For the most part, the pheasant I am referring to in this article is the common pheasant Phasianus colchicus, also known as the ring-necked pheasant. This is the bird that was introduced to America by the colonizers way back in the day. Little did they know that the birds would take over the whole state of South Dakota and part of North Dakota. Seriously, these things are like flies out there. You can't help but kill one or two driving through.
I have never roasted a pheasant before. In fact, I don't recall ever cooking one in any way. The only times I have had it, which is less than five times, it was in some mushroom cream and wine sauce that completely covered up the flavor. But what I do remember is the meat was so dry I practically choked on it. So, with that thought in mind, I decided to brine the pheasant before I roasted it. Please continue reading.
1. Make a brine for the pheasant. Because pheasant has a tendency to dry out, I recommend that you brine your birds for eight hours before you roast them. Brine is a mixture of salt, sugar, water, and spice, and it makes meat tender and delicious. For a full description of how brine works and why, read the section Brining Meat. The recipe listed to the right for brine is a variation on an old English recipe. And you know the English love their pheasant.
2. Brine the pheasant for eight hours. For best results, don't brine the pheasant for less than eight hours or more than twelve. Too long in the brine and the pheasant will cease to taste of pheasant and will merely taste of brine. As long as you can fit it in the fridge, a stock pot will work the best for brining multiple birds. Otherwise, use a large cooler and substitute 8 cups of ice cubes for 6 cups of the water in the brine recipe. The ice should keep the birds cool.
3. Dry the pheasant off and preheat the oven. Take the bird out of the brine and let it drain for a few minutes. There will be a lot of liquid coming out of the bird. So, if you try to dry it with paper towels right away, you will end up using a whole roll. Get the roasting pan ready while the birds drain. I roasted my bird over root vegetables. You may want to cook the veggies for 15 minutes before you roast the bird. My veggies were a little undercooked.
4. Roast the pheasant at 500º F for 15 minutes. Heat the oven up for at least 15 minutes before you put the pheasant in, perhaps just long enough to give your veggies that head start they need. But can you roast vegetables in an oven that is preheating to 500º F? Yes, of course. Just don't forget to set the timer for 15 minutes. So, once the oven is preheated, put your pheasant in for another 15 minutes. This will help the skin to get nice and crispy.
5. Finish the pheasant at a 350º F to cook it all the way through. If you want a time reference for how long it will take your pheasant to cook, you're in luck. Pheasants are fairly universal in size. Roast a large pheasant for 45 more minutes and a smaller one for 35 minutes. Of course, you will want to check the internal temp, which should be no more than 150º F when it's done. Pheasant can be cooked to any temperature, just like duck. So, if your meat is a little pink, no biggie.
The best way to cut up a pheasant for a dinner guest is to use a pair of poultry shears and remove the back bone by cutting along either side of it. Next, cut right down the middle, between the breasts. Serve your guest a half a pheasant and a sharp knife. Or you can split the halves into quarters by cutting around the leg and thigh.
An elevated roasting pan is better for roasting meat. It cooks everything more evenly as the heat can get all the way around the meat.
Farm-raised pheasant will most likely be sold in the freezer section next to the duck and geese.
After the pheasant is done, don't forget to let it rest for 10 minutes before you cut and eat it.
If you combine the drippings with equal parts orange juice and port and reduce it until it coats a spoon, you will have a tasty simple sauce for the pheasant.