Beer Can Pheasant
July 11, 2010 | Updated November 06, 2020
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It’s hot. I don’t feel like cooking outside much. And I have lots of wild game in the freezer still. What to do?
BBQ! I’ve been doing a lot of grilling and barbecue over at Simply Recipes with Elise, and nearly everything I do there with domestic meats translates well with wild game. Elise and I played around with a beer can chicken recipe, and it was so good I knew I had to try to make beer can pheasant, using my last remaining whole pheasant.
If you’ve never eaten beer can chicken before, you are missing out. It may be the second greatest thing the NASCAR crowd has brought to American cooking, behind true barbecue itself. Done right, you get a crispy skin, meltingly tender breast meat, and the legs and thigh meat practically falls off the bone. It’s the perfect chicken. But would it work for pheasant?
First problem: Pheasants have slim hips. Too slim to jam a regular beer can up inside them. Hmmm… what sort of can might fit in a pheasant? I got it! Red Bull. Now I detest this stuff — tastes like sweet tarts — so I poured it all out and washed the can well to get rid of the Red Bull taste, then I filled the can up halfway with beer.
I just managed to get the Red Bull can up into the pheasant, as even it was slightly too wide. But it works.
Oiled up and dusted with salt, black pepper and thyme leaves, I closed the lid on Mr. Pheasant and set the burners to keep the temperature up at about 500 degrees for the first 10 minutes or so. I then dropped the heat to roughly 450 for the next 20 minutes, then dropped it again to about 400 degrees for another half-hour.
Turns out a pheasant cooked this way needs only about 45 minutes. I overcooked mine by thinking it would need an hour. But, the skin was crackling crispy, and the legs looked fine. I let the pheasant rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
The moment of truth: When I sliced into the breast, it was, miraculously, still juicy! Definitely cooked more than I wanted it to be, but it was not dry at all. All the steam coming out of the can kept the breast moist. Thank you, Red Bull can!
Could this work for other game birds? Maybe. The key is the can. I’d try a Foster’s Lager “oil can” for a wild turkey, and I bet the Red Bull can would work on a large grouse. Not sure who makes cans small enough for partridges or quail, however.
Hunters out there: Do you grill or barbecue your game birds? If so, care to share any tips and tricks?
Beer Can Pheasant
- 2 empty Red Bull cans
- Enough beer to fill half the cans (use any beer you want)
- 2 whole pheasants
- 1/4 cup olive oil to coat birds
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- Take the pheasants out and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bring the beer out, too, as you don’t want cold beer in the can.
- Prepare your grill for indirect heat. If you are using charcoal, put the coals on one side of the grill, leaving another side free of coals. If you are using a gas grill, fire up only half of the burners.
- Rub the pheasants all over with olive oil. Mix the salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl and sprinkle it over the pheasant.
- Fill the Red Bull can halfway with beer; it doesn’t matter what kind. Drink the rest of the beer. Put the can inside the pheasants' cavity and place the pheasants on the cool side of the grill. The legs and the can will act like a tripod to keep the pheasant upright.
- Cover the grill and come back in 40 minutes. After that time, check the pheasants and add more coals if needed. Stick a thermometer into the thickest part of the pheasant’s thigh — you want it to read 160 degrees. If it’s not there, close the grill lid and come back in 15 minutes. Keep checking this way until the pheasant is done. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, poke the spot between the leg and breast with a knife and look for the juices to run clear, not pink.
- Carefully move the pheasants to a pan. Let them rest for 10 minutes. Carefully lift it off the can and carve up into serving pieces.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I’ve used tomato paste cans on grouse and chukar
Great recipe! On your tip, I brined the bird for about 6 hours the day before I grilled it. Used a pale ale for the beer in the recipe and it turned out both moist and delicious. It was a little tricky balancing a well oiled and seasoned bird on top of the can over a 500 degree gas grill, but once I got on there it stayed in place, thank goodness! I will definitely use this recipe in the future for ducks too!
Made this while on a hunt trip. Awesome. Here in Ontario we have Molson Canadian Cold Shots. Fits perfect for bigger sharp tail grouse
I used to make beer can pheasants years ago when I was in grad school, but there were no pheasants when I moved back south. Quick tip: use a Perrier can – same size as a Red Bull can without the Red Bull.
I haven’t yet had the luck to make this recipe with pheasant but for a beer can chicken it blows my mind every time. I love this recipe. It defines great cooking to me, simple ingredients prepared in such a way that results in near perfection. Crispy skin, full of flavor, perfectly moist meat. One thing I have noticed with Hank’s cooking is that a lot of it takes time. Not to much time to prepare but, waiting on a brine, or marinade. This recipe is no different, follow his instructions and give the bird the time to brine and rest in the fridge and you will be rewarded. The recipe is made with simple ingredients but, the method of prep and especially the time to dry in the fridge makes the most delicious crispy skin on the bird. Hank’s recipes take time because wild game deserves special care. Even if you decide to use chicken this recipe deserves the best bird you can find. I have made it with a cheaper bird and the taste was noticeable.
Thanks Hank for this recipe – we found that for a 45 minute cooking time, not much beer was steamed, though we could taste it in the chicken. We are thinking we might try it with only a quart er of the beer can full next time, unless you think that makes the can less able to withstand the weight of the pheasant? It was wonderful – keep the BBQ recipes coming please!
V8 smaller than red bull?
Michelle: That’s another great option!
Do not try this with duck unless you want a fire in your grill. Dont ask me how I know.
In an effort to move away from using aluminium, I too started using bottles and they work great! Make a mixture of 1/2 beer and 1/2 BBQ sauce and fill the bottle about 2/3. After cooking the bird and while it’s resting, reduce the remaining sauce mixture to use for dipping or pour over the meat.
The new Heineken light cans are perfect, just thin enough and you save a step by just drinking off the top half and inserting phez
For small cans, look for the small individual soda cans like coke, or sprite….
When we do Beer can chicken we put a pie plate under the bird and use the juices to baste it while it cooks.
We make beer can pheasant all the time. We use glass beer or soda bottles, we soak off the labels and let the bottle and drink come to room temp. we have never had a bottle break. If you like to try different kinds of beers and don’t like them for drinking they work for BBP. Cherry and lemon lime sodas or Mikes hard lemonaide are good too. I don’t like the idea of heating the can, it’s a soft metal and they usually coat cans with plastic on the inside.