Pheasant is a versatile meat that’s flavoursome without being overpowering. Some people say it reminds them of how chicken used to taste before intensive farming. Free to roam and feed naturally, pheasants eat a healthy and varied diet including plenty of fruits and seeds, and all of this adds to the interest of the meat.
Pheasant is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a healthy meat. It’s a popular option for
weight loss and muscle growth because it’s lean, low fat and high protein, trumping other meats such as chicken and beef on all counts. It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, phosphorous and potassium.
Ways to enjoy pheasant:
In stews and casseroles: end of season birds are best cooked low and slow. Cook in the
oven at a low temperature – around gas mark 2/150C/130C fan, for 2 hours..
Roasted: heat the oven to gas mark 7/220C/200C fan. Take the pheasant out of the fridge for 30 minutes prior to cooking. To make sure it stays moist, lay some bacon rashers over the pheasant and put an onion and a knob of butter inside the pheasant. Place on a heated, oiled baking tin and cook in the oven for about 35-45 minutes, basting regularly. It’s ready when the internal temperature of the thigh is 155°F to 160°F. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce the flesh inside the thigh and check whether the juices run clear. Rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Pot roasted: this is a great way to keep the pheasant moist. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5/190C/170C fan and brown the pheasant in a Dutch oven or similar lidded hob and oven- proof dish. Add your other ingredients – for example, stock, wine or cider, herbs and vegetables, and cook in the oven with the lid on for about 25-30 minutes until the pheasant is cooked through (as above, check the internal temperature of the thigh has reached 155°F to 160°F. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce the flesh inside the thigh and check whether the juices run clear). Rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Barbequed: spatchcock or joint the pheasant or use breast fillets. Marinade if desired, then cook as you would chicken.
Pan fried: this is a great way to cook pheasant breast fillets. Melt some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the pheasant on high for about 30 seconds each side then turn the heat down low and cook for about 5 minutes more, until the juices run clear when you pierce it with a fork.
Stir fried: cut pheasant breast fillets into strips, heat some oil in a wok and cook for 2-4
minutes before adding your vegetables. Make sure the meat is cooked through and juices run clear before serving.
Poached: this works with whole birds or breast fillets and is a great cooking method if you want shredded pheasant for a recipe. Essentially you cook it as you would if you were using the carcass to make stock. Place the pheasant 2 sticks of celery, cut into large pieces, 2 large carrots, cut into large pieces, 1 onion, quartered (you can leave the skin on), 4 peppercorns, 2 cloves, 1 bay leaf and any woody fresh herbs such as thyme, sage or rosemary. Bring to the boil then simmer for 30-35 minutes. Check the pheasant is cooked by piercing the inside of the thigh to see if the juices run clear. When they do, turn off the heat and leave the pheasant to sit in the stock for 10 minutes. Remove, let it cook then remove the meat and, if desired, shred by pulling apart with 2 forks.
Extra tips for tenderness:
There are several things you can do to improve the tenderness of pheasant meat:
Brining: essentially this involves sitting the pheasant in a saltwater solution, ideally
overnight. Dissolve 140g of salt and 2 tbsp sugar in 1 litre of water. You can add ingredients such as juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves and herbs to the brine to enhance the flavour if you like. Heat until boiling then add another litre of cold water and leave it cool to room temperature. Add the pheasant and place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
This Asian method is great for meat you’re going to stir fry.
For every 250g of pheasant breast, toss with a scant tsp of bicarbonate of soda. Leave to sit for 20 minutes then rinse well and pat dry before cooking.
For 2 pheasant breasts, combine 1 tbsp whisked egg white, 2 tsp cornflour, 2 tsp peanut or sesame oil and a generous pinch of salt. You can also add a tsp of soy sauce if desired. Mix until smooth, use it to coat the pheasant and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cook the pheasant in boiling water until just cooked through, then it’s ready to use in your stir fry.
This is a great way to prepare pheasant for the barbeque. A basic marinade can be made with 1 part vinegar, lemon juice or wine to 3 parts olive oil, some crushed garlic and herbs of your choice. Add to the pheasant and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes to several hours.