Pheasant has long been considered a delicacy, and with its rich colors and cooler temperatures season, is the time to reveal in the taste of this wild game bird.
You may hunt yourself or have a friend who's given you a bird, but because it's seasonal, you might not cook pheasant much. But, when It's time, you should definitely try some smoked pheasant.
This bird's meat is leaner than the chicken or duck you're probably used to smoking, so it's easy to get results that are dry and unpleasant.
So try something new: brining and smoking. Here's how to smoke pheasant so that it's succulent, juicy, and packed with flavor.
What You Need to Cook a Perfect Smoked Pheasant
In order for you to smoke a pheasant, or maybe two, make sure to have in hand:
Required Ingredients & Tools
- One or Two Pheasants
- Water (1 gallon or enough to fully submerge the meat)
- 1/2 to 1 Cup of Salt (Kosher, Table or Flaked)
- 1 Cup of Sugar
- Your Choice of Rub for Poultry
- Fragrant Wood Chips, such as Mesquite, Hickory, Apple or Cherry
- Lighter Fluid
- Aluminum Foil ( Optional )
- Smoker or Ventilated Grill
Brining the Pheasant
The first step in smoking your bird: Brining it. It is proven that brining helps keep the meat juicy during the smoking process.
Because the solution is salty, you may want to cut back on the salt in the rub. If you use a commercial rub, look for a low- or no-salt version.
As I said before, for brining the pheasant you will need 1 gallon of water (or enough to fully submerge the bird), 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar.
If you are using table salt, you'll need less than 1 cup. If you are using kosher or flaked salt, you'll probably need more.
How Long Do You Brine a Pheasant?
Start by putting the salt and the sugar in the water and then heat them. Try to stir them a bit and heat the water until they are fully dissolved.
After they are dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and then leave it to cool down to the room temperature for about a half hour.
If you want, you can now add other spices or brine ingredients (if using).
Submerge the bird and let the mixture to do its magic.
How long to brine it? Well, it is recommended to brine a pheasant for 8 hours.
So, after submerging, place the bird with the mixture in the refrigerator for 8 to 8-1/2 hours and wait.
Note: While the required time may depend a lot on how many pheasants you will cook and their weight, in average, the entire process with all the preparation and brining takes 10 to 12 hours, but when you taste the bird at the end, the result is more than worth the effort.
Now, after you have brined the bird for 8 hours, make sure to remove it from the mixture about one hour before placing it in the smoker. Rinse it with fresh water, pat it dry and start preparing the smoker.
Preparing the Smoker
You'll need at least an hour to prepare the smoker or ventilated grill before you begin smoking the pheasant.
First, choose your wood chips with an eye to the flavor they'll add to your pheasant. Classic smoked meat has a mesquite or hickory flavor, but you might want to experiment with sweeter apple or cherry chips. Want the best of both worlds? Try mixing hickory and apple or cherry.
Before you light the smoker, soak the wood chips in water for an hour. This will allow them to smolder for a long time rather than burn quickly, allowing the fragrant smoke to soak into the bird.
Add the charcoal and light it about 30 minutes to heat the smoker to the proper temperature before you put the pheasant inside.
The grill is ready when the briquettes turn a glowing white. Put the wood chips or wood chip foil packets on top of the charcoal.
If you are using an electric smoker and can easily set the temperature, preheat it to 225-230°F.
Have in mind to keep an eye on the temps - The recommended pheasant smoking temperature is 250-275°F, so make sure to adjust it to this range.
These instructions were for those who will cook the bird on their home. Are you out, hunting, and don't have a refrigerator or smoker? Skip the brining and build a V-shaped stand that allows you to hang the pheasant so it's about two and a half feet directly above the fire.
Applying the Rubs
While you're waiting for the smoker to get to the recommended temperature, layer flavor on the bird with a commercial or homemade rub.
If you want to make your own, start with a quarter cup of olive oil and add minced onions and garlic, paprika, pepper (regular or cayenne), or other spices to taste.
Whether you make your own or use one purchased at the supermarket, coat the pheasant with the oil and spices completely, inside and out. Then put the bird in the pre-heated smoker.
Smoking works best if the smoke flows across the grill and the birds. If the lid is adjustable, place the vent directly above the pheasant. Otherwise, open the vent about three-quarters of the way.
Now, take your bird and finally it's the time to place it on the smoker.
How Long Do You Smoke Pheasant?
After you place it on the smoker, you only have to wait and can only see the bird through the smoker's glass window.
How long do you smoke a pheasant? Well, the recommended pheasant smoking time is 3-3 Hours and 30 minutes.
You want to convert it to internal doneness temperature? Well, cook it until it reaches the recommended internal pheasant smoking temperature of 165°F and the juices run clear.
You can baste the bird with sauce halfway through the process, but the brine and the rub should provide enough flavor.
Serving the Pheasant
After 3 hours of smoking or after the internal pheasant temperature reaches 165°F, remove the bird from the smoker. Leave it rest for 25 minutes before cutting, to allow the juices to distribute themselves through the meat.
If you want an even richer taste, saute some onions (and maybe some sweet potatoes and squash) in olive oil until the onions are translucent.
Add the smoked pheasant to the skillet and cover it with foil, then let the whole thing roast until the onions turn brown and caramelize then serve the bird with all the drippings.
Now that you know how to smoke pheasant, indulge yourself in its taste this fall. From the salty and sweet brining through the spicy rub and the scents of fragrant wood during the smoking process, it's a celebration of the changing season. Give it a whirl and enjoy the delicacy that is pheasant.