Pheasant Stew

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pheasant stew recipe in bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

When you decide to make pheasant stew you can go in any number of different directions. But you might as well go classic French and make your pheasant stew a real-deal coq au vin.

Coq au vin simply means “rooster in wine,” and it has historically been made with an old, usually troublesome rooster chicken. And when I say historically I mean it: This recipe has been around since Roman times.

Most people make coq au vin with a store-bought chicken, and this is OK, but nothing like the real dish, which needs an old bird. A stewing hen is a good option for non-hunters, but a pheasant is better. After all, it’s a rooster, a coq.

Yes, you can make this stew all at once, but it’s better if you marinate the bird in de-alcoholized wine for a day or three. What’s that mean? Wine you bring to a simmer, then cool. Why bother? Fully alcoholic wine as a marinade can impart a weird, tinny flavor to the meat. It’s not so huge that you’ll hate your pheasant stew if you don’t do this, but it is noticeable enough to make the extra effort worth it.

What wine? Something you’d drink on a Tuesday, which is to say decent enough to drink, but not that $100 bottle of Châteauneuf du pape you have hidden in the cellar.

What if you don’t have a pheasant? Any white meat works. I’ve use grouse of various species, partridges, rabbits, even quail. Wild turkey would be OK, too, as would the aforementioned stewing hen, which if you’re looking are best bought in Latin markets.

This pheasant stew, unlike some of my other recipes on this site, is easy-peasy to make and needs only your time to be wonderful. Be warned: If you are actually using really old chicken roosters, as I’ve done before, they can take a powerful long time to get tender. I once made this with a five-year-old chicken rooster that took nearly 7 hours to get tender. Your pheasant should take about 3 hours.

And keep in mind this is a hearty stew, where the broth is cooked down to make a sort of hybrid broth/sauce. Serve it in shallow bowls.

Serve your coq au vin with a nice red wine, crusty bread, maybe a salad.

pheasant stew in the style of coq au vin
4.90 from 29 votes

Pheasant Stew

This is a simple pheasant stew based on the French coq au vin, which means rooster in wine. Make it on a lazy weekend day in winter. Serve with more wine, lots of crusty bread and a big green salad. 
Course: Soup
Cuisine: French
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 or 2 whole pheasants, skin-on or skinless
  • 1/3 pound diced bacon
  • 1 pound mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thick
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into coins about the thickness of your pinky finger
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled but whole
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced fine
  • 1 bottle decent red wine, something you would drink
  • ½ cup brandy
  • Pheasant or chicken broth

Instructions 

  • Marinate the pheasant in wine, bay leaves, and thyme for a day or two in the refrigerator.
  • When you’re ready to cook, cook the bacon over low heat in a heavy, oven-proof pot, ideally a brazier or a Dutch oven. When it’s crispy, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon. Turn the heat up to medium.
  • Pat the pheasant pieces dry and brown them in the bacon fat. Take your time, and do this slowly but surely. It could take 15 minutes. Remove pheasant pieces to a bowl as they brown.
  • Brown the onion and mushrooms. Once they’re just turning color, add the carrots and garlic. Cook another 2 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring often, until the raw-flour taste cooks away, about 10 minutes.
  • Pour in the brandy, and stir it in to incorporate. The stew will become very thick. Add the wine from the marinade, and stir that in, too. Return the pheasant to the pot, along with any juices that accumulated. If you need it, add enough broth to cover everything by an inch or so. Stir in the herbs and add salt to taste.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for at least 90 minutes, then start checking to see if the leg/thighs are tender. You want them almost to the point of falling off the bone.
  • When the meat is tender, remove it, along with the mushrooms and onions, and put them in a bowl. Put foil over them to keep them warm.
  • Turn heat up to high in the pot. Boil down the liquid by half or until it thickens to the point of being a sauce or loose gravy. I like to put everything through a food mill’s medium plate for a smooth and silky sauce, but that's not strictly necessary. You could strain it to get the loose bits out if you wanted.
  • Return the vegetables and meat to the sauce and serve at once.

Nutrition

Calories: 434kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 231mg | Potassium: 538mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3625IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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60 Comments

  1. Prepared and cooked as recipe except for adding a couple of celery sticks – utterly delicious as always, lots of praise (always good to be praised for someone’s else’s hard work)!! Here’s the thing, I didn’t have time to reduce so I am left with a good third of a casserole of delicious mushroom carrot and garlic filled gravy. Hate to throw it away so thought I would sound you out on the possiblility of making a stock with the bones, adding it to the gravy, to make a good game soup?

  2. When do you joint the pheasants? The recipe starts ‘whole pheasant’ as an ingredient but the method talks about ‘pheasant pieces’. I am marinating a pheasant as we speak and will be trying this tomorrow – looks great!

  3. I really liked the stew, and added celery as another commenter did.

    Only suggestion, you never state what to do with the bacon after you’ve fried it uo crispy and removed it from the pot. Crunch it up? Add it to the stew at the vey end? Or ???

  4. This made a rich, deeply satisfying dish. I ended up leaving the pheasant in the wine for three days as something cropped up. Then I followed the recipe to the end of stage 6, using fresh thyme and bay which I grow, added the bacon back in, and put the pot in a low oven for 90 mins. I thought the legs needed a bit more time so gave the casserole another twenty minutes or so. I did not need to reduce the sauce, it was thick and glossy enough already. And it was absolutely delicious. We only ate half, so the rest is going into the freezer. I’ve eaten meals in restaurants which in no way match this in terms of flavour. Gorgeous and simple to prepare.

  5. I made this pretty close to the recipe. Subbed celery for carrots as I had no carrots. It was amazing. I never cooked pheasant before and a friend gave it to me. Felt like we were dining in a fancy French restaurant. Served it over mashed potatoes. Delish!

  6. Our 6 month old whippet lurcher caught her first pheasant yesterday, so we will try this recipe out with it.

    I don’t have brandy, but would tia Maria work instead please?
    X

      1. Ah, thank you.

        Good that I asked lol. I have the pheasant marinading and I’m going to make this today. I cook it in the wine it is marinading in I presume?

        Xxx

  7. We made this on a cold Sunday evening. It was absolutely delicious and easy to make with just simple ingredients.

    1. Kim: Yes, but put them in only in the last 20 minutes, then shred the meat. You will need some other broth then.

      1. Looks amazing, I’m coming this for Christmas Eve, using breasts too – will it work in a slow cooker? And how long do I cook the wine for before marinading?

  8. Marinated 2 -20 +/- oz skinless birds for 3 days. I split then in half with kitchen scissors. Then I followed directions explicitly. Despite the recipe for 1 pheasant, I did not double the sauce/ vegetables because my birds were perhaps a bit smaller than the average. I checked on mum birds at 60 minutes. 2 halves were falling off the bone so I removed them and set aside. The other haves took the complete 90 minutes. I removed the birds (but not the vegetables). Reduced in volume. Then, returned those set aside to heat thoroughly. Served beside mashed potatoes. It was wonderfully delicious!

  9. hi hank
    i have a couple tarmagin in the freezer ,maby i could try this with them, as i am in norway there plentiful up over 1000m. I have tried to buy two of your cook books on line but i guess you dont send to norway or is there another way??

    1. Daniel: Hey there. Yes, you can use ptarmigan in this recipe. Sorry about the book. I do know it is available in the United Kingdom on Amazon. Maybe try to get it that way?

  10. Hi Hank,

    Great recipe as always. Will try this with some ruffies that are in the freezer. Do you debone the meat after cooking, or prefer to leave the breast bone in on the bird meat?

    Cheers

      1. Hi, what do I do with the bacon? Does it get added back in, sprinkled on top or just disposed of?

  11. Hate being pedantic guy, but the picture shows carrots, most coq a vin recipes have carrots, none in your recipe. How many, or omit?

    I cook a lot of your stuff, and can’t wait to try this. Have some pheasant in the freezer that needs cooking!