What Does Pheasant Taste Like?

While many people say that all white meat tastes like chicken, clearly, they have never had pheasant meat. Originating in Asia, the pheasant slowly spread across the globe and has always been considered prized hunting meat. Traditionally served with its feathers, this beautiful bird now comes in two varieties: wild and farmed. 

Considered tastier than chicken, pheasant meat is naturally lean and has a low-fat content. The meat is darker and denser than chicken meat and has a subtle gamey flavor. When cooked right, it is juicy and delicious, though care must be taken as it can easily become dry through overcooking. 

Wild Vs. Farmed Pheasant

Wild pheasant meat is darker in color, which often causes people to assume it is red meat. Since wild pheasants forage and live active lives, they take on the taste of game meat like quail or duck. Wild pheasant is a popular hunting choice as they fly low and are relatively easy to shoot down. 

Farmed pheasant is fed chicken feed and traditionally kept in confined areas, so the cooked meat strongly resembles chicken in terms of texture and flavor. Farmed pheasant is what is readily available at most shopping marts and butcher shops. Pheasant is most common in Asian countries and can be hard to find in the United States. 

Is Pheasant Healthy?

Pheasant meat contains more protein than other poultry animals like chicken, turkey, and duck. It is very lean meat, so it is naturally low in fat and calories. It contains high levels of iron and potassium, in addition to being packed with an array of vitamins.

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How To Cook Pheasant

Cooking a new food can feel challenging, especially when they are delicate and can easily overcook. Below are a few easy recipes to get you started: 

Oven Roasted Pheasant

The popular way to cook pheasant is in the oven. Adequate fat must be added to offset the lean nature of the bird. Below is a basic recipe: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole pheasant (2 – 2 1/2 lbs), room temperature
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 3-4 parsnips, peeled and cut into sticks
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and remove it from heat. Add the crushed garlic to the melted butter. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Set the pheasant in a roasting pan and rub the garlic butter all over the bird, including the cavity and under the skin. Generously season with salt and pepper. Tie the legs closed with butcher’s twine and tuck the wing tips in so they don’t burn. Place the parsnip sticks in the pan. Add the lemon halves to the roasting pan.
  4. Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the pan, baste the bird and turn the parsnips. Set the roasting pan back in the oven and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until the thickest part of the pheasant registers 165 degrees and the juices run clear. Remove from the oven, baste the bird again and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Carve the pheasant and serve. 
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Pheasant Stew

This recipe can also be made with chicken or cornish hens. It is a great one-pot meal that showcases the flavor of the pheasant. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup bacon diced
  • 2 whole pheasant
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 1 apple chopped
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small cabbage chopped

Instructions:

  1. Heat a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add the bacon.
  2. Season the whole pheasant with salt and pepper. 
  3. Add pheasant to the pot and brown on all sides
  4. Add diced onion, apple and thyme
  5. Add ½ cup of cranberries
  6. Deglaze the pan with ½ cup of cider vinegar
  7. Gently scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula to get all the brown bits
  8. Add the 6 cups of chicken stock
  9. Cut cabbage into two-inch pieces and add to pot
  10. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  11. Reduce the heat to low
  12. Cover and let braise for 2 hours, until the meat if falling off the bone
  13. Enjoy!

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to switch up your poultry game, pheasant is a great option. Make sure to take care not to overcook the meat and to optimize the flavor by adding plenty of fat. A single bird can serve two people and costs around $30. Check your local butcher shops or online if you are interested in trying your hand at pheasant meat.