Turn your pheasants into a finger-licking appetizer ready for your next football party
Earlier in our marriage, when my wife and I were living in Minnesota and I was writing my weekly Game Gourmet column for The Pioneer Press, I would often suggest Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. One night my wife had to ask, “You tell people how to make these gourmet meals, yet you always suggest we come to this unoriginal wing joint for dinner?”
Yes, Buffalo Wild Wings is one of my favorite restaurants. Why not some of the amazing, higher-end restaurants that one might find in larger urban sprawls like Minneapolis or even Chicago, where I worked downtown for two years? Because not only do I love buffalo wings, but I always know what I’m going to get at Buffalo Wild Wings: cold beer and fried chicken, cooked the same way, every time, perhaps even with a side of poor service. And maybe it’s also the myriad TVs lining the ceiling where my eyes can bounce from one sporting event to the next.
I’m never disappointed at Buffalo Wild Wings. On the other hand, I am often let down when visiting finer establishments and find myself always asking, “I paid this for this, something I could make better at home?”
For this recipe, your wild pheasants require more attention to tenderize, unlike their fatty domestic cousin, the chicken. I do my best to break it down below. This includes an hour-long parboil followed by very precise roasting/smoking steps that should conclude with a flavorful, tender-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside final product that you will be proud to serve at any football party.
Summary of parboil and grilling (broken down more in-depth below):
First hour: Parboil legs and wings
Next half hour: Smoke/roast legs and thighs at 160 F
Next two hours: Smoke/roast legs, thighs, and wings at 160 F
Next half hour: Smoke/roast legs, thighs, and wings at 200 F
Next half hour: Smoke/roast legs, thighs, wings, and breasts at 200 F
Final 20-30 minutes: Roast legs, thighs, wings, breasts, and tenderloins at 325 F
Buffalo Wild RingneckJack Hennessy
- 1 whole pheasant
- ½ gallon warm water to boil brine ingredients
- ½ gallon cold water to cool brine
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup black peppercorns
- ½ bulb fresh garlic smashed
- ¼ cup mustard seeds
- ¼ cup coriander seeds
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 3-4 ribs celery diced
- ½ cup black peppercorns
- 2 cups Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 2 tsp garlic freshly minced
- 8 tbsp salted butter (one stick)
Sides and Garnish
- Chunky bleu cheese or other dressing
- Carrot and celery sticks
- Thinly sliced green onions
- In a large pot or saucepan, add brine ingredients to ½ gallon warm water and bring to a low simmer. Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Remove pot from burner and add ½ gallon ice-cold water (adding ice cubes if desired) to cool the brine water. Set pot in fridge.
- Add pheasant to brine pot once water is cold. Allow to brine for 12-18 hours.
- When done brining, thoroughly rinse off the brine from the rooster under cold water. Pat dry and place in fridge with plenty of ventilation on all sides to allow the skin to dry.
- Break down pheasant according to steps here
- In a medium saucepan, add parboil ingredients along with wings, thighs, and legs. Bring to a low simmer and parboil for 1 hour.
- To make buffalo sauce, add 2 cups Frank’s Red Hot to medium saucepan and heat on medium-low. Once warm (just below simmering), add 2 teaspoons of freshly minced garlic and 8 tablespoons of salted butter–1 tablespoon at a time–and whisk in. Turn heat to very low once the butter is completely melted and whisked in.
- To smoke or roast, set smoker, pellet grill, or oven to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and add legs and thighs
- Smoke or roast legs and thighs for 30 minutes, then add wings and smoke/roast for another 2 hours. Turn heat up to 200 F and smoke/roast for another 30 minutes. Add the breasts and smoke/roast for another 30 minutes.
- Turn heat up to 325 F to finish the legs, thighs, wings, and breasts, plus add the tenderloins. It should take another 20, perhaps even 30 minutes for the legs to hit 180 F and for the breasts to crisp up nicely.
- When the meat is finished cooking, add all pheasant parts (including breasts) in a large mixing bowl and cover with buffalo sauce. Whisk around with tongs to cover pheasant adequately, then serve with side of bleu cheese or other favorite dressing and perhaps some celery and carrot sticks.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.