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21 responses to “How to Break Down a Game Bird”

  1. Jon

    Fantastic 101 Hank! The pictures tell the whole story. Nice post.

  2. maryann

    Nice of you to take the time to do all of the great illustrations, Hank 🙂
    You’ve reminded me that I have to get my knives sharpened.

  3. Josh

    Great post, I’ll be referring to it if I ever shoot another animal.

    By the way, I used an earlier, great post of yours and rendered some pheasant fat. Now, what should I use it in?

  4. Finspot

    Excellent info as usual. How about a rabbit tutorial?

  5. KAB

    Great tutorial…I’ve been wanting to do a duck for awhile now (though I’m going to let someone else shoot it for me).

    I second the rabbit tutorial, too. Good info!

  6. Funder

    Great post, thank you! I’ve been practicing on chickens, but I’m not nearly as good as you yet. I’m gonna try your breasting technique. (That sounds racy!)

    What do you like to do with the tenderloins? I’ve always cooked them with the breast, but I’m definitely open to new ideas.

  7. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Excellent instructions and illustrations, Hank. More detailed than my Joy of Cooking… smile. It’s perfect for novices and for anybody who wants to check their technique.


  8. Sam Sotiropoulos

    Hank, Happy New Year! Hope Holly is recovering well? Thanks for the breakdown on a breakdown! 🙂 Nicely done and well documented.

  9. Chris

    Great post, wonderful pictures. I have another tutorial request. How about de-feathering birds? It seems that there are so many techniques. Which is the most reliable?

  10. tim

    has there been a reply to the de-feathering birds request?

  11. Amanda

    Hi Hank,
    I broke down a pheasant last night, and cut it into small strips for stir-fry. I came across some pin-like bones in the lower leg section. Are these worth removing or will they cook down like those tough venison tendons that melt out in cooking?
    Thanks so much for your help and blog! I love it.

  12. Momasam

    ok, so I have a benefactor hunter that drops off geese and ducks – I am so lucky! so far I have tried to pluck the ducks to no avail so I have resorted to just breasting them out. I would love not to waste the rest of the bird even if i’m just making soup stock.
    pray tell… how do you use wax to pluck a duck?

  13. Lucky Choi

    Hi Hank,

    I recently removed both whole legs off a domestic goose in order to make confit for a recipe of garbure. Left with a bird minus its legs, is it still possible to roast it “as is” and remove the breast meat at some point, then finish them to a tender medium rare in a skillet as you suggest in your Roast Goose recipe? (I also like the resulting stock I make from the roasted carcass.)

    Would I need to make any adjustments to your recipe other than skip the steps regarding the legs?


  14. Chad Low

    I got a copy of duck duck goose for Christmas last year. Best gift ever! As my wife and I shoot a lot of ducks and geese and have struggled in the past to find many good ways to eat them besides making jerky.

    It has opened up a whole new world for me. I have enjoyed waterfowl meat more than ever before! (and as much or more than a lot of other things too!) Nowadays it almost seems a disgrace to make any of it into jerky.

    Here’s the thing though: I had always skinned 99% of my birds. I didn’t know about this wet plucking thing so I had always dry plucked and singed. It was such a brutally time consuming process, that I would only do 1-2 per season – and couldn’t even begin to fathom how one might do it with all or most of the birds they shot.

    After I got the book though, I at least plucked off every breast thereafter and was searing and pan-saucing like a madman. Well, this season, I am ready to take it to the next level and start plucking a mess of birds, rendering fat, making stock and all that jazz.

    Just finished watching the wet plucking video, so now that I can finally envision how to do that and how it works (blew my mind by the way), I am stoked and ready to go. Just got to find me some paraffin wax. I can honestly say I have never noticed it in the grocery stores around here, but I haven’t ever been looking for it either.

    So all this leads up to my question finally. Can you pluck ducks and save (eat) the skin this early in the year? I just finished processing my first limit from the Idaho opener last weekend, and it seemed like they had way too many of those juicy not-yet-emerged feathers that are deep within the skin and only have a teeny little tuft of dry material to grab (I think they are called pin feathers but I am not positive). Does the wax get them out too, or is it actually necessary to get every single one of them out? They don’t really seem like anything you would wanted cooked into that yummy skin that you’re going to eat. . .

  15. Chad Low

    You are more than welcome Hank. Actually that hardly even covers it. As I said, the book was a God-send. It showed me that the sky was the limit, and provided the basics I needed to try different things and create my own dishes.

    Through my own experience (admittedly, way too long) I was just starting to catch on to the medium-rare mantra. Then an article in Field and Stream a few years back called The Duck Course got me started making some killer duck dishes, and shortly after that I got your book, and suddenly I couldn’t shoot enough ducks to satisfy my appetite, lol.

    Then I discovered your blog here, I was like wow, this dude is my hero! As I also love to hunt just about everything, fish pretty much year round, grow fresh herbs, forage for all manner of wild eats like berries, asparagus and wild mushrooms; and find delicious ways to cook and enjoy all of it to the max.

    So needless to say, I am going to be living on here for the foreseeable future. One thing I haven’t seen here yet is one of my absolute faves: Pickled asparagus. I got a great recipe if you want it, but I am sure you can come up with one of your own that would rival it! 😉


  16. Jason Bush

    Hello Hank,

    Unfortunately, this comment comes too late, as I’ve already dealt with the birds, but I’m hoping that you can offer some suggestions for next time. This is my first year hunting and I was lucky to take four ruffed grouse today. I laid the birds on snow in a plastic bag as I collected them. They went into a cooler with ice packs and were cleaned about 4 hours later. My problem is that most of the birds were gut shot and smelled badly of bacteria once I skinned and gutted them. I chose to breast out the birds, which was a shame because I was hoping to do more with the carcasses. I tried rinsing out the carcasses but they still smelled after thoroughly working them under cold water. Was there something I could/should have done differently?



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