homemade pheasant smoker

A couple of deep baking trays and a cooling rack will create a pheasant smoker, a novel way of cooking the gamebird

Eating what you shoot is all part of the shooting code, so you need to have a few delicious pheasant recipes in your repertoire. Pheasant is also free-range and high in protein, nutritious and delicious.

brace of pheasants

And so it begins …

Hanging pheasants

These days the top game chefs recommend hanging birds for a minimal time, as they taste best when very fresh. Gone are the days of hanging pheasant for days until they tasted ‘gamey’. Which is a good thing too, as that gamey taste probably put off a lot of diners who otherwise would have enjoyed a pheasant dish. Four days is the maximum to hang a pheasant safely in the feather in a cold place.

In fact, pheasant meat is mild, delicate and extremely versatile.

Shooting Times contributor and game chef Tim Maddams advises: “It is a good idea to leave them for 24 hours if you can, as this helps the meat to relax, but anything more than that is not needed, unless you prefer a deeper flavour to your meat.”

Pheasants that are wet, dirty or badly damaged should be prepared for cooking as soon as they have cooled from the field, because they will go off very quickly.

Pheasant also freezes well. 

hen pheasant

Young hen pheasants are best for roasting

Cock or hen bird?

Certain dishes are best with a cock bird, other pheasant recipes work best if you have a hen bird, for example if you’re going to roast a pheasant.

Think about the time of year

Check your pheasant to see how old it is before you decide how to cook it. Horny feet and moth eaten feathers will mean that the bird is older. Never roast a pheasant after Christmas as it will be tough – it’s better to casserole it after this time.

Preparing pheasants

There are plenty of useful videos around on plucking and gutting pheasants. You will make a bit of a mess, so do it outside if possible. You can also bone the bird without plucking it. Some people also swear by pheasant crowners.

Plucking takes practice

There are a few things to bear in mind when plucking pheasants. On the breasts, in particular, you should be careful to hold the skin down while you gently pull the feathers, no more than a few at a time, against the grain.

You will have difficulty if the bird has many shot holes in the breast, in which case you would be better of skinning it anyway.

The force that is acceptable for pulling out the feathers and the direction of pull depends on where you are plucking feathers from. When plucking feathers from the back, where the skin is very thick and close to the bone, you can generally pluck away to your heart’s content, but great care is needed where the skin is thin, such as over the breasts.

However there is little point in plucking a late-season cock for roasting because it will be rather tough – it would be better to breast the bird and fry some pheasant goujons instead.

A versatile game bird

You can add pheasant meat instead of chicken to almost any recipe – or add it to a chicken recipe to give a deeper flavour.

Smoked pheasant is another thing to do with the meat – and then you can use it as a basis for salads.

A criticism levelled at pheasant is that it can sometimes be a dry meat – this tends to happen with older birds which should be cooked long and slow and never roasted.

Shooting Times contributor Rose Prince says about pheasant: “I also love to use it in more exotic recipes, 
as a reminder of the bird’s Eastern origins”

Some dishes to cook with pheasant

Hay baked pheasant

Pheasant has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. Fancy cooking a pheasant recipe with a difference? Try cooking it in hay.

Baking in hay is an old method: the hay will keep the heat in during cooking. Serves four.

Hay baked pheasant recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 oven-ready pheasants
  • 2 celeriac
  • 500ml cider
  • Fresh hay
  • Cornish sea salt
  • Milled black pepper

Soak the hay in cider. Place the hay in a roasting tray and nestle the pheasant and celeriac inside and cover.

Roast in a hot oven (180ºC) for 50 minutes (depending on size).

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Remember the pheasant will carry on cooking with the residual heat.

pheasant breasts recipes

10 essential recipes for cooking pheasant breasts

We’ve put together these essential pheasant breasts recipes which every shooter should know. When you’re cooking pheasant you need to ensure that it doesn’t dry out – so don’t overcook…

pheasant crumble

A reader’s recipe for pheasant crumble

Reader and keen Shot Dominic Russell had a problem. His wife said she wasn’t a fan of game. Refusing to believe this he decided to create a game dish that…

pheasant risotto with mushrooms

Pheasant and wild mushroom risotto recipe

Risotto recipes are the perfect way to use game meat. This simple to make and delicious recipe for pheasant risotto with mushrooms was developed for us by the West London…

pheasant with pearl barley risotto

Pheasant and pearl barley risotto recipe

Pheasant with pearl barley is the perfect way to use meat left over from a roast or to use leg meat or breast meat and makes a change from a…

cider brined pheasant

Recipe for cider brined pheasant

One of the few criticisms thrown at game meat is that it can sometimes have the propensity to go dry after cooking. This is especially true of pheasant if it…

recipe for spiced pulled pheasant

Recipe for spiced pulled pheasant

This is a truly innovative recipe for spiced pulled pheasant from the talented Archie Clark, chef director of the fabulous Kochi Kitchen, which offers authentic, vibrant dishes at supper clubs…

pheasant escalope recipe

Pheasant escalope Holstein

Pheasant escalope is simply delicious — a pheasant 
version of a classic escalope dish 
and all for a good cause to boot

Piri-piri pheasant recipe

Piri-piri pheasant recipe

At the end of the season I like to make preparations for the freezer. I breast a lot of birds, take out the thighs and freeze a few birds whole.…

sweet and sour pheasant recipe

Sweet and sour pheasant recipe

Full of flavour and crunch, Mark Hix’s sweet and sour pheasant recipe is a gamey take on a Chinese takeaway favourite and delicious with cold beer

pheasant bolognese

A recipe for pheasant bolognese sauce

This recipe for pheasant bolognese is close to my heart. James Golding is a talented chef who is unfazed by simple things like using the ingredients available to you, and…

pheasant meatballs

Recipe for pheasant meatballs – pheasant polpette

This easy and delicious recipe for pheasant meatballs from Tom Godber-Ford Moore is a real classic. Polpette are simply meatballs, sometimes cooked plain and sometimes, as is the case here,…

recipe for pheasant stock

A recipe for pheasant stock

In my kitchen, making stock from leftover bones or carcases is part of an economic plan. It is a simple process that extracts a greater value from the bones of…

Gamekeeper's pie

Gamekeeper’s pie

Gamekeeper’s pie recipe Ingredients For the mince 100ml  Water 5ml     Rapeseed oil 60g     Diced onion 3g       Garlic puree 2g       Chopped thyme 1          Large diced carrot 1/2      Small diced swede…

smoked pheasant recipe

A recipe for smoked pheasant

I like the combination of the smoky pheasant breast with the sweet and tangy roasted squash, while the pickled cabbage lifts it up and the green sauce stops it being…