on top. Ladle stock over the legs. Serve immediately with optional fresh, crusty bread and another bottle of red wine.

© 2011 Gordon Hamilton

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