Upland Game Bird Recipes

smoked pheasant on cutting board
Photo by Holly A. Heyser


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Pheasant, snipe, quail, wild turkey, partridge, grouse. These are the chicken of wild game birds. Pheasants being the semi-wild cousins of chickens, and quail, partridges and chukars all being accessible from a taste standpoint.

The notable exception is the ruffed grouse, which has a strong flavor that, in my mind, makes it far superior to pheasant or quail, which can be bland.

To those of you who do not hunt, pheasants and quail are easily obtainable; our local high-end supermarket has them all the time. They will have even less of a wild flavor than their country cousins, but they are still a fair piece better than your average chicken. And yes, chicken can be subbed in for any pheasant dish.

One thing all these birds have in common is that they should not be served rare and they can all dry out in a heartbeat. Fun, huh? Makes them more of a challenge. You do, however, want a blush of pink on them, like a good-quality pork loin.

If you know what you are doing they are great roasted or grilled, but do not walk away or they will dry out. Pheasants are especially good poached, whether in butter or broth.

Quail are delicate little birds best served whole but partially deboned. I intend to post a step-by-step tutorial on deboning birds soon. Believe me, it’s not real easy.

All these birds make superior stock, and the legs, thighs and wings of all are excellent made into confit.

NOTE: Most of these recipes are interchangeable, i.e., if you like a pheasant recipe but have partridges or sharptail grouse or wild turkey or a domestic chicken, it’ll work.

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Plucking a chicken

How to Pluck a Pheasant or Grouse

This is how I pluck pheasants, quail and other upland game birds.

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Pheasants hanging to age in the fridge.

On Hanging Pheasants

Everything you need to know about safely hanging game birds of all kinds.

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A knife, shears and a whole grouse, ready for cutting.

Cutting a Whole Chicken or Pheasant

Step by step instructions on how to cut up pheasants, ducks, quail or other birds.

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How to make pheasant confit

Pheasant Confit

Probably the best thing you can do with the legs of upland game birds like pheasants, turkeys or big grouse. Slow cooked and pulled off the bone, this gets around those nasty tendons.

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Pan Roast Partridge

Chaos Theory and Roast Partridge

This is the absolute best way to cook small game birds like partridges, grouse, quail, chukars or even pheasants.

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A bowl of Cajun dirty rice

Cajun Dirty Rice

An excellent all-purpose recipe for upland game bird giblets. You will not even know you are eating them in this dish, which is basically Cajun fried rice.

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Whole Birds

roast pheasant recipe

Simple Roast Pheasant

A basic recipe for roasting a whole, skin-on pheasant.

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beer can pheasant

Beer Can Pheasant

Similar to beer can chicken, this is slow cooked pheasant on the grill propped up with a Red Bull can or a narrow jelly jar. It really works!

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A whole smoked pheasant on a cutting board.

Smoked Pheasant

A whole pheasant, slow-smoked over hardwoods and glazed with maple syrup or honey.

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pheasant and dumplings recipe

Pheasant and Dumplings

Just like the Southern classic chicken and dumplings, only with pheasants.

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A plate of wiener schnitzel.

Wiener Schnitzel

The Austrian classic, made with pounded out skinless pheasant breast cutlets.

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A trio of pheasant tacos.

Ultimate Pheasant Tacos

Elevate your pheasant tacos by adding crispy fried pheasant skin – you won’t regret it!

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pheasant piccata recipe

Pheasant Piccata

Pounded skinless pheasant cutlets, breaded and served with a tangy lemon-white wine sauce… and lots of butter.

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A platter of tacos dorados, or taquitos

Tacos Dorados

A fantastic use for shredded, skinless pheasant, quail or grouse breasts, rolled in a tortilla and fried crispy. Serve with your favorite salsa.

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Green curry pheasant

Pheasant Curry

This Thai curry is quick and easy if you use pheasant breasts and premade curry paste. Exotic on a weeknight? This is it.

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A bowl of pheasant peperonata.

Peperonata with Pheasant

Skinless pheasant breast cooked with sweet and spicy peppers and onions.

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general tso's chicken recipe

General Tso’s Pheasant

This is basically the crack cocaine of Chinese food. Slightly sweet, savory and spicy, this is one of the best recipes on this website.

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A bowl of kung pao pheasant stir fry, with chopsticks.

Kung Pao Pheasant

What I love about the dish is its combination of texture and flavor: Hot, fried chiles, silky meat, crunchy peanuts.

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orange chicken recipe

Chinese Orange Chicken, with Pheasant

If you like Panda Express’ orange chicken, consider this the adult version of it. Sweet, spicy, crispy and awesome. Works with thigh meat, too.

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Seared pheasant with chochoyotes, masa dumplings.

Kansas Pheasant

A dish inspired by the plants I saw around me when I hunted pheasants in western Kansas.

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pheasant parsley sauce

Pheasant Breast with Parsley Sauce

Seared pheasant breast with a refined – and beautiful – parsley sauce inspired by the French Laundry.

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Stews and Braises

Pheasant noodle soup

Pheasant Noodle Soup

The classic chicken soup, done with pheasants. Other game birds work fine here, too. Comfort food for the soul.

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pheasant cacciatore in a bowl

Pheasant Cacciatore

The Italian standard, made with pheasant instead of chicken. Also works with other game birds or rabbit.

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pheasant stew recipe

Pheasant Stew

Classic French coq au vin, done with pheasant or grouse.

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Pheasant with roasted garlic and root vegetables

Pheasant Thighs with Garlic and Root Vegetables

Pretty self explanatory, this is an easy recipe that makes good use of pheasant thighs — and pretty much any root vegetable you have lying around.

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two bowls of kentucky burgoo

Kentucky Burgoo

This is a big, hearty stew that always has at least three meats in it. In this recipe it’s pheasant, squirrel and venison. Feel free to improvise on your own!

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greek pheasant pasta recipe

Greek Pheasant Pasta

A fantastic Greek recipe from Chef Michael Psilakis of New York City. This one is shockingly awesome.

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A bowl of pozole verde

Pozole Verde

This is the green version of the traditional Mexican stew, using pheasant, wild turkey or any white meat.

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A bowl of Ethiopian doro wat with an egg.

Ethiopian Doro Wat

A rich chicken stew, doro wat was always the most popular recipe on the menu at the Horn of Africa in Madison, Wisconsin, where I worked in the early 1990s.

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A bowl of German rabbit stew.

German Rabbit Stew

Although this recipe is designed for rabbit, it works just as well for pheasants or other game birds.

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braised pheasant recipe mushrooms

Braised Pheasant with Mushrooms

Braised pheasant, turkey (or chicken) legs, done French style with lots of mushrooms.

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Hunter’s Stew and the Olympics

This is a more refined version of the Italian cacciatore. The recipe comes from Chartreuse, in the French Alps.

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Pheasant with Apples

Pheasant with Apples

Yet another French dish with pheasant, this one with apples, brandy and cream. It is, as you might guess, from Normandy, in the north of France.

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Pheasant with Mushrooms and Cream

No, NOT Cream of Mushroom soup! Well, sorta. Only you make it from scratch here…

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saturday pheasant or chicken

Retro-Fabulous Saturday Pheasant

This recipe actually DOES have Cream of Mushroom soup in it. It is the only recipe on this website to do so. Why? It is a 1970s dish I grew up with (made with chicken), and it is as awesome as it is easy.

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A finished pheasant pie

A Rustic Pheasant Pie

This is a pot pie inspired by a recipe from English chef Fergus Henderson.

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Other Pheasant Recipes

A platter of fried pheasant with pickles, cornbread and green beans.

Fried Pheasant

This is the perfect – and irresistible – thing to do with tender young roosters. It’s great for dinner, and great cold for leftovers the next day.

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pheasant buffalo wings recipe

Pheasant Wings Buffalo Style

Yep, you can make Buffalo wings with pheasant wings. Once you simmer them a bit to tenderize them, they are every bit as good as chicken wings.

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A platter of honey mustard duck wings.

Honey Mustard Duck Wings

Another great recipe for pheasant wings. Like the Buffalo wings, only with a honey mustard sauce!

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giblet bolognese recipe

Italian Giblet Bolognese

A variation on the classic Italian Bolognese sauce for pasta, you’ll see this recipe all around Tuscany. A great way to introduce people to eating giblets.

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A bowl of German kasespatzle.

German Käsespätzle

This is basically German mac and cheese with pheasant bits in it. Kids love it!

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partridge cranberry recipe

Partridges with Cranberries and Rosemary

A deceptively simple dish, the secret to this recipe is how you cook the partridges.

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Pan roasted partridge recipe

Pan Roasted Partridge with a Winter Salad

Perfectly cooked partridges with a zippy salad of winter greens.

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Grilled partridges with tomato salad on a plate.

Grilled Partridges with Tomato Salad

This is for when you have a few partridges left over from the season. Save a couple to make this light summertime supper.

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roast hungarian partridge recipe

Roast Hungarian Partridge

Huns roasted, carved and served with spaetzle and a sweet-and-sour sauce.

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roast chukar recipe

Brined Roast Chukar or Partridge

Brining these birds helps keep them moist when you roast them. This one is served with an apple brandy sauce.

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Partridge Baked in Salt

Entombing the birds in salt is another way to preserve the moisture in the partridges — if you use the right salt.

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partridges escabeche recipe

Spanish Partridge, Pheasant or Quail Escabeche

An old Spanish tradition, where the birds are cooked, then preserved for up to several weeks in a vinegary sauce.

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A bowl of turkey bean soup

Turkey and Bean Soup

A hearty soup of turkey legs and thighs, smoked sausage and beans.

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A platter of turkey tacos

Turkey Breast Tacos

Turkey breast tacos with jack cheese and roasted poblano chiles. Easy and tasty!

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Three turkey tamales on a plate

Turkey Tamales with Pumpkin

Perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers. This is a recipe from the Yucatan, where turkey is always on the menu.

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wild turkey breast recipe

Poached Turkey Breast with Gravy

A good way to keep wild turkey breast tender. This is a perfect Thanksgiving meal for a small family.

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Slices of turkey breast with turkey mole sauce

Hank’s Turkey Mole

A savory Mexican sauce traditionally served with turkey, you gently cook turkey breast in the sauce, slice and serve.

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Boneless smoked turkey breast

Smoked Boneless Turkey Breast

If you like the turkey breast you get at the deli, you’ll love this recipe. It’s a smoked, honey’glazed turkey breast you can eat warm or cold.

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Turkey parmesan on a plate

Wild Turkey Parmesan

Just like chicken parm, only with wild turkey. And yep, you can make this with any upland game bird.

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turkey marsala recipe on the plate

Turkey Marsala

Another classic restaurant dish, this is pounded, skinless cutlets from turkey (or pheasant) breast, breaded and served with a sauce that hinges on Marsala wine and mushrooms.

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turkey carnitas recipe

Wild Turkey Carnitas

The BEST thing to make with wild turkey drumsticks. You get around the sinews by slow cooking the meat and pulling it off the bone. Then it’s taco time!

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A bowl of turkey black bean chili with toppings

Turkey Black Bean Chili

Ground turkey with black beans, corn and chiles. I love this chili in early springtime!

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A bowl of turkey gumbo

Turkey Gumbo

Classic Cajun gumbo featuring turkey dark meat, andouille sausage and Gulf shrimp.

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turkey leg stew recipe

Turkey Leg Stew

A desert Southwest take on turkey leg stew. Drumsticks, slow-cooked and pulled off the bone, served with green chile and corn.

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Shredded turkey Yucatan in a bowl

Shredded Turkey Yucatan

A traditional southern Mexican dish that is great with turkey legs and wings, although you can use breast meat. It is more exotic tasting than spicy.

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A barbecued turkey thigh on a plate with sauce.

BBQ Turkey Legs

Turkey thighs are the absolute best part of the bird! Slow barbecued and slathered with maple-bourbon BBQ sauce, you will wonder why you never kept them before…

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Close up of smoked turkey wings on a platter.

Smoked Turkey Wings

Don’t waste those turkey wings! Braise them until tender, then barbecue them with your favorite sauce. You’re welcome…

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Braised turkey wings recipe on a plate

Braised Turkey Wings

A classic French dish of braised turkey wings with Provencal flavors. A great use of an unloved part of the bird.

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Hank Shaw holding Sheboygan brats

Homemade Sheboygan Brats

A traditional Sheboygan bratwurst made with wild turkey.

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Hank Shaw holding a plucked wild turkey

Wild Turkey Broth

A basic broth you can make from the carcasses of a wild or domesticated turkey.

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A bowl of barley risotto with mushrooms, onions and garlic.

Barley Risotto

Barley is a main crop in the cold places of the world, so this method of cooking really works with northern ingredients, like the spruce grouse I used in this recipe.

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Sage grouse with red currants

On Eating Sage Grouse

Sage grouse are much maligned. They don’t deserve their reputation. Here are some tips on getting the most out of yours.

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shartail grouse with farro recipe

Sharptail Grouse, Prairie Style

Sharpies, gently poached and served with the flavors of the Great Plains: Grain, sunflowers, rose hips.

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glazed roast grouse

Roast Grouse and Minnesota’s Glories

Ruffed grouse roasted and glazed with something sweet, like maple syrup or honey.

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grouse soup recipe

Nordic Grouse Soup

This is a lighter grouse soup, inspired by the flavors of Scandinavia.

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Roast sharp-tailed grouse

Roast Sharp-tailed Grouse

A simple recipe specifically designed for sharp-tailed grouse, which are a dark meat bird.

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Roast woodcock on fried hominy.

Roast Woodcock: A Dream Fulfilled

A classic preparation for one of the finest game birds in the world.

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Close up of crispy fried duck tongues on a platter.

Jesse’s Fried Snipe

Inspired by my friend Jesse Griffiths, this is my favorite way to eat snipe: Fried and doused with honey-hot sauce.

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Roast woodcock Michigan, on a plate.

Woodcock, Rejuvenation and Light

Roast woodcock, served with a crabapple-red wine vinegar sauce.

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roast snipe recipe

Roast Snipe and Slow Days

Yes, it’s a real bird. Snipe should be plucked whole and served roasted in a very hot oven. You want the meat to be pink when you serve it.

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Salmis of snipe recipe

Salmis of Snipe

A very old French recipe for snipe (or other small game birds) where you roast the birds, carve them, make a quick sauce with the carcasses and serve it all with mushrooms and thick toast.

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fried quail recipe

Buttermilk Fried Quail

Southern style fried quail. This is not fancy food, just good.

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roast quail on a platter

Simple Roast Quail

A basic method for roasting quail. You want a touch of pink in the breast meat but crisp skin. This requires a very hot oven.

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A bowl of caldo tlalpeno soup

Caldo Tlalpeño

Quail slow cooked and pulled off the bone, served in a classic Mexican soup called caldo tlalpeno.

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Barbecued quail recipe

Grilled Quail, South Carolina Style

Butterflied quail grilled and served with a mustardy South Carolina style BBQ sauce.

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A platter of BBQ quail.

BBQ Quail Southwest Style

Barbecued quail slathered in a Southwest style BBQ sauce that has tequila, wild chiltepin chiles and prickly pear syrup.

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