Smoked Pheasant Tortilla Soup

Heath Woods 

It has been close to 20 years since I was able to harvest my first pheasant. It was part of a St. Jude Charity hunt in Missouri in which I was able to take three pheasants and my limit of quail during this all-day hunt for a great cause.

After the hunt was over and our guide helped our hunting party process our birds, I asked what the best cooking pheasant method was. His reply was the commonly used phrase for poultry; without actually suggesting a cooking method, he stated, “it tastes like chicken.” Though that is somewhat true, pheasant does have its differences from chicken.

Over the years, I have tried pheasant multiple times. I have cooked it on the grill, boiled, and deep-fried this delicious white meat. Recently, I have become a big fan of smoking pheasant on my Traeger Grill. The meat comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful. My favorite method is to take some of my favorite recipes with poultry and replace them with smoked pheasant.

One of my favorite cold-weather meals is chicken tortilla soup that my wife makes on occasion at our home. To give it my wild game spin on this already great recipe, I decided to modify a few ingredients and replace the meat with a whole pheasant from GameKeeper Butchery

Brining Pheasant

How To Cook

To achieve the best tasting poultry on my Traeger Grill, I prefer first brining the whole pheasant for 6 to 8 hours before smoking. For this particular recipe, I used two whole pheasants. Before brining, I took my Traeger BBQ Shears and proceeded to do what is called spatchcocking. To spatchcock a pheasant, one must take shears and cut up the pheasant’s backside, then flip, breast side up, and press firmly with both hands to break breast bone so that the whole bird lays flat. This method will allow for a faster, more even cook, allowing the meat to soak up more smoke resulting in a more flavorful and juicy meat.
 
Brining

To brine the two pheasants, I used the Yeti Load Out 5 Gallon Bucket. 

  • Take 1½ gallons of water, ½ cup of kosher salt, and a ½ cup of brown sugar and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. 
  • Refrigerate until water is 40 degrees. 
  • After the water and salt/sugar mixture have cooled, I put the water in a Yeti bucket with two pheasants. 
  • Make sure pheasants are entirely submerged. 
  • I use a little bit of ice in the water to keep a cold temperature while brining for 6 to 8 hours.

Now, it is time to cook the pheasants on the pellet smoker. I used the Traeger Grills Pro 780 for this particular cook. With Traeger apple-flavored pellets, I smoked the two pheasants at 225 degrees for approximately four hours or until the breast’s internal temperature has reached 165 degrees.

Grilling Pheasant

Preparing The Soup

After the pheasant has cooked, I shredded pieces of the breast and some from the legs until I had 2 to 2 ½ cups of shredded meat.

Ingredients

  • 32 oz. Chicken Broth
  • 2/3 cup Ranch Dressing
  • 3 cups Shredded Smoked Pheasant.
  • 2 14.5 oz Cans of Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
  • 1 package Mild Taco Seasoning
  • 1 can of Whole Kernel Corn
  • Optional toppings: crunchy tortilla strips, jalapeño, shredded cheese, and sour cream

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients and shredded pheasant into a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Allow to come to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low. 
  2. Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. 
  3. For the last 5 minutes of cooking time, remove the lid and allow it to continue to simmer. 
  4. Remove from heat and let it sit off the heat for 5 minutes before serving. 
  5. Cooling will allow the soup to thicken.

How To Serve

After the soup has thickened, serve hot in a soup bowl. 

I like to add a few ingredients to the top of my soup when serving. I add a few jalapeño slices to the top, then sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese, add a few slices of tortilla strips, a squeeze of lime, then top it all of with a spoon full of sour cream.

The Smoked Pheasant Tortilla Soup is a great, warm-you-up a meal for those cold days during the winter. The southwestern flavors create a wonderful mix with the tender smoked pheasant, making this recipe one to keep.

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