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How to Prepare & Cook Wild Pheasant

by Andrea Lott Haney

After you hunt and harvest wild pheasant, you need to know how to prepare and cook it and then serve it on the table for a unique family feast. Although a more unusual choice for supper than farmed fowl, such as chicken or duck, wild pheasant may be prepared in many of the same ways, but yields a more flavorful and robust dish. Prepare and cook wild pheasant safely for a meal the family will remember.

Field Dressing

If you plan to hunt a bird to eat, come to the field prepared to preserve your pheasant. Bring a sharp knife, a cooler with ice and plastic bags. After harvesting your pheasant, immediately cut down the back of the pheasant. Examine the organs and discard if there's any trace of off-color discharge, foul odor or black clots. Remove the heart and liver and preserve them in a plastic bag, if desired. Remove the entrails and crop without dissecting, since these organs can contain harmful bacteria that will infect the rest of the bird. Keep the bird and preserved organs on ice until ready to prepare.

In the Kitchen

Once it's home, pluck or skin the pheasant. Fill a sink or cooler with cold iced water to cover the pheasant and soak it for up to 2 hours. Soaking the bird in cold water helps remove excess blood. Drain the water and pat the pheasant dry. Store the wild pheasant in a refrigerator for up to 3 days or in a freezer up to 6 months.

Season to Perfection

Because wild birds such as pheasant develop more muscle than domesticated fowl crops like chicken or turkey, the meat they produce is lean and almost devoid of fat. For that reason, added fat in a marinade may add moistness to the finished dish. Immerse the skinned pheasant in a marinade of salt or soy sauce, olive oil or melted butter and an acid such as apple cider vinegar. As an alternative, use a dry spice rub on the skin of the pheasant and insert pats of butter or rub olive oil under the skin directly on the meat.

Cooking the Bird

Cook pheasant in many of the same ways you would other fowl, such as roasting or stewing. Wild pheasant should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the bird to take the temperature. In general, pheasants weighing less than 5 pounds can be roasted. Cook in a shallow pan, covered with foil if needed to prevent excess browning, at 450 F for 1 to 2 hours. For birds weighing over 5 pounds, too much muscular tissue makes the birds most tender when braised or stewed. Cook in a slow cooker or Dutch oven on low heat in liquid broth or tomato sauce for 3 hours or more until the pheasant's internal temperature reaches 160 F.

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