This spatchcocked, grilled pheasant is probably one of the more satisfying meals I have made with wild game to date. The crispy skin is full of flavor from a homemade dry rub, the meat is tender and juicy, and the citrus-garlic Mojo sauce is so delicious.
Cuban Mojo Sauce
This Mojo sauce has it all: Sweet, Sour, Garlicky, and a little bit of kick. It’s great for serving as a dipping sauce with meat, fish and veggies, or you can use it as a marinade. It’s really easy to make and the recipe below yields about 2 Cups. You can always freeze what you don’t use, but I am willing to bet you put this sauce on any and everything.
Mojo sauce is definitely for garlic lovers, the Cubans did not skimp out when they created it. This recipe has 8 cloves in it, which seems like a lot, but somehow it works and it is so delicious!
This sauce really packs a punch which is why it’s so addicting. Traditionally, Mojo is made using sour oranges. Because I live in North Dakota and can’t get that, I used a blend of oranges and limes. A traditional Mojo would also have cumin and oregano in it, but I chose to leave them out because they are in the dry rub, and instead, used cilantro and jalapeños.
“Flavorful crispy skin, tender-juicy meat and a citrus-garlic Mojo sauce make this one of the best grilled pheasant recipes ever.”
How To Spatchcock a Pheasant
Spatchcocked, also called Butterflied, is an easy way to break down a whole bird that you want to be grilled a little quicker and with a little more consistency.
To start, make sure the pheasant you use is in good shape (i.e. the legs aren’t shot into a million bone fragments). You can pluck the bird and keep the skin on, but you can also do skinless. If you choose to do skinless, you can marinate the pheasant in the Mojo sauce. But, if you want the skin to be really crispy, use the dry rub instead and follow the guidelines below.
Using heavy-duty scissors or a knife, cut along each side of the spine and remove. Open the bird up like a book, flip over and press down into the breast and try to flatten it out. Because pheasants naturally have a protruding breast plate, it will never be totally flat but you can press into the collarbone and break it so that top portion opens up more and lays flat.
After you have spatchcocked the bird, its time to rub it down with a homemade spice mix. Combine all the ingredients for the rub and mix together in a bowl. The recipe below should be plenty to cover 2 whole birds. Rub the spice mix on top of the skin, as well as under so that your also seasoning the meat. Be gentle when you lift the skin up so you don’t tear it. After it is has been seasoned, I like to let it rest and dry out in the fridge. For crispy skin, its best to do this overnight.
The drier the skin is, the crisper it will get.
I placed my bird skin side up on top of a cooling rack set inside of a sheet pan to catch any juices. This allowed plenty of airflow to dry it out.
Whenever you are ready to grill, be sure to pull it out of the fridge about an hour before cooking so it comes to room temperature. This will speed up the cooking process and help the bird to cook evenly. Before grilling, I added about 2 teaspoons of fat to the outside of each pheasant. I used duck fat but you could use ghee or any oil that has a high smoke point.
To stabilize the pheasant and to keep it from flopping it around when you flip it on the grill, I like to add two skewers. To do so, pierce each skewer from the top edge of the breast (by wing joint) and then again in the thighs (just above the knee-joint). If you use bamboo skewers, soak them in water 30 minutes before grilling so they don’t immediately catch fire and burn off.
You can serve this anyway you like. If you were in a Cuban restaurant, you would serve this over rice and beans, but sweet potato fries are also an excellent choice. I went with a fresh spring salad and added some roasted sweet potatoes (seasoned with the extra dry rub), chopped mango, and sliced avocado. The Mojo sauce is particularly good as a salad dressing!
You can try to eat pretty with a knife and fork, but if I am being honest, I ended up grabbing that crispy pheasant leg and eating it with my hands!
- 2 Whole Pheasants, Plucked
- Fat For Grilling (Duck Fat or Oil)
- 4 Skewers (2 per bird)
- 1 T. Salt
- 1 t. Black Pepper
- 2 t. Dried Oregano
- 1 t. Cumin
- 1 t. Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 t. Onion Powder
- 1 t. Garlic Powder
- 1 Lime, Zested
- ½ C. Fresh Orange Juice
- ¼ C. Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 C. Olive Oil
- 8 Cloves of Garlic, smashed
- 1 C. Fresh Cilantro
- 1 Jalapeno (with or without seeds)
- Salt + Pepper to Taste
- Make the dry rub by mixing the above listed ingredients in a bowl. The spice mix should be plenty for two whole birds. Save the leftover rub for seasoning other meats or potatoes,etc.
- Using sharp, heavy duty scissors or a knife, cut along each side of the spine and remove. Roll the legs out front and flip the bird over so that it faces up. Press down firmly with your hands on the breast plate to flatten out some.
- Pat the pheasant as dry as you can with paper towels. Season generously with the dry rub. If you kept the skin on, be sure to rub the spice mix under the skin so it covers the meat, being careful not to tear it.
- For optimal results, set your birds skin side up on a sheet pan or a container uncovered so that it gets plenty of airflow. Let the pheasants rest and dry out for several hours or overnight in the fridge if possible. The drier the skin is, the crispier it will be once grilled.
- Prepare the Mojo sauce by combining all of the above listed ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth and store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Remove the pheasant from the fridge about an hour before grilling and let it come to room temperature.
- Rub the birds down with about 2 t. of fat/oil per bird. Use 2 skewers per bird to help stabilize it by piercing through the top of the breast, and crossing over through the thigh meat (on both sides). If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.
- Heat the grill over medium high heat. Grill the pheasant skin side down for about 5 minutes or until the skin begins crisp and char. Flip the Pheasant and then move it to the side of the grill over indirect heat. Turn the burners down to low and Close the lid and let it continue to cook for an additional 25 minutes or until the breast meat registers to 165 degrees.
- Remove the pheasant and serve with the mojo sauce.