Simple Roast Pheasant

4.89 from 44 votes
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roast pheasant, sliced for serving
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

When life gives you a beautiful pheasant, one that you have not shot up, you should roast it whole like a chicken. But a pheasant is not a chicken — it can get dry and ugly very fast if roasted poorly. That’s where this recipe comes in.

I designed this recipe for young birds, but I have also found that ranched birds are ideal; you can often find whole pheasants in places like Whole Foods or other specialty markets.

This roast pheasant recipe, unlike many of the others you may have seen, relies on a few special tricks. One is an eight-hour brine; this will season the bird and help it to retain moisture.

Brining is a critical step when roasting lean game birds such as wild turkey, pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, or even smaller birds such as chukars or quail. You risk dry birds if you skip this step.

It can also help chicken or Cornish game hens, although you’ll need to check, as many store-bought chickens are pre-brined.

Whole roast pheasant recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Another trick is a searing hot oven, followed by a stint in a cooler oven. This isn’t a terribly new idea, and if you happen to have the Englishman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book, he goes into this pretty thoroughly. I like my second, cooler step a bit cooler than he does, however.

The third is resting the bird. Fearnley-Whittingstall is big on this, but then again so are all cooks worth their apron.

Serve your roast pheasant with root vegetables, mashed potatoes or roasted Brussels sprouts. A big white wine or a light red is a good choice, as is a hard cider or pale ale.

roast pheasant recipe
4.89 from 44 votes

Roast Pheasant

Follow these general instructions and you will get a lovely, moist bird. This technique also works with ruffed grouse, chickens and guinea hens. Serve with a nice white wine, some mashed potatoes and a vegetable of your choice. A good option is to cut up some carrots, potatoes, parsnips, celery root and turnips and roast them with the birds. I have a similar recipe for roast partridge, if you are looking for something a little different.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 2 whole pheasants
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 bay leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or softened butter
  • Black pepper to taste


  • Brine the bird. Make a brine by bringing the water, salt, bay leaves, juniper and sugar to a boil. Cover and let cool to room temperature. When it cools, submerge your pheasant in the brine and keep it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours. The longer you brine, the saltier the pheasant will become. I brine pen-raised birds for 4 hours, old roosters for 8 hours.
  • Optional step: If you really want a crispy skin, take the birds out of the brine and set them uncovered in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This dries out the skin (but not the meat} and helps you get crispier skin.
  • When you are ready to cook, take the pheasant out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Heat your oven. Get it to 500°F if possible, but at least 400°F. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of preheating, and up to a half hour. Oil the bird. You can do this with olive oil or you can smear butter all over it. Crack some black pepper over the bird.
  • Stuff with a piece of onion or apple and a few fresh herbs. A cut lemon is a good choice, too. Do not pack the cavity. Truss the bird if you want. I do this often because it helps the pheasant cook more evenly. (Here's a video on how to truss a chicken, which is basically the same thing as a pheasant.)
  • Roast the pheasant uncovered for 15 minutes at your high temperature. Take the pheasant out and lower the temperature to 350°F. Leave your oven door open to speed this process.
  • Optional step: Baste the bird with either butter or a glaze. When I do this, I like to use a boiled-down combination of butter and maple syrup.
  • Return the pheasant to the oven and roast uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the thigh meat to be about 155°F to 160°F and for the bird’s juices to run pretty clear. A little pink in the juice — and in the bird — is what you want. The higher end of this cooking time will give you a well-done bird, which I try to avoid but many people prefer.
  • Remove the pheasant and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This resting time is vital, as it lets the juices redistribute within the pheasant. It will also finish off the cooking process through carry-over heating.


Calories: 476kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 162mg | Sodium: 9538mg | Potassium: 555mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 405IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 3mg

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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    1. Susie: You don’t. You need the skin. Best bet is to cook the legs and wings slow and low, and the breasts in a frying pan.

  1. Hi. I have all your books and use them and love the recipes. On Pheasant, from some game farm hunting my I have some real nice birds but they were skinned. I love your roasting recipes but wonder if I can use these birds and if I should change the recipes at all? Thanks for any help you or your other commenters can give.

    1. CHuck: Thanks for the kind words! I’d just choose another pheasant recipe in your case. I would not roast a skinned bird.

  2. I’m a big proponent of dry brining. I started doing it with my Thanksgiving turkey a couple of years ago and have never wet brined piece of meat since. I now do it on chicken, quail, pork chops, steaks, meats that I’m going to braise. Pretty much everything! I usually do a mix of kosher salt, sugar and a bit of baking powder/baking soda (which seems to be all the rage these days to promote better browning/crispier skin). I think it lends a few benefits: (1) it’s faster because you don’t have to make a wet brine and let it cool, (2) particularly for turkey, it’s just easier because you don’t have to find a giant container to fit it in and a cold place to store your giant container, and (3) I find that it lends itself to giving you crispier skin (or in the case of pork and beef, a better sear (because you aren’t adding excess liquid into the meat and the baking powder/soda really helps this). The drawbacks are that you don’t have an opportunity to flavour it as much (only dry spices/herbs really work), but you can just make up for that with a compound butter for birds and a sauce for other meats if you need more than salt and pepper (which I usually don’t. In any event, I love your recipes Hank (and have a couple of your books). Just thought I’d put this out here and get your thoughts. I’m going to try it this weekend for some roast pheasant, using the rest of your recipe!

    1. Charles: What do you think happened? I’ve used this recipe for years, and if anything, it errs on being underdone, not overdone and dry. Can you walk me through what you did so I can help you make it better next time?

  3. I’m roasting the birds(3) in a typical turkey roasting pan. I assume all cook times are covered, but do you remove the cover while they are resting after taking them out of the oven?

  4. Super easy and awesome recipe! I cut up fingerling potatoes and onions to bake with it-turned out perfect!

  5. I have been cooking pheasant for about thirty years. Today I used your recipe it was the best pheasant we have had by far, well worth to time it takes. I will use this every time from now on .
    Thank you ?

    1. Robert: If there is no salt, it is not a brine. It is a marinade, and yes, you should be fine so long as the birds are in the fridge.

  6. This was the first time I’ve cooked Pheasant and wasn’t expecting it to be sooo delicious, jucy and tender. Thanks for such a gr8 recipe! ! Also, I wrapped it in streaky bacon so the fat rendered over the bird – yummy!

  7. That was stellar. Best pheasant I have ever had. I use a convection oven, and needed a bit more time, and I added some pheasant and quail broth in the bottom of the pan so I wasn’t cooking her dry, but holy wow that was an incredible bird.

  8. We did this recipe last Christmas and it came out fabulous. Better than turkey. It was unbelievable great simple delicious.

    Will try again for a late Christmas Eve dinner but didn’t have the prep brine time so I’ll let you guys know it turns out. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Back to the remarks about cut up pheasants. A better choice of recipes is the one on this site for General Tso’s Pheasant. Hank likens it to “crack” and he’s absolutely right! Don’t have pheasant,use deboned chicken thighs. Or if on the cheap debone some leg quarters yourself, (there is a youtube video by Chef Paul Prudomme on how to correctly do this), but you need to use the dark meat as it is more flavorful. I’ve made this stuff in huge 10 lb. batches and there’s never been more than 3-4 pieces left over. Even the fried nuggets before you get to the sauce step will probably be the best chicken/ pheasant nuggets you’ve ever had!

  10. Bagged a bird yesterday and made this tonight, best pheasant I’ve had so far and made me appreciate the whole bird instead of just cutting breasts and legs. I’ll be doing this one again for sure.

  11. Hey, just started hunting and I love the site. For this recipe,are we roasting the bird covered or uncovered?

  12. Thanks. Yes it is skinless so I’m worried about it drying out. I’ve seen a lot of recipes suggesting wrapping the breasts in bacon but for some reason I don’t want to do that. I was wondering what else I could use to wrap the meat in, maybe orange rinds? But I think I’m basically going way out on a limb here.

  13. Sounds great. Will try the recipe this weekend. My question is if you would modify anything if you had parts of the pheasant all cut up, instead of the whole bird.

    1. Melissa: I have never tried to roast a cut up pheasant. Assuming yours is skinless, too? I honestly don’t think this recipe will work for a bird in that condition.