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Cambrian Training Game Masterclass

A perfected masterclass in the storage and buying of game birds.

Game Birds Master Class

Game is leaner than many types of meat and lends itself brilliantly to slow cooking and seasonal flavours. While farmed game is available year-round, autumn and winter is the time to indulge in fresh and tender, wild-reared meat. Here is a quick master class from Cambrian Training about the storage and buying of game birds.

Game is the name given to certain wild birds and animals which are eaten. There are two types of game; Feathered & Furred. As it is less fatty than poultry or meat, game is easily digested, with the exception of waterfowl, owing to their oily flesh. One of the main benefits of eating game meat is that it is one of the healthiest meats available, very low in fat and cholesterol, game meat is lean as they are wild and are able to walk and roam freely so do not store so much fat.

Storing game

Hanging is essential for all games to develop the flavour and the hanging time is determined by type, condition and age of the game and storage temperature. The birds should be hung by the neck with the feet down. Old birds need to hang for a longer time than young birds. Game birds are also not plucked or drawn before hanging. It must be hung in a well ventilated, dry, cold storeroom but this need not be refrigerated

Quality points for buying

There are a few things to look out for when selecting and buying a game bird such as the beak should break easily and the breast plumage should be soft. The breast should be plump, quill feathers should be pointed not rounded and the legs should be smooth.

Feathered game

Grouse, pheasant, and partridge are the most popular game birds. Woodcock, snipe, and wild duck are used but much less. All these birds are protected by game laws and can only be shot in season. Quail is a game bird but large numbers of quail are reared and are available all year around. The term includes all edible birds, which live in freedom, but only the following are generally used in catering today: Pheasant, Partridge, Woodcock, Snipe, Wild duck, Teal & Grouse.

The flavour of most game birds is improved by it being hung for a few days in a moderate drought before being plucked. Hanging is to some degree essential for all games. It drains the flesh of blood and begins a process of disintegration, which is essential to make the flesh tender and develop flavour. This is due to the action of enzymes. Game birds should be hung with feet down. Care should be taken with the water birds like wild duck and teal. Do not allow them to get too ‘high’ because the oiliness of their flesh will quickly turn them rancid.

As game birds are deficient in fat, a thin slice of fat bacon could be tied over the breast during cooking to prevent it from drying and can be used when serving.


Young birds have a flexible beak, pliable breastbone, grey legs, underdeveloped spurs or none at all. The last large feather in the wing is pointed.

  • They may be roasted, braised or pot roasted

  • Season 1st October to 1st February

  • They should be well hung


Young birds indicated as for pheasant, the legs should also be smooth.

  • Maybe roasted, braised, etc.

  • Season 1st September to 1st February

  • Three to five days hanging is ample time


A good quality bird should have soft supple feet, clean mouth and throat, and a fat and firm breast. It has a distinctive flavour, which is accentuated by entrails being left in during cooking. The vent must be carefully checked for cleanliness.

  • Usually roasted

  • Season October to November

  • Hang for 3 to 4 days.


Snipes resemble woodcock but are smaller. Points of quality are the same as for woodcock. The flavour of the flesh can be accentuated in the same way as for woodcock.

  • May be roasted and are sometimes cooked in steak pudding or pies

  • Season October to November

  • Hang for 3 to 4 days

Snipe and woodcock are prepared with the head left on and the beak is used for trussing. The head is prepared by removing the skin and eyes.

Wild Duck

The most common is the mallard, which is the ancestor of the domestic duck. The beak and webbed feet should be soft and pliable.

  • They may be roasted, slightly underdone or braised

  • Season August to February

It is particularly important that water birds be eaten only in season. Out of season the flesh becomes coarse and acquires a fishy flavour.


This is a smaller species of wild duck, select as for wild duck

  • May be roasted or braised

  • Season October to January


This is one of the most popular game birds. Young birds have soft downy plumes on the breast and under the wings. They also have pointed wings and a rounded, soft spur knob. The spur becomes hard and scaly in older birds.

  • Usually served roasted, left slightly underdone

  • Grouse is equally popular hot or cold

  • Season 12 August to December.

Masterclasses in the art of preparing, storing and buying game and delivered by Cambrian Training’s Craft Trainer, Nick Davies to apprentices working towards an Apprenticeship Level 2 or Level 3 in Craft Cuisine. These masterclasses allow apprentices to learn invaluable skills to enhance their apprenticeship training. To hire or become an apprentice, please contact Cambrian Training at or Tel: 01938 555893.


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