August 18, 2021
By Jack Hennessy
“Sky carp,” I’ve heard them called. True shame. I even had a local hunter in Kansas offer me his limit of Canada goose one morning because “they aren’t good for anything but jerky.” My mother-in-law won’t touch them because they land on “poo ponds.” (I’m also not allowed to cook them in her kitchen anymore, either.) All that kind of talk breaks my heart, like listening to a crowd talk bad about a best friend.
But I’m going to throw down the gauntlet: Canada goose may be the most underrated bird in terms of flavor. If crane is “the ribeye of the sky,” Canada goose is the roast beef of the sky, because if cooked correctly, that is exactly what it should taste like, with a hint of waterfowl, obviously.
Don’t serve a degree past medium-rare as flavor diminishes exponentially every degree beyond 140. Pluck your waterfowl, too, for reasons mentioned in the sidebar. Lastly, watch out for shot. Even when cooked perfectly, Canada goose is still tougher than most birds and hard chewing can lead to chipping or breaking a tooth if you bite into steel shot, which is nowhere as soft as lead shot, friends.
Why You Should Give a Pluck
Simply put: Skin, and its fat, is the bacon of waterfowl. Why is bacon so good? Because it cooks in its own fat. The same applies to waterfowl, except the waterfowl version is better for you with its unsaturated fats. Fat from a skin-on bird is the reason I always cook waterfowl in a skillet – I don’t want to lose that rendered, delicious, healthy fat to a fire should I grill over a grate. When rendered, waterfowl fat is liquid gold. You can jar and save in the fridge or freeze and later use for baking or to fry potatoes. So at the very least, take 5 extra minutes to pluck the breasts before breasting out. Want to get ambitious? Pluck the whole bird, especially ducks, which you can roast whole.
Yield: 2-4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
- Two Canada goose breasts, preferably skin on
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 bulb fresh garlic, smashed
- 8 ounces fresh ginger, smashed
- 1/2 cup burbon
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- Zest from half an orange
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 14 ounces orange marmalade
Directions for Brine:
- Bring half gallon water to simmer and stir in brine ingredients. Stir until all sugar and salt dissolves.
- Add half gallon of very cold water and ice cubes to cool brine.
- Add thawed goose breasts only after brine is cold.
- Let goose breasts brine 12-18 hours.
- Remove and thoroughly rinse off brine. Either place back in fridge or leave out but make sure to allow for one half hour of sitting outside the fridge prior to cooking to bring breasts to room temp.
Directions for Glaze:
- Add all ingredients to medium saucepan and simmer on medium-low until thick. Tip: Heating up honey for 10-15 seconds in the microwave makes it easier to pour into saucepan.
Directions for Cooking:
- Start with a cold oven-safe (preferably cast-iron) skillet and add breasts skin down. Pre-heat oven or pellet grill to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turn burner heat below skillet to medium. Fat will start to secrete. Flip once skin is golden brown.
- Sear underside of breasts. Once browned, add skillet to 200-degree oven or pellet grill for 15-20 minutes, until internal temp reads 130.
- Remove breasts from skillet once 130 internal temp and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes prior to serving.
- Pour rendered fat in skillet into glaze saucepan.
- Apply glaze to skin of goose with basting brush or spoon before or after cutting and enjoy. (Watch out for that steel shot!)
Any questions or comments, please reach out on Instagam @WildGameJack