Pheasant is a very lean meat. Still, people who like pheasant say the meat is more tasty than chicken.
The hen (female) has more meat on the breast and a slightly subtler flavour than the cock (male), also called the rooster. Though males are normally easy to identify by their bright colours, younger males may not yet have developed such colouring. Nevertheless, you can always tell males by looking at their legs: males will have a spur between their knee and their feet, which females won’t.
Some hunters age pheasant till the maggots literally drop off them, and their taste develops a kick like a mule. Commercially-sold Pheasants are aged in a chiller, rather than at room temperature, so that they don’t develop a strong, gamey taste.
One pheasant can serve two people.
Young pheasants will roast well, older birds are better cut into joints with the pieces cooked in sauce or a casserole.
When roasting, many people put a few strips of fatty bacon on top of it, and baste the meat while cooking to counteract the leanness.
Roast for 20 minutes at 400F / 200C. Then, depending on the size of the bird, roast for an additional 10 to 20 minutes at 320F / 160C.
Watch for gunshot pellets when eating.
1 large Pheasant generally weighs about 3 pounds
Introduced into the England by the Normans in the 11th century.
Literature & Lore
“A Pheasant eaten only a week after its death is not good as a partridge or a pullet, for its merit consists in its aroma. Science has considered the expansion of this aroma, experience has utilised science, so that a Pheasant ready for the spit is a dish fit for the most exalted gourmands. In the varieties will be found a recipe for roasting a Pheasant, a la Sainte Alliance. The time has come when this method, hitherto concentrated in a small circle of friends, should be made known for the benefit of humanity. A Pheasant with truffles is not good as one would be apt to think it. The bird is too dry to actuate the tubercle, and the scent of the one and the perfume of the other when united neutralize each other–or rather do not suit.”
— From: Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste, Project Gutenberg, Apr 2004. First published Dec 1825.
A flock of Pheasants is called a “nye”.