Tips For Cooking Pheasant
Cooking pheasant, as with cooking other wild game birds, requires a bit more finesse than cooking your average chicken or turkey. Pheasants are quite lean, and can easily become dry and tough if not cooked with care. If you've spent your day hunting wild pheasant, the last thing you want is to lose all the flavor of the bird during the cooking process. By following a few simple tips and trying a tried and true recipe, you can ensure a result that is fit to be served under glass.
Since pheasant has a lesser fat content than many other meats, it is important to take steps to keep the pheasant from drying out while cooking. You can do this by adding extra fat during the cooking process, sealing the bird in a cooking bag, or basting the pheasant every so often. Many people use pheasant as an ingredient in casserole, cooking it with a cream sauce in order to keep it from becoming too tough. Others insist that pheasant should be enjoyed without heavy sauces or seasonings, which can mask the wild flavor unique to the pheasant.
Most people agree that before cooking, pheasant should be hung. Most food writers suggest hanging pheasant for four to five days at a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees. Hen pheasants do well after being hung for only three days, while old cocks can be left hanging for up to a week. You can pluck the bird before or after hanging; the pheasant will absorb some additional oil from the feathers, and so will have a bit more flavor if some feathers remain on the bird while it hangs.
The most basic method of cooking pheasant is to roast it. Roast pheasant is a classic and simple recipe that doesn't take a great deal of time or preparation. Start by placing onion or a few slices of apple in the bird's cavity, along with a tablespoon of butter and some fresh herbs, if you desire. Oil the pheasant and wrap it in aluminum foil, or place a few tablespoons of butter on top of the bird before you wrap it. Cook in a preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to bake the bird until it is tender, which will take about 60 to 75 minutes. Brown the pheasant by opening the aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
Another simple roast pheasant recipe uses bacon or ham and a regular boxed stuffing. Prepare the stuffing according to the box's directions (or make your own if you have a special recipe) and stuff the pheasant. Cover the bird with the bacon or ham, and roast it at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. At that point, drop the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cook for another 40 to 50 minutes, until the bird is tender. Be sure to baste the bird occasionally, using a little bit of wine or butter if you need more liquid for the basting.
Once you've roasted your pheasant, use the drippings to make a sauce or gravy. You can serve the pheasant with any sides that sound good to you, although mushrooms compliment the flavor of the bird nicely. You can also serve it over a bed of rice, if you desire. Pheasants are not particularly large birds, but one pheasant should be big enough to serve two people.
Of course, if you are feeling ambitious, there are many wonderful pheasant recipes available to try. You can fry it, roast it with many different fruits, cook it on a rotisserie, or cut it up and put it in a casserole. Pheasant can be used to make chowder or stew, and can even be cooked in a crock pot. The most important tip is to avoid overcooking your pheasant, and to keep it moist while cooking.