If you're sitting in a restaurant wondering what pheasants taste like, or just want to improve your poultry knowledge then we have good news. You're about to get the full scoop on whether this bird is worth eating or not.
What Do Pheasants Taste Like?
Farm-raised pheasants provide mostly white meat that has a similar flavor and texture to chicken, with a subtle gamey undertone. They are a lean bird which means overcooking them will result in dry, tasteless meat.
Wild pheasants have a stronger, more distinctive taste that is gamey, pungent, and aromatic. These birds are much more active than the farm-bred variety, so they are leaner and must be cooked with care. The flavor of a wild pheasant will vary depending on its habitat and the available food source.
Check out our video below about the taste of pheasants.
Pheasant Vs. Turkey
Pheasant tastes a lot like turkey, but the texture of the meat is finer and leaner. The most obvious difference between these two birds is that a turkey is significantly larger and will feed a lot more people.
Pheasant Vs. Quail
A quail has medium to dark skin color while a pheasant has lighter flesh. Most people find that quails are less gamey than pheasants. They are also a lot smaller – expect one quail to feed one person, while a pheasant could feed 2-4 depending on what it is served with.
Pheasant Vs. Duck
Duck is stronger-flavored, gamier meat than pheasant and is closer to red meat in taste. The fat content is higher in duck meat, which results in richer, moister meat when cooked correctly. Finally, duck skin is thick compared to a pheasant's and is perfect for cooking until crisp.
Pheasant Vs. Ostrich
Ostrich meat is closer to red meat than poultry. It is a dark red color, compared to a pheasant’s much lighter meat. Ostrich is cooked in a similar way to beef and tastes a cross between veal and beef. The flavor of pheasant and ostrich is completely different.
Summary: Compared to most poultry, farm-reared pheasant is a mild-flavored bird, similar to chicken.
What Can Affect a Pheasant’s Flavor?
Hanging time: If you’re lucky enough to have a wild pheasant in your possession, keep in mind they should be hung before cooking. Leaving them for one day allows the bird to go out of rigor mortis, resulting in more tender meat. Leaving the bird hanging for additional days will result in stronger flavored meat.
Source: Farm-raised pheasants live on a diet of chicken feed and are kept in a contained space; the wild species feed on a wide range of food so they have a gamier flavor. They also have to hunt and stay safe, resulting in leaner poultry.
Cooking Method: As with all ingredients, the method of cooking can greatly affect the meat’s flavor and texture. Pheasant is usually best roasted on the bone to help retain its moisture. It is harder to overcook poultry that hasn’t been filleted. Braising is another good option as the sauce adds flavor and helps stop the meat from drying out.
Fast facts about pheasants
- Pheasants are a game bird, native to Asia and can be identified by their long tail. The male has bright, showy plumage while the female is a basic shade of brown. They are gallinaceous birds and are a part of the family Phasianidae.
- They can run at 45 mph and have excellent sight and hearing, which makes them a tricky bird to hunt.
- Wild pheasants are difficult to pluck so they are often skinned which results in a layer of fat being stripped off. Using lard or brining the bird can help offset the leanness.
- Flavors that pair well with pheasant include paprika, cumin, cilantro, sage, and thyme.
- Sweet flavors like prunes, apples, cider, and currants also taste good cooked with pheasant.
Commonly asked questions
Do pheasants taste good?
As with any food, whether you enjoy pheasant will come down to personal preference. If you prefer sticking with flavors you know then you're probably better staying with chicken. For those that enjoy poultry that's a little more gamey and aromatic, pheasant is an excellent option and doesn't have the extreme gaminess of many other poultry varieties.
Is pheasant healthy to eat?
Pheasant is high in protein and low in fat and is considered to be one of the healthier meats on offer. Keep in mind the skin contains cholesterol so you would want to avoid this if you're trying to reduce your intake.
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Is it okay to eat pheasant pink?
Unlike chicken meat, which should always be cooked completely, pheasant is a lean bird and will benefit from being left a little pink. However, it should not be served as rare as duck meat.
How long can pheasants hang for?
Poultry such as pheasants, turkeys, partridges, or geese can be left hanging for 3-7 days, depending on their age. Always remember to eviscerate geese or turkeys before hanging to reduce their heat retention.
Pheasant meat has a similar flavor and texture to chicken, with a subtle gamey undertone. It’s the perfect stepping stone for people seeking meat that’s more ambitious than chicken, but not as gamey as duck.
If you’re cooking pheasant at home, then pay special attention to the recipe and respect the cooking time. This variety of poultry is lean and will quickly dry out if it is overcooked.
Are you looking to order pheasant at a restaurant or considering cooking it at home? Please let us know in the comments below.