Pheasant Meat: Tasting, Cooking & Buying

Video pheasant taste like

Millions of years ago, the ancestor to all of the domesticated and wild fowl we know today branched out into multiple species. Chickens are one branch of this tree, and pheasants are closely related.

But where chickens have been bred for large-scale production (rather than pasture-raising), the humble pheasant hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity. Why?

That’s what we’re here to explore today. To do so, we’ll cover everything you need to know about pheasant meat: What it tastes like, how to cook it, and where to find pheasant to try in your own kitchen.

Along the way, we’ll compare this fowl to other, more common meats like chicken, including its nutrition and flavor. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be prepared to buy, cook, and taste your own pheasant — if you’re brave enough!

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What Does Pheasant Taste Like?

Autumn-style cooked pheasant with oranges, pumpkin, olives and greens

The taste of any pheasant’s meat will depend mainly on whether it is wild or farm-raised.

Farm-raised pheasant has a very light and clean taste to it, very similar to the white meat from chicken. It may have a slightly gamey tone depending on how it was raised.

And just like chicken, it has a fairly low fat content — so you have to be careful not to overcook it, or it will dry out and taste very unpleasant.

Wild pheasant has a much stronger, gamier flavor, and usually more dark meat, which is typical of a wild game bird. The texture of the meat is still very similar to chicken, but with a stronger grain to it. If you’ve ever eaten duck or quail, it’s very similar to that (while being much less fatty than duck).

One other thing may affect the flavor of a pheasant’s meat: Whether it’s aged after being butchered. Traditional British huntsmen would hang their pheasant kills for a few days, allowing them to begin drying and fermenting. This would further intensify the bird’s flavor, making it incredibly gamey, savory, and aromatic.

Pheasant Meat Nutrition

The Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s “Wild Harvest Table” provides this nutrition information for a 3 ounce serving of pheasant meat:

  • 114 calories
  • 20 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of fat, with 1.1 grams of it being saturated
  • 66 milligrams of cholesterol

As well as a surprisingly diverse array of vitamins and minerals, including small portions of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, and folate.

Overall, this positions pheasant meat as being quite a healthy protein choice. This is especially true when compared to fattier red meats like beef, pork, and lamb.

Risks and Considerations for Eating Pheasant Meat

If you’re buying a farm raised pheasant, the risks and considerations for it are minimal. Properly raised and processed pheasant carries no more germs or diseases than any other type of fowl, like chicken.

That said, just as with any other raw meat, it’s important to store it safely — keep pheasant meat on the bottom shelf of your fridge, with a plate under it to catch any juices, and make sure your refrigerator is set to its lowest temperature for best results.

Wild pheasants pose a different set of problems. While they’re not known for carrying any particular disease, there’s always the risk that the bullets used to shoot the pheasant will carry toxic chemicals like lead. Even small fragments of shot in pheasant carcasses can lead to negative health consequences over time (similar to wild turkey).

Pheasant that has been prepared in the traditional British way — hanging it for a few days to encourage decomposition and fermentation, deepening its flavor — brings on a new set of risks.

This type of pheasant should always be consumed fully cooked, to limit the possibility of exposure to bacteria and viruses.

How to Cook Pheasant Meat

Pheasant meat occupies an interesting intersection between fowl and game meat. Like chicken, it’s low in fat and prone to drying out if cooked too long, at too high of a heat, or with intense dry heat.

But it’s flavor is more intense than chicken, and lends itself well to longer cooking times to really show off its best flavors (similar to quail).

So before you start trying to substitute pheasant recipe for chicken in recipes you already know, let’s discuss the best cooking methods to get the most flavor out of these birds.

Braising is perhaps the best possible way for cooking pheasant meat. Using a Dutch oven to hold the separated pheasant leg, thighs, and breast meat, you can cover them with a rich broth and allow them to cook slowly.

This has the double benefit of leaving you with a richly-flavored jus after the birds are cooked. Add a little seasoned flour, and you can make a quick and delicious gravy to serve alongside the pheasant. More on that in the next section.

If you’re keen to get the long-cooked taste and gravy with less effort, considering using a slow cooker. Set it to low heat and completely cover your pheasant meat with broth to make sure it won’t dry out. For bonus points, add carrots and potatoes so you’ll have a complete meal with minimal hassle.

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Using pheasant meat in soup is another good way to leverage its strong flavor while preventing it from drying out. Given a very quick sear in a pan, the meat will hold together better once you cut or shred it and add it to the soup. Add extra oil or butter to the soup, and you’ll create a protective layer of fat that will keep the pheasant even juicier.

If you’re dead set on using a dry cooking method like roasting, just do it low and slow. An oven set to 250 degrees is about as high as you want to go for roasting, and adding a pan of water in the bottom of your oven will make sure the birds don’t dry out.

Alternatively, give the pheasant meat a long marinade with oil, garlic, and salt to give it more fat and juicy flavor.

Types of Meals to Make With Pheasant Meat

Pheasant meat has made a major appearance in two polarized cuisines: Those of the British Isles, and those of Southeast Asia. Needless to say, both regions have widely different meals and ways of cooking. So why don’t we take a look at what a sample meal with pheasant would look like in both areas?

Southeast Asia is the ancestral homeland of the common pheasant. But because of its hardy nature, quick reproduction, and use as a game bird, it was soon distributed to dozens of countries across Europe.

In its native land, the pheasant is used much as any other fowl would be: If you find a Southeast Asian recipe that uses duck or chicken, chances are good that you can substitute pheasant. This means that curries, stir fries, and rich soups are all fair game.

When used in meals, the pheasant will rarely be the main attraction; instead, its meat will be used to add flavor and protein to more heavily-spiced dishes.

These will then often be complemented with rice and pickled vegetables as sides, and the meal can be as simple as these three components or as elaborate as a 12-course feast.

Where it’s been introduced to the British Isles and other parts of Western Europe, the pheasant is prepared quite differently.

Old cookbooks often call for simply roasting the pheasant, then covering it in gravy to serve — something I’d have to disagree with doing, as it’s likely to dry out the bird’s meat.

Braising is a more useful method (as covered in the above section), and pheasant would often be braised with whatever root vegetables were on hand. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips all make an appearance alongside braised pheasant, making for easy one-pot meals.

For a fancier preparation, there is the French-influenced dish of pheasant, mushrooms, and herbs braised in white wine.

No matter what sort of meal you make with pheasant, just keep in mind that it does best with wet heat cooking methods, and it tastes like a more pungent and intense sort of chicken. That should guide you towards the best ways to cook with your pheasant meat.

Where to Buy Pheasant Meat

If you’re not lucky enough to have neighbors who hunt for pheasant, finding it can be a little bit tricky. Few if any grocery stores carry it, and all but the most adventurous of butchers will steer clear of this game bird.

Instead, you’ll have to look online for buying pheasant meat.

D’artagnan is one of the most reliable sources of pheasant meat available online. Their whole pheasant is all natural, free range, and free flight, raised with no antibiotics or hormones. That makes it one of the purest and cleanest pheasants you’ll find, and the whole bird packaging makes it perfect for the braising techniques we described above. D’artagnan ships to all 50 states, too, so if you live in the U.S. they’ll gladly get a pheasant sent your way.

Pheasant for Dinner is another option for buying pheasant meat online, but they focus on a different preparation than D’artagnan. Instead of offering whole raw pheasants, Pheasant for Dinner prepares their meat into a variety of delicious products and butchered pheasant meat. Choose from ground pheasant or pheasant breasts for raw meat, or go for their smoked pheasant summer sausage or whole hickory smoked pheasants for a real treat.

Pheasant Meat FAQs

And to wrap things up, let’s take a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions about pheasants and their meat.

Are pheasants good to eat?

Pheasants are indeed good to eat as their meat is both healthy and delicious. When prepared correctly, pheasant is juicy and not dry as commonly believed. Additionally, pheasant meat offers more protein, less fat, and less cholesterol compared to chicken, turkey, mallard, and beef. Moreover, it contains fewer calories than mallard and beef.

Can pheasants be aggressive?

Pheasants can exhibit aggression when they perceive or detect food that they desire. However, their aggressive behavior is primarily intended to intimidate potential threats rather than cause harm. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being targeted, it is generally advisable to calmly walk (or run) away from the pheasant.

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Is pheasant served rare?

Pheasant is not typically served rare. While domesticated pheasants may have a milder taste compared to their wild counterparts, they still offer a superior flavor compared to chicken. It is worth noting that chicken can be used as a substitute in any pheasant recipe. However, it is important to remember that none of these birds should be served rare as they have a tendency to dry out quickly.

Can you eat pheasant slightly pink?

Pheasant can be enjoyed slightly pink as it is a lean game bird that benefits from retaining more moisture in its flesh. To prevent dryness, the meat is often marinated, stewed, or wrapped in bacon before roasting.

Is pheasant healthier than chicken?

Pheasant is a healthier meat option compared to chicken due to its low fat content and high protein content. Additionally, it is rich in essential minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. It is worth noting that pheasant has less fat than both duck and chicken, making it a favorable choice for those who prefer lean meats.

Is it safe to eat wild pheasant?

It is safe to eat wild pheasant, although a recent study conducted in the UK indicates that pheasants killed by hunters using shotguns may contain small lead particles in the meat. Researchers suggest that consumers of these carcasses are ‘likely’ to be exposed to these particles. It is worth noting that wild game is commonly consumed throughout Europe.

Does pheasant cook like chicken?

Pheasant does cook like chicken. Pheasant is a game bird commonly found in the farmland of the Upper Midwest and its surrounding areas. Biologically, it is closely related to chicken. Although pheasant meat is slightly darker, denser, and tougher compared to chicken, it can be cooked using similar methods as you would with chicken.

Is a pheasant a type of chicken?

A pheasant is not a type of chicken. The key differences between a pheasant and a chicken lie in their appearance, diet, domestication, and population. Pheasants and chickens share similarities as they both belong to the Phasianidae family, which encompasses various birds such as partridges, jungle fowl, turkeys, and quail.

Do pheasant eggs taste like chicken eggs?

Pheasant eggs do not taste exactly like chicken eggs, but they have a slightly richer flavor. As a result, you can use them in similar ways as chicken eggs, but with the added benefit of a more flavorful experience.

What is the best pheasant for meat?

The best pheasant for meat is the White Pheasant, also referred to as “Faisans Blancs” in France. These pheasants are bred with great care to ensure a delightful dining experience, offering exceptional flavor without an overpowering gaminess and a luxuriously firm texture that is not tough.

Is pheasant meat pink?

Pheasant meat is generally the right size to feed two people when served as a whole bird. For younger hens, it is recommended to cook them slightly pink, making them perfect for pan-frying or roasting. To ensure the meat stays juicy and doesn’t dry out, a delicious option is to wrap the bird in bacon or pancetta.

Do pheasants make good pets?

Pheasants do not make good pets if you are looking for a loving and tame animal. However, if you are seeking beautiful birds to add a touch of glitz and glamour, then these magnificent creatures are ideal.

Where do pheasants live in the United States?

Pheasants in the United States typically inhabit fertile croplands and cultivated grain fields, along with fallow weed lots, pastures, small wetlands, and occasional woody areas with underbrush, as part of their habitat and diet.

What state has the most wild pheasants?

The state with the highest population of wild pheasants is South Dakota, which is widely recognized as the “Pheasant Capital of America.” With annual bird harvests consistently exceeding 1 million, it is a destination that every upland hunter should visit to fully appreciate the experience.

What state has the largest pheasant population?

The state with the largest pheasant population is South Dakota, known for its exceptional habitat, conservation and management efforts. With over 7 million pheasants, South Dakota consistently ranks as the top state in the country for bird counts and harvests. Additionally, the state offers a diverse range of habitats suitable for pheasants, making it an ideal destination for pheasant hunting. It is important to familiarize oneself with the rules and regulations governing pheasant hunting in South Dakota to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience.

What states are pheasants native?

Pheasants are native to states such as Oklahoma, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, California, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and many others. These states provide suitable habitats for pheasants, including weedy fence rows, ditch banks, and brushy woods that offer escape cover.

What are pheasants good for?

Pheasants are good for various purposes, such as being raised by growers for food and reintroducing them into the wild for hunting, among other reasons. The most popular breed, Ringnecked Pheasants, possess traits that make them ideal for stocking and hunting, including their exceptional flying ability.

What state has the best pheasant hunting?

The state that has the best pheasant hunting is South Dakota, which has consistently maintained its reputation as the king and champion with the highest pheasant populations in the world. Over the past few years, hunters have successfully bagged approximately one million pheasants each season in South Dakota.

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Do wild pheasants fly?

Wild pheasants are capable of flying, although they generally prefer running. When startled, they will take flight in a “flush” and can reach speeds of 38 to 48 mph while cruising. If pursued, their flight speed can increase to 60 mph. Pheasants typically spend the majority of their lives on the ground and are rarely observed in trees.

What does pheasants eat?

Pheasants eat a variety of foods depending on the season. In the summer and autumn months, they enjoy acorns, pine seeds, and wild berries. However, during the colder part of the year, their diet consists of more roots, berries, grains, and seeds. Pheasants can be found eating grains such as waste corn, wheat, grain, sorghum, barley, oats, buckwheat, and sunflowers in harvested crop fields.

Why were pheasants brought to America?

Pheasants were brought to America by United States consul general Owen Nickerson Denny (1838-1900) and his wife Gertrude Jane Hall Denny (1837-1933), who shipped them, along with other Chinese birds and plants, from Shanghai. Their intention was to establish a population of pheasants in their home state of Oregon.

What does pheasant taste like?

Pheasant tastes similar to chicken but has a distinct gamey flavor, resembling smoked meat. Wild pheasant, in particular, has a strong and aromatic taste that sets it apart.

Are pheasant eggs good to eat?

Pheasant eggs are indeed good to eat. They are not only nutritious but also delicious. Packed with healthy nutrients, pheasant eggs offer a rich source of protein, essential amino acids, and various vitamins such as vitamins B and D. They can be enjoyed on their own or incorporated into various recipes.

What is the difference between a pheasant and a grouse?

The difference between a pheasant and a grouse is that pheasants are lighter than the largest grouse but heavier than the average individual. They typically weigh between 1 and 7 lbs and measure 23-35 inches from head to tail. Additionally, the pheasant’s tail is considerably longer than that of any grouse species.

Do pheasants mate for life?

Pheasants do not mate for life; they are polygamous birds. Throughout their lifetime, male pheasants will have multiple female partners. During the spring, male pheasants establish a breeding territory and maintain control over it by calling and crowing.

Do pheasants get aggressive?

Pheasants do become aggressive during the breeding season, as male pheasants exhibit aggression towards each other. This behavior is influenced by hormones and pheromones, and is further stimulated by the presence of swollen red wattles around the face.

What is the biggest predator of pheasants?

The biggest predator of pheasants includes raccoons, skunks, and feral cats. There have been sightings of cats carrying roosters, indicating their predatory behavior towards pheasants. Additionally, wild members of the dog family tend to be hostile towards their smaller cousins, further contributing to the predation of pheasants.

Do people eat the pheasants they hunt?

People do eat the pheasants they hunt because they find pheasant hunting to be a social and enjoyable activity. It offers the opportunity to witness the impressive work of hunting dogs and can be done in the company of friends. Additionally, pheasants are known to be delicious when cooked and enjoyed as a meal.

What are pheasants known for?

Pheasants are known for being a well-known gamebird, possibly the most widespread and ancient one in the world, with more than regional importance. The common pheasant is highly sought after for hunting and has been introduced to various regions for this purpose. Additionally, it is commonly found on game farms where it is commercially bred.

How fast can a pheasant run?

Pheasants can run at speeds of 8 to 10 miles per hour when they are startled and prefer to run rather than fly. However, when chased, they can fly up to 60 miles per hour for short distances.

Are pheasants smart birds?

Pheasants are intelligent birds that adapt well to the challenges of surviving in the wild. While they face various natural predators, humans have become their primary threat due to widespread hunting for sport, meat, and feathers.

Is pheasant a rich meat?

The pheasant is a lean meat that is rich in iron and protein while being low in fat. It offers a versatile option and serves as a delicious alternative to chicken. Our game is sourced from the wild and is obtained through shooting.

Are pheasants hard to hunt?

Pheasants are not difficult to hunt, especially for beginners, as it serves as a great entry point to upland bird hunting. Minimal equipment is required, and while mastering the intricacies may take time, grasping the basics of pheasant hunting is relatively easy.

Why do people hunt pheasants?

People hunt pheasants because they have thrived in America due to favorable habitats and stocking programs carried out over several decades. As a result, they have become one of the most sought-after game birds in the USA, thanks to their abundance, beauty, and the enjoyment they bring to hunting enthusiasts.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>