The pheasant is a game bird, with bold and vivid colouration. It is widely hunted in the wild, and is also readily available as a farmed bird at the supermarket. At market weights of two to three pounds, pheasants are almost as large as chickens and most chicken recipes can be used successfully with pheasant. Like other poultry, pheasant benefits from brining, and brined pheasant can also be smoked for a rich, rounded flavour.
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Things you need
- 1 gal. water
- 0.227kg. coarse pickling salt
- 0.113kg. sugar
- 56.7gr. Tinted Curing Mix (see notes)
- Black peppercorns, crushed coriander or juniper berries (optional)
- Food-grade plastic container
- Paper towel
- Applewood, alder or other wood chips for smoking
- Meat thermometer
Prepare a brine by simmering one gallon of water with 0.227kg. coarse salt, 0.113kg. of sugar and 56.7gr. of tinted curing mix until the dry ingredients are dissolved. Other flavourings such as black peppercorns, crushed coriander or juniper berries may be added if desired, but if you include them, you will need to simmer the brine for 20 minutes to extract the flavours.
Strain and chill the brine. Clean and sanitise a food-grade plastic container large enough to hold the pheasant comfortably.
Check the pheasant for any shot damage, if it is wild-caught. Pluck or singe any remaining pinfeathers, and wipe the bird with a damp paper towel.
Place the pheasant in the plastic container and fill it with enough brine to completely submerge the bird. Cure the pheasant overnight in the refrigerator.
Remove the pheasant from its brine and rinse it well, then pat dry with paper towel. Return it to the refrigerator for six to 10 hours uncovered, to allow the skin to dry.
Prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer's directions. Use mild-flavoured wood chips, such as apple or alder, which will not overpower the pheasant.
Position the pheasant in the middle of the smoker, and bring the temperature to 85 degrees Celsius.
Hot-smoke the pheasant until its internal temperature reaches 73.9 degrees C when tested with a meat thermometer.
Remove the pheasant from the smoker, and cover it loosely with aluminium foil. Allow the bird to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Tips and warnings
- Tinted curing mix is a pre-measured combination of salt and nitrites, available from your butcher or from online vendors. It helps prevent bacterial activity in cured foods.
- Smoked pheasant can be served hot or cold, and makes an intriguing centrepiece to a buffet table.
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