Why Sous Vide Pheasant?
Pheasant hunting is a favorite of large swaths of the United States, however many people don’t actually enjoy eating them because they have a tendency to get overly dry, even when smoking at lower temps. Sous Vide cooking the pheasant should allow us to prevent that from happening.
What's Sous Vide Cooking?
Sous Vide is French for “Under Vacuum”, it refers to a style of cooking that utilizes heated water to cook food that has been vacuum-sealed to keep it dry. The main advantages of this style of cooking are the reduced possibility of over-cooking and the speed at which you can bring a product up to temp. This is especially true on items that you would normally smoke slow and low like snack sticks or summer sausage. If you set your sous vide cooker to 160° you can leave it in there for as long as you want and it will not overcook and dry out, in fact, the longer you leave it in there the more tender the meat can get.
Recipe: Sous Vide Pheasant
Pa's Black Bull Soluble Seasoning
Rosemary Basil & Thyme Rub / your favorite rub
Cold Phosphate is an ingredient in some marinades that increase the water holding capacity of meat which will keep your meat more tender and juicy through the cooking process. It does this by increasing the pH of the meat which does shorten the shelf-life of your meat so this should only be used on meat that will be eaten right away.
Inject your pheasant to 10% of its starting weight. Concentrate most of the injecting on the breasts, though some in the drumstick can be good as well. If possible, allow your pheasant to sit for 2 hours after injecting but before cooking.
Rub the seasoning of your choice all over the pheasant as well as under the skin of the breast. To do this, gently separate the skin from the breast by sliding your fingers under the skin and softly force it apart.
Vacuum Seal your pheasant as tightly as you can, the more air you remove the better the heat will transfer from the water to the meat. Any extra air in the bag will act as an insulator and slow down the cooking.
Thermal Processing & Smoking
Sous Vide: Set your sous vide cooker to 160° F and place your vacuum-sealed pheasant in the water. After 2 hours your pheasant should be hot enough, but we left it in for about 3.5 hours to allow us to finish the smoked and sous vide pheasant at the same time. After the 2-3.5 hours of sous vide cooking remove it from the water, cut it out of the bag and place it in the smoker or grill for 30 minutes to allow the skin some time to dry.
Note: You do not NEED to smoke or grill your pheasant once you take it out of the Sous Vide, but the skin will be wet and loose and unappealing if you only use the sous vide cooker.
For the first hour set your smoker to 180° and open your vents wide. You do not need to add smoke during the first 30 minutes of this process. After the first hour shut down the vents, add smoke and set temp to 220° F. Cook until the internal temp is 165°. This took almost 4 hours in our smoker.
The pheasant that was smoked the entire time did have a nicer smoke color to it. Smoking the sous vide pheasant for the last 30 minutes did do a nice job of drying the skin but it was not enough time to add that nice smoked color. However, that was the only advantage that the smoked pheasant had over the sous vide. The Sous Vide Pheasant had better moisture, texture and even taste in both the breast and especially the wings!
Cooking and smoking times may vary with smaller upland game.