Because it's a wild game bird, pheasant has less fat and more muscle than farm-raised poultry such as chicken and turkey. While it has a distinct natural flavor and its leanness makes it a bit healthier than fattier birds, pheasant is also naturally tougher than other poultry. Brining is an effective way to add moisture to pheasant meat and to help prevent it from drying out and toughening during cooking and even overcooking.
Clear out enough space in your refrigerator for a bucket or large container that's big enough to fit the pheasant. You might need to temporarily reconfigure the shelves for a sizable whole bird.
Fill the bucket or container with enough cold water to fully submerge the pheasant. Or, if you'd like to marinate while brining, use only 3/4 as much water. Then, fill the rest of the way with another liquid with flavors that complement the recipe you're preparing. For example, fruit juice, cider, wine, beer, soy sauce and different types of vinegar all work.
Stir in about 3/4 of a cup of non-iodized table salt or about 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of brining liquid until it's dissolved. Measurements don't have to be exact, but be wary of adding much more salt than this, or the pheasant may come out unpleasantly salty.
Add in a sweetening agent if you want, unless you're using a sweet brining liquid like a fruit juice or sweet wine. Use approximately 1/2 cup per gallon of brining liquid. Sugar or brown sugar works, as does honey, molasses or maple syrup. Pick something with flavors that complement the recipe you're following for the pheasant. Again, measurements don't have to be precise, and the more sweetener you add, the sweeter the finished dish will be.
Season the brine with any herbs and spices that go well with your pheasant recipe and the other brine ingredients. Cracked black pepper, minced garlic, chopped onion, chives, scallion, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, sage, bay leaves, ground chile pepper, turmeric and many other herbs and spices can go into a brine, provided they impart a flavor that complements the rest of your recipe.
Put the pheasant into the brine and ensure that it's fully immersed. If it's not, add enough water to cover it. Refrigerate for about four hours.
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- Pheasant must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the determination, insert a meat thermometer into the center of the breast and the thigh. Make sure the thermometer isn't touching bone while taking the reading.
- The brine is contaminated by bacteria from the raw pheasant, so dispose of it. While marinades can be boiled for five minutes to make them safe for consumption, brine is too salty to reuse as a sauce. Discard it after use.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living with his family in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.