A prized delicacy with its deep red (almost maroon) flesh, the ‘glorious twelfth’ (12 August) heralds the beginning of the grouse season. Endemic to the British Isles, this iconic game bird’s stunning plumage and exquisite flavour make for a true taste of the wild.
What does grouse taste like?
Grouse has a reputation for being somewhat of an acquired taste, but the dark, rich meat produced by Swaledale owes its exquisite flavour to its exclusive diet in the vast heather moortops of North Yorkshire.
Feasting on a carpet of heather tips and bilberries, its taste on the plate is truly one of a kind. Heathery yet herbaceous, exceptionally rich yet earthy, the gamey flavours intensify the further you get into the season.
As these birds are shot in the wild, don’t be surprised to find some quantity of lead shot in the meat.
How long to cook a grouse?
Grouse is a lean and delicate meat that is best cooked rare or medium-rare and requires a gentle cook. Our beautiful, fresh birds are meticulously prepared to hold their shape and cook evenly. Young grouse should be browned lightly in a pan before transferring to a hot oven for 5-6 minutes. One bird will typically feed one person.
Older birds are a bit tougher than younger grouse and better suited for slow cooking or casseroling at a lower temperature. A cooking time of 45 minutes is perfect for older grouse, ideally braised or pot-roasted in a bath of stock and decent-quality red wine. You can keep the bird(s) whole for this process, but always allow it to cool in the stock to keep the meat moist.
Instructions for cooking grouse whole
- Remove your grouse from the fridge, remove from the vacuum packaging and pat dry any moisture. Let it stand at room temperature for 25-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Season the bird both in its cavity and its skin with sea salt. A few sprigs of thyme or juniper in the cavity can be a nice touch.
- Heat some oil in a pan over medium heat and gently sear the skin until crispy and golden brown.
- Add a knob of butter to the pan and begin to baste the bird in the foaming butter. Be careful to regulate the heat so as not to burn the butter.
- Lay two slices of pancetta or thinly sliced streaky bacon over the top of the bird.
- Transfer the pan to the oven, or to an oven tray if your pan is not oven proof and cook for 14-16 minutes (baste halfway through cooking) or until the internal temperature, within the thickest part of the breast right next to the bone, is 52°C.
- Aim to serve your grouse rare. A pink centre ensures the moisture is retained in the flesh.
- Once cooked, allow your grouse to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Wild grouse recipe
A classic dish in the game cook’s repertoire, sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. One whole grouse is enough for a single serving. A plump, roast grouse is a joy accompanied by game chips, bread sauce, and liver parfait toast.
Given its seasonality, fruit and veg associated with autumn and winter are also great matches — think blackberries, raspberries, beetroot, etc. These sweet and sour notes work brilliantly with the deep gamey flavour of grouse.
As grouse can hold strong flavours, it also pairs well with Asian spices, so why not try it the next time you waft the kitchen with warming smells of curry or tagine?