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Kansas Mesquite Barbecued Pheasant

Kansas Mesquite Barbecued Pheasant

Mesquite barbecued pheasant on a cutting board

True barbecue is done low and slow; try this smoked pheasant recipe to elevate your wild game cooking to the next level

In Kansas, barbecue is a religion. Instead of a pulpit, these devout folks gather around the barbecue pit every weekend. There are commandments to follow as well, with number one being, “Thou shalt not cover thy meat in sauce and call it barbecue.”

Authentic barbecue is the art of wood smoking low and slow, imbuing meat with immense flavor over several hours. In this recipe, I am using pheasant, brined ahead of time and smoked on my Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill. You can use an electric smoker just as well, or even a log burner. A log burning smoker will create a more smoky flavor, but is harder to control the temperature.

There are several precise steps to this recipe because the target goal is a 160-degree F internal temperature for the breasts and 180-degree F for legs and wings (160 F for legs and wings on birds is too tough and chewy). Feel welcome to finish up this long, hard-earned, and delicious dish with your favorite BBQ sauce. In this instance, I went with Bearded Butcher Blend BBQ Sauce, which nicely complimented the flavors of the brine and the mesquite smoke.

Fall 2020 Project Upland Magazine cooking ad

Smoking Time Theory on an Upland Bird

Time needed: 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Summary of the smoke (broken down into more details below)

  1. First half hour

    legs at 160 degrees F

  2. Next two hours

    legs and wings at 160 degrees F

  3. Next half hour

    legs, wings, and breasts at 200 degrees F

  4. Final 20 minutes (or so)

    legs at 325 degrees F

Mesquite barbecued pheasant on a cutting board

Kansas Mesquite Barbecued Pheasant

Jack Hennessy
Think low and slow for the best BBQ pheasant you and your friends have ever had.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 12 hrs
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 550 kcal


  • Smoker or pellet grill


  • 1 pheasant rooster, broken down
  • ½ gal. warm water to boil the brine ingredients
  • ½ gal. very cold water to cool the brine
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup black peppercorns
  • ½ bulb fresh garlic, smashed
  • ¼ cup whole mustard seeds
  • ¼ cup whole coriander seeds
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce


  • In a large pot or saucepan, add brine ingredients (everything but the pheasant and the BBQ sauce) 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 to cool the brine water. Adding extra ice cubes is fine, too. Set pot in fridge.
  • Add pheasant to brine pot once water is cold and 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 skin to dry.
  • Break down the pheasant according to these steps.
  • To smoke, set smoker or pellet grill to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and add legs and thighs. I don’t cut these apart until after smoking.
  • Smoke legs for 30 minutes, then add wings and smoke for another 2 hours.
  • Turn heat up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, add breasts, and smoke for another 30 minutes.
  • Remove breasts and wings and tent with aluminum foil. Turn heat up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit to finish legs, or finish legs in an oven pre-heated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take another 15-20 minutes (perhaps even 30) for legs to hit 180 degrees Fahrenheit when roasting at 325 degrees Fahrenheit after smoking for a few hours. You can also cook the tenderloins at 325 degrees Fahrenheit while finishing up legs, but will likely only need 10-15 minutes to cook tenderloins at this temperature.
  • When finished cooking, cut thighs from legs and cut wings to separate the drumette from the wing. In a large mixing bowl, add all pheasant parts including breasts and cover with BBQ sauce. Whisk around with tongs to coat pheasant adequately then serve.


Calories: 550kcal
Keyword BBQ, Pheasant
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Enjoy! Reach out to me on Instagram (@WildGameJack) with any questions or comments and be sure to check out my other wild game recipes and cooking instructions here.

View Comments (3)
  • Reading your recipe, it appears that you are only cooking the breasts for 30 minutes at 200, is that correct?

    • Yes, that is correct. 30 minutes for breasts though the objective is to get the breasts around 160 internal temp. If you’re chopping up an older rooster whose breasts weigh much more than 4 ounces each (remember the tenderloin is removed), you may need to cook for 45 minutes, perhaps a bit longer at 200.

    • Troy, I did just make something similar this weekend and ended up keeping breasts on when cranking heat up to 325. So breasts at 200 for half hour followed by 20 minutes, perhaps a few more, at 325. I also only add tenderloins once heating up to 325. 20 minutes for tenderloins at 325, straight from fridge, seemed good. Breasts were still tender on inside but also slightly crispy on outside.

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