Dove recipes are a specialized thing: You can’t buy doves in a store. You must hunt them. But you can buy squab in stores, and wood pigeon in many European markets. And yes, you can eat the common pigeons you see everywhere — only I’d avoid those city birds…
For those of you who hunt doves, I get it: Most people just pop the breasts off, wrap them in bacon with a jalapeno and grill. The venerable dove popper, as this recipe is called, is fine food — but it isn’t the only thing you can do with a dove. This recipe page will help you with more ideas on how to cook dove.
Doves and pigeons are dark meat birds with very little fat on them. You can use small ducks such as teal with these recipes, but they will often have a layer of fat that a pigeon or dove will not. Ptarmigans, snipe and rails are excellent alternatives, though.
If you hunt your own doves and pigeons, I urge you to consider plucking them. They are the easiest birds to pluck, taking only seconds, once you get the hang of it.
In return for your efforts, you get a pretty little bird on the plate, the breast meat won’t overcook as easily, and you get those little legs, which are so very tasty! I tend to keep the first wing digit, the drumette, on the carcass because it helps protect the breast meat.
Here’s a video on how to pluck a dove, done by my partner Holly Heyser.
One dove is a good portion for an appetizer, three to four for a main course. Pigeons are larger, so one pigeon makes a light dinner main course — two is a bit much because the meat is so dense. Squabs are the same as pigeons: One to two per person.
GRILLED or BARBECUED
Grilling is by far the best way to cook doves. It’s the only way to get the skin crispy without overcooking the breast meat, which should be eaten medium, i.e., still pink. Same goes for young pigeons. Older pigeons are better braised.
Here is another grilled dove recipe I wrote for my friend David Leite on his website: Grilled Doves, Portuguese Style.
When the weather cools, roasting is your next best bet for doves and pigeons. Get your oven hot for this one...
OTHER PIGEON and DOVE RECIPES
Here are some other ways to cook doves and pigeons.