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Guinea Hen, Pheasant or Capon?

Looking for an interesting alternative for Thanksgiving dinner.... I've got five eating meat, two of whom are teenagers as well as one relatively unadventurous adult.

Any suggestions? Capon was my first reaction, but thought given the holiday, that wild game bird would be better. Can anyone give me a rundown on the difference in taste of guinea hen, pheasant or partridge, even?

I am planning on a basic roasting, basting, etc, nothing too fancy. My mother will be making a stuffing including pecans.

Thanks much...

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  1. CApon is more delicious than turkey and far more forginvg. I'd alway's choose capon. The other birds are much fussier to work with and get right.

    1. my grandmother got my mother a capon one year for thanksgiving and it was the juiciest and most succulent bird.

      (perhaps we should castrate some pigs or cows and they'd taste better?) (:

      1 Reply
      1. re: bitsubeats

        Steers are castrated...that's most of our beef supply...

      2. Can't go wrong with capon, and a single bird can be the Norman-Rockwell-esque centerpiece for the dinner. Pheasant run 2-2.5 pounds, so you'll need two or three of them. Partridge and guinea hen are even smaller.

        Capon also has the advantage of being less threatening to the unadventurous adult since it's just a big chicken. And it's easier to cook; gamebirds tend to be leaner and more muscular (tougher) than domestic birds, even if they've been raised in captivity.

        That said, I prefer pheasant to chicken hands down. Assuming you're talking about farm-raised birds, their flavor is similar to chicken, but richer. Brining is a good idea to maximize intramuscular moisture. Larding / barding the birds also increases juiciness, and who doesn't like bacon? Most of all, be careful not to overcook them.

        Partridges and guineafowl are members of the pheasant family, so the flavor of all three birds is very similar. The (farm-raised) guineafowl I've eaten in restaurants is very similar in flavor to farm-raised pheasant. And the only partridge I've eaten--wild chukkar--tasted very similar to wild pheasant.

        Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

        2 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          Capon is more than a big chicken - its white meat is more flavorful and less prone to drying out than chicken. In fact, for a "large" bird (as compared to large roasting chickens or turkeys), it roasts best.

          1. re: Karl S

            Agreed that the flavor of a capon is better than that of a large chicken. But it's the same species as the yard birds pitched by Frank Perdue, and thus has a higher acceptance level among the "ick-factor" crowd.

        2. Back in the day, my father would bring home Victor Borge's guinea hens to roast. Yes, THAT Victor Borge. The hens had the most delictable semi gamey taste - nothing like the tasteless "Cornish hens" we see these days in the market. Oh, how I wish they were still available. Then, in Southboro MA there was a farm where we would buy fresh killed pheasant. These were used at Christmas instead of roast beef or turkey.
          Those were the days.................

          1. Thanks to all for the information. I've actually gone with pheasant - got 3 of them for the 5 people. Now on to the preparation! I've found three intriguing recipes all calling for braising the bird - one with a mixed peppercorn sauce, one with lemon, and one a bit on the sweet side with red cabbage. hmmmm.... choices!

            1 Reply
            1. re: jdubboston

              Wow, this is strange. Just talked to the friends we're having Thanksgiving dinner with, and they asked if we can bring pheasant for the main course. Now the only question is whether we can find the birds this weekend.

              1. reporting back!
                got two pheasants (about 3 or 3.5 lbs each) and essentially followed a recipe from Cooking Light (Brasied Pheasants in Mixed Peppcorn Sauce). starting by browning them, and then a slow simmer for 35 minutes.... kept them warm on top of the stove ass other things cooked and then warmed them in the oven before serving with the sauce. the birds were very good - like extremely flavorful chicken - and everyone ate them up.
                the sauce with the recipe was AMAZING... fat from the saucepans, mixed peppercorns and evaporated fat free milk. creamy, slightly fatty - yum yum!
                thanks again to everyone for the help.