By Tiffany Haugen
The family had just come off a great pheasant hunt and we had lots of birds. Our boys loved their smoked meats and wanted some pheasant jerky. With my Camp Chef Smoke Vault at the ready, I thought, “why not?” But instead of cutting up the birds and making jerky, I smoked them whole.
Whole pheasants are easy to deal with in the smoker and there’s virtually no waste. Once the bird is smoked, the meat can be cleanly picked off the bones. The remaining bones make an amazing smoky-pheasant broth boiled up with onions, carrots and celery. Take special care to keep the temperature consistent since these delicate birds can quickly dry out. Adding a layer of cheesecloth helps keep moisture in, as would wrapping the birds in bacon before smoking.
This basic recipe can be added to, depending on flavor preference. For an Asian flair, add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 inches of freshly grated ginger and 1 teaspoon of Chinese five-spice. For a hotter bird, add an additional 1 teaspoon of black pepper and a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder. Have fun with it and take notes so you can recreate your recipe again next season.
1 quart water
3 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon white pepper
Two to three whole pheasants
In a large bowl, whisk brine ingredients until salt is dissolved. Wrap birds tightly in cheesecloth if desired. Submerge birds in brine so they are completely covered. Birds and brine can also be placed in a large sealable baggie. Refrigerate eight to 12 hours, turning birds at least once during this process.
Remove birds and empty all cavities of brine. Do not rinse birds but discard brine. Place birds on a rack to air-dry for 15 to 30 minutes (placing wet birds in the smoker can make a mess).
Place birds in a preheated smoker (180 to 210 degrees). Smoke four-and-a-half to six hours, depending on bird size. Birds can be eaten directly from the smoker. To retain more moisture in the birds, place them directly from the smoker into a sealed container or baggie and refrigerate until cool.
Smoked pheasant can be eaten as is or added to a variety of dishes. The tender white meat can also be vacuum-sealed and frozen for up to three months.
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at scotthaugen.com. Looking for more pheasant recipes? Follow this link to watch Tiffany cooking pheasants multiple ways: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8MdLhMgTbA