Although you can substitute wild pheasant for chicken or other poultry in any recipe, preparing it as stand-alone fare lets you savor the rustic flavors of a wild bird. Mushrooms, wine, fruits and vegetables all provide complementary flavor enhancements. Pheasant tends to be dry, so choose a moist cooking method that allows you to enjoy the succulence of this meat. While braising and stewing are obvious moist-cooking methods, roasting pheasant in a covered pan to retain the bird’s natural juices also allows you some creative latitude in the final dish.
Things You'll Need
- Large crock or bowl (optional)
- Brine (optional)
- Herbs and seasonings
- Roasting pan with lid or Dutch oven
- Favorite stuffing or accompaniments (optional)
- Butcher’s twine or truss pins
- Butter or cooking oil
- Aluminum foil (optional)
- Instant-read thermometer
Game Bird Preparation
Field dress a wild pheasant as soon after the kill as possible. Pluck and gut the bird and rinse the carcass thoroughly in cold water.
Quick-chill the carcass to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a cooler of ice, or submerge the cleaned bird in ice water.
Soak the cleaned, chilled pheasant in brine, if desired. In a large crock or bowl, mix together about a pint of hot water and salt in a 2:1 ratio; hot water dissolves the salt completely. Steep herbs in the hot brine as it cools to 40 F. Add wine and orange or apple juice as desired, with additional cold water to make enough liquid to completely cover the bird. Soak the pheasant in the brine for 2 to 6 hours in the refrigerator, then rinse the bird inside and out before cooking it.
Roasting the Bird
Stuff the bird, if desired, with your favorite bread stuffing or prepare mushrooms, vegetables or fruits such as apples or pears to roast inside the bird. You can also roast pheasant solo; dust the cavity of the pheasant with crumbled dried herbs to enhance the flavor.
Truss the legs and wings close to the bird’s body to prevent overcooking, using butcher’s twine or truss pins. Place the bird in the pan and rub butter or oil over the skin. The additional fat helps prevent moisture loss and creates nicely browned skin.
Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil, and bake it in a moderate, 350 F oven until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 165 F. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
Tips & Warnings
- Reduce pan drippings and wine to make a sauce to serve with the bird.
- If you need additional liquid to make gravy, use chicken or turkey stock in addition to the pan drippings.
- A wild pheasant is about the size of a mature chicken. Plan to have about four ample servings per bird and leftovers from the carcass.
- Wear latex gloves approved for food handling while you dress wild birds and change to a new pair after each bird.
- Sanitize knives, utensils and work surfaces after exposure to raw poultry.
- The American Heritage Cookbook; Editors of American Heritage Magazine, 1964
- Missouri Department of Conservation: How to Cook Your Goose
- University of Wisconsin Extension: USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperatures for All Whole Cuts of Meat to 145 F
- Ultimate Pheasant Hunting: USA Pheasant Hunting Directory
- Game Bird Hunts: Arkansas Upland Hunts
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images