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All About Pheasant

Pheasant is a bird native to Asia and was introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. Wild pheasant has never acclimatized to Canada, so pheasant hunted here is farm-raised. It is fleshier and heavier than wild pheasant, with delicately flavoured, less gamey flesh.

Low in calories, it contains less fat than other red meats. So, not only is it delicious, it is also a very healthy choice!

Pheasant is often cooked with wine or fruits, such as oranges, mangoes, grapes, prunes and peaches.

Ideas for marinades

  • Mix fresh pineapple juice with lemon zest or lemon juice and some crushed garlic.
  • Try orange and lime juice, crushed peppercorns, coriander seeds and some freshly chopped hot peppers.
  • Mix some red wine, cider vinegar, cumin seeds, Jamaican hot pepper and a cinnamon stick. Red wine also works well with cinnamon and crushed cloves or rosemary and marjoram.
  • Stir together sherry vinegar, oil, thyme, sage and bay leaves.

Cooking methods

Roasted pheasant

A young pheasant is generally roasted. To prevent dryness, barding the pheasant is recommended.

  • Roast the pheasant for 1 to 1½ hours at 190°C (375°F).

Braised pheasant

Because pheasant meat can be tough and dry, braising it is a good choice.

Braising a whole pheasant

  • Pull the skin of the neck under the bird and tuck the wings. Tie the legs with thread.
  • Bard with thin slices of bacon.
  • Brown the pheasant on all sides in a lightly oiled-casserole.
  • Add carrots, thin slices of onions and cranberries.
  • Pour some red wine or broth to cover the pheasant halfway.
  • Cover and simmer over medium low heat or in the oven at 180°C (350°F) until tender.
  • Add liquid frequently during cooking.

Braising pheasant pieces

  • Marinate the pheasant pieces overnight in the refrigerator in a marinade made of carrots, onions, cloves, celery, mixed herbs, spices, olive oil and red wine.
  • Brown the pieces on all sides in a lightly oiled casserole.
  • Add enough liquid, wine, beer or broth to cover the meat.
  • Flavour the broth with herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables.
  • Cover and simmer over medium low heat or in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for approximately 2 hours, until tender.

Grilling butterflied pheasant

Cooking pheasant on the grill is faster if it’s butterflied, which means placing the flattened pheasant on aluminum foil with a bit of oil, grilling for 30 minutes, turning and basting often.

  • Flatten the pheasant by breaking its back.
  • Insert a bamboo skewer in the middle of one wing through the bird to the opposite wing, and a second skewer into the thigh through the bird to the other.
  • Rub the interior and exterior of the bird with a mixture of salt, garlic powder, ground cumin or cinnamon, and coriander or paprika, and baste with olive oil.
  • Grill each side for 4 to 6 minutes over medium heat, basting frequently with olive oil.

Tips and advice

  • Pheasants less than twelve months old are called “young” pheasants. Their meat is very tender and they can be barded for roasting or butterflied and grilled.
  • Adult pheasants have firmer meat and are prepared as pot roasts and pâtés, or in puff pastry, soups and stews.
  • When buying pheasant, make sure the limbs are intact. The skin and fat should have a golden colour, and the meat should be dark.
  • If buying frozen pheasant, make sure that the packaging is well sealed and intact, showing no sign of ice crystals or discolouration due to freezer burn.
  • A 1-kilo (2-pound) pheasant will serve two people. Calculate 350 to 450 grams (3/4 to 1 pound) of whole raw poultry per portion.
  • Pheasant is very lean, so it’s important to keep it moist during cooking. You can do this by barding or coating the bird with fat or butter.
  • Trussing the pheasant prior to cooking helps to preserve its shape, ensures a better presentation and facilitates carving once cooked. You can also “buttonhole” the bird by making incisions in the fleshy part of the thighs and sliding the opposing legs into the incisions.
  • Marinades will add flavour to pheasant.

How to know when cooked pheasant is done

Pheasant is cooked when its internal temperature reaches 82° C (180° F).

Nutritional value

Compared to an equal amount of beef, pheasant contains almost 50% less fat. It is a good source of iron, contains twice the vitamin B12 found in chicken or turkey, and is low in calories.


Fresh pheasant can be kept for up to two days in the coldest compartment of the refrigerator.

Pheasant can be frozen for up to three months, or slightly less if it was first kept in the refrigerator.

Defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest method. Leave the pheasant in its packaging, piercing a few holes on the bottom to allow the liquid to drain away from the bird. Allow 10 to 11 hours per kilo (5 to 6 hours per pound).

A defrosted pheasant must be cooked within 48 hours. Never re-freeze a defrosted pheasant.


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