How to Cook Pheasants (with Recipes)

Faisan au Vin (Pheasant in Wine) is just one of the pheasant recipes you will find on this page
Faisan au Vin (Pheasant in Wine) is just one of the pheasant recipes you will find on this page

Pheasants are game birds which can only legally be hunted 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 2011, during the British pheasant shooting season, which runs from the beginning of October to the end of January.

While pheasants are normally plucked, cleaned and roasted whole, the decision was made with these two birds to skin and butcher them instead, allowing a variety of different dishes to be prepared. Those dishes and recipes are included below, along with some useful information links for those who prefer their pheasants roasted in the traditional fashion.

How to Prepare Pheasants for Cooking

Pheasants require to be hung in order to develop their gamey taste
Pheasants require to be hung in order to develop their gamey taste
The two pheasants have been prepared and skinned
The two pheasants have been prepared and skinned
The pheasant leg portions are removed first
The pheasant leg portions are removed first
The two breast portions are removed from the pheasant and set aside with the legs
The two breast portions are removed from the pheasant and set aside with the legs

Pheasants can be cleaned and eaten immediately after they are shot but in order for the gamey flavour to develop, the birds firstly have to 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 ten 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 which was going to be prepared with the carcass 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.

Important: 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.

How to Make Game Stock

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The pheasant carcasses are drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and oven roastedThe roasted pheasant carcasses are allowed to coolThe remaining meat is hand picked from the pheasant carcassesThe pheasant carcasses and chopped vegetables are added to a large stock potThe cooled game stock is strained
The pheasant carcasses are drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and oven roasted
The pheasant carcasses are drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and oven roasted
The roasted pheasant carcasses are allowed to cool
The roasted pheasant carcasses are allowed to cool
The remaining meat is hand picked from the pheasant carcasses
The remaining meat is hand picked from the pheasant carcasses
The pheasant carcasses and chopped vegetables are added to a large stock pot
The pheasant carcasses and chopped vegetables are added to a large stock pot
The cooled game stock is strained
The cooled game stock is strained

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.

Start by putting your oven on to preheat to 350F/180C. 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 in to the oven for twenty minutes. Remove, cover and allow to cool enough that they can be handled.

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.

Sit the carcasses in a large stock pot. Peel and quarter one onion and wash and roughly chop two medium carrots and two sticks of celery. Add the veg to the stock pot, along with six pints of cold water, a teaspoon of dried thyme and half a teaspoon each of sea salt and whole black peppercorns. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer for around two to two and a half hours until the water level has been reduced by half. Turn off the heat, cover and allow to cool.

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.

Your perfect game stock (around two pints) is now ready for using as you desire.

Roast Pheasant and Root Vegetable Soup

A delicious soup made from the roasted and boiled pheasant carcasses
A delicious soup made from the roasted and boiled pheasant carcasses
There are very few ingredients in this simple pheasant soup
There are very few ingredients in this simple pheasant soup
Carrots and leek are simply chopped for soup
Carrots and leek are simply chopped for soup
The vegetables are firstly boiled in the game stock
The vegetables are firstly boiled in the game stock

There are a great many people who prefer their soups hale and hearty, rather than comprised principally of liquid. This is entirely understandable and appreciated but when making game soups, the soup should be more about the flavours imparted by the game, 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.

Ingredients

2 pints of fresh game stock
Pheasant meat removed from roasted carcasses
Stem of one leek
2 medium carrots
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Pour the stock in to a soup or stock pot and place it on a high heat. Wash the leak, top, tail and scrape the carrots. Slice the vegetables in to quarter inch thick discs and add them to the stock. When the stock reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for twenty minutes.

Add the pheasant meat to the soup along with the parsley. Simmer for ten more minutes, taste and season.

Serve immediately with fresh crusty bread.

Gordon Ramsay's Easy Roast Pheasant with Bread Sauce

Bacon Wrapped Pheasant Breast with Redcurrant and Cider Sauce

Pheasant breast fillet wrapped in bacon, served with redcurrant and apple cider sauce, carrots, parsnips and mashed potatoes
Pheasant breast fillet wrapped in bacon, served with redcurrant and apple cider sauce, carrots, parsnips and mashed potatoes

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. The pheasant breasts were allowed to fully defrost in the bottom of the refrigerator overnight.

Potatoes, parsnip and carrots ready for cooking
Potatoes, parsnip and carrots ready for cooking
Pheasant breasts are wrapped in bacon
Pheasant breasts are wrapped in bacon
Pheasant breasts are firstly fried in butter
Pheasant breasts are firstly fried in butter
Pheasant breasts are finished off in the oven
Pheasant breasts are finished off in the oven

Ingredients

2 pheasant breast fillets
4 rashers (slices) of bacon
2 large potatoes
2 medium carrots
1 parsnip
4 tbsp apple cider
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
2oz butter
2 tsp chopped chives
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put your oven on to preheat to 350F/180C. 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 twenty minutes of simmering to cook, while the potatoes take a few minutes longer. Reduce the heat under both pots when the water boils.

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 of bacon. Melt one ounce of the butter in a non-stick frying pan and fry the breasts over a medium heat for five minutes each side.

Transfer the pheasants to a foil lined roasting tray and pour over the juices from the frying pan. Oven bake for ten to twelve minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, check the pheasants are cooked by piercing the thickest part of the flesh with a skewer and ensuring the juices run clear. Cover with more foil and rest while you make your sauce and finish preparing the potatoes, carrots and parsnip.

Pour the cider in to 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.

Drain the potatoes and return to the empty pot. 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. Drain the carrots and parsnip and return them to their pot. Add the last bit of butter and the nutmeg. Swirl gently to mix.

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)

These pheasant legs were made to be a direct substitute for chicken in the otherwise classic French peasant dish, "Coq au Vin"
These pheasant legs were made to be a direct substitute for chicken in the otherwise classic French peasant dish, "Coq au Vin"
It is a good idea to firstly prepare the vegetables for Faisan au Vin
It is a good idea to firstly prepare the vegetables for Faisan au Vin
Pheasant legs are dusted with seasoned flour and browned in bacon fat
Pheasant legs are dusted with seasoned flour and browned in bacon fat
Onion is added to the browned pheasant legs
Onion is added to the browned pheasant legs
The remaining vegetables, stock and wine are added to the cooking pot
The remaining vegetables, stock and wine are added to the cooking pot
Chopped parsley is the final ingredient to be added to the Faisin au Vin
Chopped parsley is the final ingredient to be added to the Faisin au Vin

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?

Ingredients

4 pheasant leg and thigh portions
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
Half a large onion
1 ½ pints of fresh chicken stock
1 bottle of red wine
½ Swede turnip (rutabaga)
1 parsnip
2 medium carrots
1 large potato
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil for browning

Method

Put the flour in to 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. Heat the oil in a large stock pot and add the leg portions. Evenly brown over a medium heat before adding the roughly chopped onion to cook for a further couple of minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and red wine. Increase the heat until the liquid boils, then reduce and allow to simmer for one and a half hours.

Peel and roughly chop all of the root vegetables. Add them to the pot for a final hour of cooking (two and a half 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. The roughly chopped parsley should be stirred through ten minutes before the end of the cooking time.

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.

Ladle the vegetables in to serving bowls and sit two pheasant legs on top. Ladle stock over the legs. Serve immediately with fresh, crusty bread and another bottle of red wine.

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12 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

It is fairly straightforward, EatCookReview - provided you get someone to do the preparation for you! I hope you get the chance to give it a go. Thanks for visiting.


EatCookReview profile image

EatCookReview 3 years ago from Wales

I love pheasant but have never tried cooking it myself!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, htodd


htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Interesting..Thanks


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, iZeko. Yes, pheasant which isn't hung will look and taste not dissimilar to chicken. It's all about striking a balance and knowing your own tastes as well as the science. Thanks for the visit and comment and I hope you'll give that Faisin au Vin a try! :)


iZeko profile image

iZeko 5 years ago

I had no idea that hanging the bird enhances the flavor. Interesting! The Faisan au Vin looks really tender and yummy. Now I’m hungry ;-)


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Tony. A good supplier is definitely essential when it comes to wild game. I hope you get to try to enjoy some of these ideas. Cheers.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 5 years ago from Yorkshire

HI Gordon

some wonderful meal ideas here, I do like game and I have a good supplier. I'll give some of your idedas a whirl for sure. Voted up as usual, well done Gordon.

cheers Tony


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, randomcreative. I know that pheasant is not to everyone's taste but it is amazing how versatile it can be.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great hub! As always, I love the mix of recipes.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Tera. Thanks for the visit and positive comment. I hope your kids found what they were looking for. Pheasant meat is not naturally so dark - it is the hanging of the birds which causes them to darken and the flavours to develop. If they are cooked straight away, the meat will be a colour (and taste!) similar to chicken. Personally, I always hang them but it is entirely a matter of choice and they are perfectly edible without this being done :)


Tera715 profile image

Tera715 5 years ago from Panama City, Florida

Gordon, this popped up in my email and the word, "pheasant" made me click because I was teaching a book with my kids at work recently and made them research pheasants. This hub is very well done and informative. I had no idea their meat was so purple looking.

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