If you’re not a hunter in the midwest, pheasant is not a game bird with much awareness. However, it is truly delectable when cooked properly, and should be more popular. This recipe for Asian glazed smoked pheasant turned out really well, and I was pleased to serve it to some friends. If you get the opportunity to try pheasant, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Dry Brining for flavor and moisture
I am not a huge brining person. First, I generally don’t have that much time before working on a recipe. Secondly, I just don’t prefer the flavor. But, never say never my friends. I decided to dry brine the two pheasants I was cooking and was very pleased with the results. The pheasants were very flavorful, and maintained an amazing amount of moisture, making for a very good meal. While you can dry brine very simply with just kosher salt, I added some seasonings and it really helped out the overall flavor.
The most important factor for juicy poultry is temperature
Am I glad I dry-brined these pheasants? Yes. Did it help the moisture? Probably. But the single most important factor in getting juicy poultry is properly cooking it. Poultry hits the “safe zone” at 165 degrees. “White meat” starts getting drier after that temp. The dark meat actually is better at a higher temperature, around 175. So, right from the get-go, you have a problem. Cook the dark meat slightly higher than the breasts. Well, if you have a fairly consistent cooker or grill, this really kind of works out on its own. The dark meat is usually thinner, and we tend to place it closer to the heat, so it will cook slightly faster. So the real key is monitoring temperatures so you get a properly cooked bird. I used MEATER probes, one in a breast and one in a thigh to ensure things were coming along perfectly. I pulled the pheasants about 4 degrees below my target temps and then covered them to let them rest. The carryover heat moved the temps into the perfect temp for serving. Knowing the exact degree your meal is at is a game-changer, and I highly recommend you invest in some MEATERS for cooking proficiency and enjoyment.
Carving and serving
I had a couple of friends over, so I cooked two pheasants for four people. It was more than enough. Pheasants have a surprising large breast for a gamebird, so there was plenty of white meat to carve. I basically carved them like small turkeys.
As always, I hope you enjoy!
- 2 pheasants
- 2 TBS Melissa's Bold Seasoning
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 onion, quartered
- 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
For the Dry Brine
- 2 TBS kosher salt
- 1 TBS brown sugar
- 1 tsp coarse black pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- zest from 1 lemon
For the Glaze
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 TBS hoisin sauce
- 1 TBS chili garlic sauce
- 1 TBS grated Ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 TBS rice wine vinegar
- Mix dry brine ingredients together. Pat dry pheasants, then sprinkle with dry brine. Place in pan in refrigerator for 6 hours or preferably overnight
- Prepare smoker to run at 250 degrees with pecan wood (or your favorite.) Rinse off pheasants and pat dry. Stuff pheasants with onion, lemon, thyme and garlic cloves, then truss birds. Sprinkle with Melissa's Bold Seasoning, or your favorite seasoning.
- Place birds on smoker and cook for approximately 1.5 hours. While birds are cooking, add all ingredients for Asian Glaze to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk thoroughly and let simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. When the breast hits 155 degrees, brush on the glaze. Continue to cook until the breast hits 162 degrees, then brush with glaze again, remove from smoker, lightly cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.