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Roast Woodcock

Count on two woodcock per person if you can spare it. One will whet an appetite, but leave you wanting for more. Be sure to preheat your oven fully before putting the birds in, otherwise you will crisp neither the bacon nor the woodcock's skin properly. Serve this with grilled polenta, over mashed potatoes, or toast.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Keyword: roasted meats, woodcock
Servings: 2 people
Author: Hank Shaw


  • 2 to 4 whole woodcock, plucked and gutted
  • 1 tablespoon lard or butter
  • 2 slices bacon, cut in half
  • 1 celery stalk
  • Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
  • 1 recipe Cumberland sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Most ovens will require a solid 30 minutes to get to this temperature. As the oven is heating, take the birds out of the fridge. If you want to truss the birds, tie some kitchen twine around their legs. It is traditional to leave the head on the woodcock and jam the beak through the legs to truss it. I think this is weird.
  • In an oven-proof frying pan, heat the lard over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the bacon pieces and fry until halfway done. Remove the bacon and set aside.
  • Add the woodcock and fry for 1 minute on each side -- don't fry the breast. Remove the birds and take the pan off the heat. Pour off all but a thin sheen of oil.
  • When the oven is good and hot, arrange the woodcock in the frying pan breast side up and use pieces of the celery stick to keep them from falling over. Lay a piece of bacon over the breast of each bird and cook in the oven for 6 minutes.
  • Remove the bacon, and continue cooking the birds for another 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Let them rest on a cutting board as you make the Cumberland sauce.