Pigeon is an unusual meat to serve at the dinner table, partly because it is not often available to buy in stores, and partly because it is relatively difficult to prepare. If you want to try it, however, there are definitely ways for you to do this.
Not all species of pigeons are suitable for eating, but there are three types that are: wood pigeon, wild pigeon and squab.
Most of the time, pigeons are hunted in the wild. They are rarely farmed like other livestock, although some pigeon farms do exist.
Pigeons vary in size, but a typical pigeon to eat will be killed when it’s around a month old – at this point, it has grown to its full size but hasn’t started flying yet. It should be around 12.5-14.5 inches long and weigh between 240-380 grams.
A common question people have when they consider eating pigeon meat for the first time is: what does it taste like?
After all, while pigeon is a relatively inexpensive meat to buy, there is little point investing in a whole pigeon if you’re not going to enjoy it, as that would be a terrible waste of food.
Luckily, it is quite easy to describe the flavor if you’ve had comparable meats before, so read on to unlock the secret world of pigeon eating.
Is Pigeon Meat Similar To Other Meat
Pigeon is often described as having a gamey taste, resembling other birds such as pheasant (only slightly less strong). It has also been compared to chicken, but then the same is often said of most meats.
Pigeon meat has a darker flavor than chicken, though, which makes it quite similar to duck. Dark meats have a high concentration of myoglobin, which is a protein that stores the oxygen taken in by the animal when it’s alive.
Best Way To Cook Pigeon
So you’ve bought or hunted yourself a delicious pigeon to eat, but how do you prepare it properly to make the most of it?
Depending on the state in which you acquired it, you may need to pluck the bird first, which is very simple and quick to do. Once you have completed this step, you should gut it, and then it will be ready to cook.
We recommend stuffing the rib cage with aromatic herbs and searing the outside for 1-2 minutes with a foaming hazelnut butter.
After that, roast the whole bird for around 4 minutes – it is vital not to overcook it as this can ruin the delicate flavor. Equally, you need to make sure you cook it long enough to get rid of any harmful bacteria the pigeon might be carrying.
Serve your pigeon with roasted new potatoes, seasoned with salt, rosemary and garlic.
Ideal fruits to pair with pigeon include blackberries, blueberries and quince, although cherries can balance the flavor exceptionally well, in the same way that orange does with duck.
Finish the dish with a selection of seasonal vegetables, such as Jerusalem artichokes and kale.
History Of Eating Pigeon
Pigeon has been cooked as food in the USA for many years, although it used to be much more common than it is now.
The passenger pigeon was actually eaten so much here that it became extinct – millions of these were killed every year, solely for their meat.
Numbers declined rapidly towards the beginning of the 20th century, until the last passenger pigeon died in 1914 at Cincinnati Zoo.
Nowadays, pigeon isn’t eaten nearly as much in this country as it was then. It has been replaced in popularity by birds such as chicken, duck, turkey and quail.
There is a public perception of pigeons that they are dirty animals, which could be a contributing factor in why people don’t often eat them.
In other countries, for example Uruguay and France, pigeons and similar birds are consumed frequently as a large part of the traditional diet.
Where Can You Buy Pigeon?
Although pigeon isn’t easy to find in general grocery stores and is considered a novelty food item, it can be stocked at some farm shops and specialty grocery stores.
Restaurants based on certain cuisines might serve pigeon dishes, particularly Chinese, French and Italian ones – this gives you the opportunity to try pigeon without having to cook it yourself.
You can also purchase pigeon online from websites like Exotic Meat Market, but it is usually rather expensive to source this way.
If there is a pigeon farm near where you live, you can purchase pigeon from there at any time of the year. On the other hand, wild pigeon should be hunted in the late autumn for best results, as this is when the birds have been eating ripe seasonal fruits.
The difference in taste between these two categories is slight, as long as you are comparing meat of the same high quality.
If you can select your pigeon, look for one that is fully intact so you can easily see if it’s in good condition. Try and go for farmed pigeon rather than wild-hunted, because the quality is generally more consistent across the board.
It is better to choose a pigeon with lighter flesh, as the meat will turn darker the longer it is kept, and pale meat is quicker to cook.
To answer the question succinctly, pigeon tastes like dark chicken. You will likely enjoy it if you like chicken or other game meat, such as pheasant and duck.
The taste won’t suit everyone, but it is similar enough to familiar meats that you will have a good idea of whether or not it is for you.
Pigeon can be eaten with a range of vegetables, and it is best prepared with a mix of fresh herbs. It is also versatile and can be used as an ingredient in more complex dishes.
Pigeon is pretty good for you too, since it is a lean meat – pigeons don’t have fat reserves like many other birds, so they can’t store excess fat on their body.
If you’re still not convinced, perhaps the comparatively low price of pigeon meat will sway you to buy some on your next shopping trip. You never know; it could become a new favorite meal for you and your nearest and dearest.
Cooking up a delectable pigeon is a sure-fire way to impress your friends with your specialist skills, and you will leave them excited about what you’ll come up with next.