While spatchcocking (removing the spine to butterfly an entire bird) is often used for larger poultry such as turkey, the technique also works beautifully on pheasant. Additionally, there are a few extra benefits for employing this technique.
With all main parts of a pheasant pressed against a hot skillet or grill grate, the skin sears evenly. When finished, the skin is crispy and flavorful. A spatchcocked pheasant—as opposed to a trussed, roasted bird—cooks faster, which means the meat stays moister too. Generally speaking, the legs of a spatchcocked bird reach a desired temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit around the same time the breast reaches a finished temperature of 160 degrees.
The garlic and ginger in this brine recipe not only imbues the pheasant with great flavor, it helps neutralize any potential adverse “gamey” flavors, in case you bagged a seasoned rooster. Brines also aid in extracting blood from meat, so when you bite in, you are tasting natural juices, not residual—more than likely unpleasant tasting—blood.
I do consider brines essential for any wild fowl, and, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I cooked a bird without brining it first. While it is weird word, spatchcocking is a great way to sear a pheasant to moist perfection, especially if the bird is brined properly ahead of time.
1 whole pheasant, approximately 2 to 2-1/2 pounds, plucked and brined
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup non-iodized salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 bulb garlic, peeled and smashed
10 ounces ginger, smashed
1/4 cup black peppercorns
To spatchcock pheasant: Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut out backbone (set aside and save for making stock, if desired). Open up bird like a book, cracking rib cages if necessary, so pheasant will lie flat.
To brine pheasant: Thoroughly stir sugar and salt in gallon of cold water until dissolved before adding remainder of brine ingredients. Brine pheasant for 8 to 10 hours (no longer). Rinse pheasant under cold water upon removing from brine to remove excess salt solution. Pat-dry.
To grill pheasant: Pre-heat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure coals (ideally in a pile at center of grill) are gray and hot (if using charcoal) and grate is also hot. Place pheasant, now split wide open, breast-side-down. Once skin is golden-brown, flip so skin is facing up and place bird along outside rim, away from center of hot coals, or lower heat on propane grill, careful not to burn. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until internal breast temperature reaches 160 degrees.