Entree | Field To Table

Smoked Pheasant

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This Smoked Pheasant has a mildly smoky flavor and it stays so juicy and tender! Lots of serving suggestions included.

Slices of pheasant breast on wooden plate with colorful citrus salsa.Pin
Smoked Pheasant

What are Ring Necked Pheasants?

Ring necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) are an introduced game bird that was imported from Asia. They are released by Federal or State funded conservation departments specifically for game hunting.

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Males are brightly colored with a red face and iridescent blue/ green neck with a distinct white ring. Hence the common name.

We used to have a tons of pheasants around us. The sad thing is that the farmers who own the orchards were allowed to throw treated corn in their orchards to control rodent populations. Unfortunately, the birds also ate the corn and populations have really been depleted.

So when we bag a pheasant, the recipes we make have to be incredibly delicious! Smoking the pheasant is a great way to retain the moisture and end up with a juicy, succulent product every time.

Pheasants have very little fat so brining them helps them to retain moisture and adds incredible flavor.

What you need

For the brine

  • water
  • sugar
  • kosher salt
  • clove of garlic
Ingredients needed to brine pheasant.Pin
Ingredients needed to brine pheasant.

For the spice rub

  • onion powder
  • celery seed
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • orange zest
  • brown sugar
  • pheasant breast
  • bacon – optional but tasty
Ingredients needed to smoke pheasant.Pin
Ingredients needed to smoke pheasant.

How to make it

For the brining

We use a wet brine for this recipe. You could use a dry brine as well. Just rub the meat well with the rub ingredients and place on a cooling rack in the fridge overnight.

Step One

Smash garlic cloves with the side of your knife.

See recipe below for safety tips.

Smashed garlic on white board.Pin
Smash the garlic with the side of your knife.

Step Two

Add salt and sugar to a small pot with garlic.

Salt and sugar in a pot with garlic.Pin
Add garlic, salt and sugar to small pan.

Step Three

Add water. Heat until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Water added to pot.Pin
Add water. Heat until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Step Four

Squeeze juice from orange.

Orange juice in reamer.Pin
Squeeze the orange with a reamer to extract the juice.

Step Five

Cool down the brine. Add ice to speed up the process.

Ice cubes in the brine mix to cool.Pin
Cool down the brine. Adding ice will speed this up.

Step Six

Place pheasants in a glass bowl or plastic container. Pour brine over. Add orange rinds. Add enough cold water to cover.

Pheasant in brine with oranges.Pin
Place pheasant breasts, brine and orange juice in a plastic container or gallon plastic bag. Add orange rinds.

Place the lid on the container. Let the pheasant sit in the brine overnight in the refrigerator.

For smoking

Step Seven

Grate orange zest.

Orange zest in bowl.Pin
Grate orange zest.

Step Eight

Measure all ingredients. Place in plastic container with lid.

Rub ingredients in plastic container.Pin
Add rub ingredients to a container.

Step Nine

Shake container to combine. Break up zest, if it clumps with your fingers.

Mixed up ingredients for rub.Pin
Shake to combine. Break up zest if it clumps with fingers.

Step Ten

Take the pheasant out of the fridge. Remove breasts from brine. Pat dry with paper towels.

Brined breasts on paper towel.Pin
Remove breasts from brine. Pat dry.

Step Eleven

Optional step. After rubbing the breasts, wrap in bacon. Secure with toothpicks.

Rubbed breast wrapped in bacon.Pin
Optional step. After rubbing the breasts, wrap in bacon.

Preheat smoker to 200°F / 95°C. Add wood chips or pellets. Adjust vents.

Step Twelve

Place pheasant on smoker racks. Insert an instant read meat thermometer into thickest part.

If doing a whole bird, place thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.

Breasts placed in smoker with thermometer inserted. Pin
Place breasts on smoker rack. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part.

Smoke pheasant for about 3 hours, until internal temperature reads 160°F / 70°C. Remove from smoker. Tent with a sheet of aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. During that time the internal temperature should raise to 165°F / 75°C.

Two large breasts on wood slab.Pin

How to serve smoked pheasant

How to store leftovers

Leftovers will last 3-5 days refrigerated. For longer storage, vacuum seal and freeze up to 6 months.

What wood chips or pellets to use

We prefer a mild wood for smoking birds and fish. The fruit woods work great. Apple, cherry, pecan wood. We find more heavy woods like oak, hickory and mesquite overpower the subtle flavor of the meat.

Sliced breast on wooden late with citrus salsa and smoked potatoes.Pin

What if I don’t own a smoker?

You can still enjoy smoked meats if you don’t own a smoker. You can use your grill to smoke. Set up your grill so that the fire is only on one side. You will place the meat or vegetable on the side of the grill without a direct flame (indirect heat). This is called indirect cooking.

Add soaked wood to a metal tray (we use a disposable foil pie plate or bread pan). Add another metal tray with water. Place water and wood chips on the side of the grill with the fire. Remember to fill the water if it runs out.

You can also create a similar setup for your oven in a pinch or in the winter.

More recipes for your smoker

Helpful tools

Bacon wrapped breast on wood slab.Pin

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today!

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

Binky's signature
Sliced pheasant breast on round wooden plate with sides.Pin

Smoked Pheasant

This Smoked Pheasant has a mildly smoky flavor and it stays so juicy and tender! Lots of serving suggestions included.
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: entree, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Brining time: 12 hours
Total Time: 15 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 140kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $3

Ingredients

For brine

  • water
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ orange

For rub

Instructions

For brining

  • Smash garlic with side of your knife. Place the garlic on a board. Lay your knife with the wide part down on top of the clove. Hold the knife with one hand. Then punch down the side of the knife with the palm of you other hand.
    1 clove garlic
  • Place the salt, sugar and garlic cloves in a small saucepan.
    2 tablespoons Sugar, 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt or sea salt
  • Add 2 cups of water. Heat the water until sugar and salt have dissolved.
    water
  • Squeeze the juice from the orange.
    ½ orange
  • Cool off brine. Adding ice will speed up this process.
  • Place pheasant in a large enough container to hold it. Pour brine and orange juice over the top. Add the rind of the orange too. If meat isn't covered, add enough cold water to cover.
    2 whole pheasant breasts or one whole pheasant
  • Place lid on the container. Let pheasant sit in the brine overnight in the refrigerator.

For Smoking

  • Grate orange zest.
  • Measure rub ingredients. Add to a bowl or covered container. Shake or mix well. Break up the orange zest if it clumps up with your fingers.
    2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or sea salt, 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 tablespoons orange zest, 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Remove meat from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Rub the dry rub ingredients all over the meat. Inside and outside.
  • Optional – Wrap with 2 slices of bacon.
  • Add wood chips. Adjust vents. Preheat smoker to 200°F / 95°C.
  • Place pheasant directly on smoker rack. Insert instant read thermometer into thickest part of meat. If you're smoking the bird whole, place it in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Smoke for about 3 hours until meat measures 160°F / 70°C.
  • Remove from smoker. Tent with a piece of aluminum foil and let rest for about 10 minutes. In the first 5 minutes, the temperature will rise to 165­°F / 75°C.
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Notes

Be sure to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
How to serve it
What wood to smoke with
We prefer a mild wood for smoking birds and fish. The fruit woods work great. Apple, cherry, pecan wood. We find more heavy woods like oak, hickory and mesquite overpower the subtle flavor of the meat.

Nutrition

Calories: 140kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 4655mg | Potassium: 70mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 47IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg
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Originally published June 16, 2022.

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We don’t own a smoker so I really appreciate your tips for smoking pheasant using our grill. Turned out wonderful! Thank you!

      1. Smoking time of 3 hours seems very excessive. Should be more like 45 minutes to 1 hour at 225*. We are talking about pheasant breasts not whole bird? Thoughts?

        1. It depends on the size of your breasts. We smoke at 200° F. It usually takes about 3 hours. These were wild cocks. They were pretty large. Just take them to 160°F and then let them rest to come up to temperature. Always go by internal temperature, not time.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve only had pheasant at a restaurant. Now I hope I can find some because this recipe looks delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe, I finally order this online and found this recipe everyone raved about it smoke so glad we did it was our first time eating pheasant and loved it

  4. 5 stars
    This was so juicy and tender and I loved the flavor of the orange zest in the rub. My family loved it!

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