Juicy and tender with the sweet flavors of cherry and apple wood make this Smoked Pheasant Recipe a perfect option for an intimate dinner. There is something awesome about the presentation of a whole bird, that doesn't take a long time or a complicated cooking process to deliver great smoky flavor with every bit. I know you will enjoy this delicious Smoked Pheasant!
What is a pheasant?
Pheasants are long-tailed game birds. The males tend to have beautiful plumage. It has been and still is a favorite game bird for hunters in the United States. Pheasant meat is tastier and healthier than chicken. Some people (like my wife) can be a bit squeamish and tend to not want to try any wild game meat. I think there is a fear of a "gamey" flavor that may turn them off. There are plenty of meats like lamb, elk, or venison that can have a unique flavor. Pheasant is not one of them and when you cook it through the smoking process, you get a perfect balance of flavor and smoke that compliments the natural flavors of the pheasant.
Ingredients for Smoked Pheasant Recipe
Whole Pheasant - A pheasant will weigh about two pounds. A pheasant is bigger than a cornish hen, so one pheasant will serve up to two people which makes this a great option for a date night dinner.
Salted Butter - This is my little trick to help keep the bird moist as it cooked. Pheasant has very lean meat, so it can dry out quickly if overcooked. I find using a lot of butter to coat the outside helps to crisp the skin and retain moisture in the bird.
Fresh Rosemary - I am a big fresh herb fan. I find that rosemary is a great compliment and super versatile to many smoked and roasted dishes. It adds that perfect added flavor to this dish. Another nice choice is fresh thyme.
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper - You always need these for a perfectly balanced dish.
And that's it! A few simple ingredients are all you need for this great dish.
Brined Pheasant Option
If you are worried about the possible drying effect of the smoker, you may choose to brine your pheasant before smoking.
Simple brine ingredients for a quick wet brine are one cup of salt to a gallon of cold water. Mix these together in a large container with a tight-fitting lid. Once the salt is dissolved, add your pheasant. Allow it to brine in the refrigerator for up to two days.
When we are ready to smoke the pheasant, remove it from the fridge and take it out of the brine, rinse it off, and pat dry with paper towels. This great way for a quick brining process takes no time at all and can be done the day before you plan to smoke the whole bird.
Another option is a dry brine. Simply lightly coat the bird with a mixture of salt, seasonings of your choice, and brown sugar. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
How to smoke a pheasant
Once the game bird is cleaned and patted dry, rub it with melted butter. Make sure to get all the skin covered. Then season it inside and out with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. If you have a favorite poultry dry rub, you could give that a try. You also want to keep the legs close to the body for even cooking time. Use some butcher's twine to tie the two legs together.
Pro Cooking Tip: Pheasants, like many wild game birds, have skin that is a bit like fatty chicken skin. This is great, as it can baste the bird as it cooks, but it can also leave a mess in your smoker. I recommend cooking this one in a small pan, or if you plan to cook it directly on the grill grate, place a drip pan underneath it to collect any fatty drippings.
Place the pheasant in a small roasting pan. I used a disposable aluminum pie plate for my bird. Place the pheasant in the preheated smoker and smoke for about two hours at 225°F.
You must use an internal temperature meat thermometer probe to keep a constant eye on the internal temp. It doesn't take too much to overcook this small bird. We are looking for a final internal temperature of 155°F.
Once the pheasant reaches 155°F internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest for five minutes before carving it.
How to serve Smoked Pheasant
There are a few ways you can serve pheasant. You can cut it clean in two halves along the breast bone, or you can carve it apart like you would a small turkey. You can first remove the small delicate wild pheasant breasts, then remove the dark meat and serve it all on a large plate along with your roasted veggies or wild rice.
What do you do with leftover pheasant?
Leftover smoked pheasant makes a great soup. Just dice it up along with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and other favorite vegetables. Add them all to a good chicken stock and you have a wonderful healthy meal. You can even use the pheasant carcass to make your own pheasant stock.
We also like to slice the breast and use it on sandwiches. Try it on toasted bread with a couple of slices of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. Yum.
You can even use the meat in tacos. Just shred it, mix in a Mexican spice rub, heat it up and serve with tortillas and your favorite toppings.
- 2.2 lb pheasant
- 2 tablespoon salted butter softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat the smoker to 225.
- Season the pheasant with fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Smoke for 2 hours or until 155-160 on an internal thermometer.