Roast pigeon is the perfect dish to serve at a a dinner party or a special meal for two.
It is so easy to prepare, and is cooked in less than 15 minutes, with no special skills at all. Perfect for fuss free entertaining that will impress your guests.
There's no last minute carving either, just serve each person with their own pigeon.
Tender, wild and free range meat, that's low in fat, it's sustainable and healthy too.
If you have never eaten pigeon before, it's definitely time to try this delectable bird.
If you are concerned about the origins of the meat you eat then it's easy to get it right by eating wild game.
The meat is very often low in fat, as it has been able to roam freely. This also gives the meat a great depth of favour from the varied diet available to them.
Typically, pigeons are herbivores, but they do eat insects and small berries too.
Unlike most game birds, there is no particular shooting season in the UK, so pigeon is generally available all year round. If you don't have a butcher near you that specialises in game, you can often buy fresh or frozen whole pigeons or breast online.
Personally, I use Wild and Game, when I can't get the meat I am looking for nearby, but there are many other suppliers.
Roast pigeon is a very dark meat that is similar in appearance and texture to duck, albeit the bird is much smaller.
The meat has a rich, strong flavour, that tastes nothing like chicken and more like a tasty steak.
There isn't a huge amount of meat on a pigeon, with most of the meat on the breast. Due to its free range nature, there is also very little fat.
This means that the best way to cook pigeon whole is by quickly roasting it, so that it is not overcooked and retains the moisure by being cooked on the bone and by the addition of a bacon blanket for some extra basting.
If you have pigeon breasts they can be pan fried quickly and served rare, as in this recipe for pigeon breast with blackberry sauce .
It can also be stir fried quickly or cooked slowly in a mixed game terrine or pie.
Older birds can be casseroled or slow cooked until tender.
In restaurants around the world cooked pigeon is often referred to as squab, although in the UK it is just known as pigeon on a menu.
A squab is technically a bird that is killed at around four weeks of age, although I am not aware of this practice.
Pigeon eaten in the UK is of the wild wood pigeon variety, shot in the coutryside, and not the pigeons who are city dwellers.
❤️ Why you will love this recipe
- Low in fat.
- Sustainable meat.
- Perfect portions for serving.
- No last minute carving.
- Cooks in less than 15 minutes.
- Easy entertaining recipe.
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- Pigeon - oven ready whole pigeon, fresh or defrosted.
- Shallots - for ease of peeling I use the long banana shallots. They have a mild sweet flavour that compliments the pigeon.
- Bacon - streaky bacon, (from the belly), as the layers of fat help to protect the delicate breast and skin from drying out.
- Salt - cooking salt or kosher salt.
- Butter - I use salted butter in savoury dishes.
- Pepper - freshly ground black pepper.
- Bay leaves - fresh or dried - optional.
The recipe card with ingredient quantities and detailed instructions can be found at the bottom of the post.
- frying pan /skillet
- sharp knife
- chopping board
- tongs / carving fork
- kitchen paper towel
- roasting dish
🔪 How to cook pigeon
Bring the meat out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to start cooking.
Wash the inside of the bird with plenty of cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
💭 Top Tip
- Normally, it is not necessary or advisable to wash poultry such as chicken, as this can just spread bacteria around. However, oven ready game birds tend to be quite bloody and this needs to be rinsed away before cooking.
Peel the shallots and slice lengthways.
Season the whole pigeon with pepper and salt.
Put the butter in a pan over a medium to high heat and add the pigeons.
Let them sear to brown the meat and then use tongs or a carving fork to turn the birds so that they are brown all over.
💭 Top Tip
- It's important to brown the birds now to caramelise the skin. They will only be in the oven a short time, so won't have time to develop like a roast chicken.
Transfer the birds to a deep side roasting tin.
Add the sliced shallots to the same pan and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
The shallots will pick up all the flavours from the pigeon and be delicious.
Add the shallots to the roasting pan and place a bay leaf on each whole pigeon.
Cut each bacon slice in half and tuck over the breast to protect the meat in the oven.
⏲️ Roasting Time
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / 160 FAN / Gas 4 and roast for 10 - 12 minutes for a medium roast and 14-16 minutes for well done.
💭 Top Tip
- While it is always advised to cook chicken until the juices run clear, game birds should always be served pink for the best flavour and as overcooking the meat can make it tough. Of course, if you have any health concerns then do cook the meat until it is cooked all the way through.
Let the roast pigeon rest for 5 minutes, lightly covered with foil, before serving.
🥗 Side Dishes
Here are some of the side dishes I love to serve with roast pigeon.
- Roasted Long Stem Broccoli
- Fried Cabbage with Bacon
- Cavolo Nero Kale
- Honey Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
- Easy Roast Potatoes
- Honey Roasted Swede
- Roast Savoy Cabbage
- Whole Baked Cauliflower Cheese
- Minted Mushy Peas
- Leeks in White Sauce
- Pan Haggerty
- Roast Potatoes
- Bacon - use Serrano ham, proscuitto or any other bacon with a little fat on it.
- Shallots - use any sweet onion or red onions.
- Vegetables - fry a mixture of celery, onions and mushrooms with garlic added at the last minute. The mushrooms will really soak up the flavours.
- Refrigerator - cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Freezer - remove any leftover meat from the bones and freeze in containers for up to a month. Freeze the carcass separately to make stock at a later date.
- To reheat - use leftover pigeon met in stirfries, salads or sandwiches.
🍱 Prepare in Advance
- Sear the meat and prepare for the oven then cool and refrigerate until you are ready to cook the same day.
More game recipes to try
- Spatchcock Duck
- Game Terrine
- Pheasant Breast with Wild Mushroom Sauce
- Pheasant and Venison Casserole
- Roast Partridge with Shallots
- Pigeon Breast with Blackberry Sauce
- Guinea Fowl with Chestnuts and Bacon
- Venison Haunch
- Frying pan / skillet
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- tongs / carving fork
- kitchen paper towel
- roasting tray
- 2 pigeons about 250 g each
- 2 slices streaky bacon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 bayleaves
- 3 shallot
- few sprigs thyme optional garnish
- Bring the meat out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Wash the inside of the bird with plenty of cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Peel the shallots and slice lengthways.
- Season the whole pigeon with pepper and salt.
- Put the butter in a pan over a medium to high heat and add the pigeons. Let them sear to brown the meat and then use tongs or a carving fork to turn the birds so that they are brown all over. Transfer the birds to a deep side roasting tin.
- Add the sliced shallots to the same pan and cook for 5 minutes until softened then add shallots to the roasting pan.
- Place a bay leaf on each whole pigeon. Cut each bacon slice in half and tuck over the breast to protect the meat in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / 160 FAN / Gas 4 and roast for 10 - 12 minutes for a medium roast and 14-16 minutes for well done.
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed instructions for this recipe, including step by step photographs, hints and tips, can be found in the main article
More game recipes
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using gas.
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