Dressing a pheasant

Written by Cathryn

The game season is now in full swing. If you have seen the fully-dressed birds hanging up in the butcher's shop and wondered what on earth you have to do when you get them home, here is a brief introduction to the mysteries of the process brought to you by Cathryn's farmer Jack.

These were shot six days ago and have been hanging in a cold shed since then. The longer you hang them the stronger their flavour. In cold weather you can leave them for up to a fortnight. If they have been heavily shot, then they will go off rather more quickly so get them done soon.

Pluck the feathers, down to the knees and to the first joint in the wing. Purists would pluck all the wing but there's no meat on the rest of the wing so we don't bother.

Beginners (or the absent minded like me) should start on the back, don't pull out too many feathers each time. The skin tears easily, especially on the side of the breast and neck.

Choose a dry day...

What a pheasant plucker.

Cut off the extremities.

Cut through the skin on the top of the wing above the first joint, then bend wing and cut through the joint from underneath.

Scour the skin around the top of the knee joint, don't cut deeply! Bend the leg back exposing the tendons. Cut through joint below the tendons and pull tendons out with the foot. Purists leave the legs on...

Put the bird on its front. Pinch the skin between the shoulder blades, insert the knife and cut skin away from the neck towards the head.

Remove the neck by cutting between the wings (it looks neater when it's roasted). The neck can be used for stock.

Try to remove the crop without breaking it. It's easier when it's full (of wheat) like this one but make sure you remove even an empty one. Pull it off with the attached windpipe.

Now to do the other end.

Cut off the arse hole.

Slice down the bird from the end of breastbone to the parson nose. (Why is it called this?)

Stick two fingers in, going over the top of the intestines inside. Hook your fingers over the gizzard (it will feel hard and round) and pull out gently. With luck everything will follow as in the picture. Sometimes with heavily shot birds you will have to make sure you get everything out but be careful as there can be shattered and sharp bones. The lungs often stick to the ribs on either side of the backbone.

This one's better out of focus.

The knife is pointing at the gizzard. Next to it is the liver, the heart and the (bright red) lungs plus lots of guts. You can use the heart, liver and gizzard. The gizzard has to be dressed as well. My advice, throw it away.

The ends of feathers disappear during cooking but you can run a blowtorch lightly over it and rub them off.

One beautifully dressed bird.

The slightly sweet taste of pheasant goes really well with roasted sweet potato.