Our how to clean a pheasant guide starts with the hanging process. Pheasant tastes best after hanging. Hanging is a process of letting the bird hang and cool before you pluck or skin it. You should do this at least two days before or two weeks (maximum) during the winter.
Five to six days seems a sensible period, ensure the game is hung in a pantry or other cool area possibly an outbuilding. Game birds are tougher than poultry. Hanging them develops the flavour and tenderises the meat. The longer the pheasant hangs the more flavour it has.
Skinning is the simplest way to prepare a pheasant. Once the hanging is complete divide the feathers along its back and slice through the skin down the spine, pull the skin and feathers off the Pheasant.
This is the cleanest method of preparing the bird as it means the feathers are thrown intact. However you will want to coat the bird with goose fat or similar to prevent it drying out whilst cooking.
Now to the ‘guts’ of our ‘how to clean a pheasant’ tips
Start by putting your hands into water and begin by plucking the pheasant’s breast feather out moving in the direction of the birds neck. Make sure you only pull at a few feathers at a time so that skin doesn’t split.
Once this is done (not a quick process)turn over the pheasant and pluck the other way until all the feathers have gone from the body.
Now take a strong pair of scissors and cut through the middle of the wing below the joint. Pluck out the remaining feathers from the wings and remove the last feathers from the tail and legs
Any small pin feathers that are left usually down the spine should be removed by a pair of tweezers.
Some people put the bird in boiling water to soften it making the feathers easier to come out.
Now to the ‘guts’ of our ‘how to clean a pheasant’ tips. Take a sharp heavy knife and remove the head close to the body but try to leave some of the skin. Next cut around the birds vent try carefully not to split the lower intestines. Remove the gullet (by inserting your fingers into the neck cavity) twist your fingers and the windpipe crop and lungs will come free. Now put your fingers into the back cavity and slowly pull out the innards. As you get good at this they will come out in a solid piece. Try not to let the insides of the intestine spill out and spoil the meat.
Wash the bird through thoroughly.
Amy Willcock’s How to Pluck and Prepare a Pheasant.