Pan-Roasted Woodcock and Wild Rice

Recipe and photos by Ryan Lisson_Zero To Hunt
Outdoornews Totw Ryanlisson 20210806 Pan Roasted Woodcock Copyright

Last fall, I seemed to hit the jackpot with the woodcock migration. Almost every time I went looking for grouse, I flushed more woodcock. I also got to share some really special hunts with my daughter. To celebrate our first successful woodcock hunt together, I wanted to make something special. Pan-roasted woodcock was just the thing. Although it’s not very efficient, slow roasting with butter is by far my favorite way to prepare game birds. As you continually spoon the hot butter over the top of the bird, it produces a golden, crispy exterior while maintaining a juicy interior.

Most people tend to think of a woodcock as an appetizer – they’re not very big birds, after all. But when you prepare the breasts and legs, two woodcock make a hearty meal. The breast meat is very dark, while the legs are light and delicate. It might look off-putting to some, but leaving the feet and legs attached provides a convenient handle to grip while cooking and eating. If you had the patience to pluck the whole bird, this method would also work great.

When you serve these pan-roasted birds with a good supporting side dish, it’s suddenly gourmet eating. I nestled the birds into a bed of Minnesota-harvested wild rice and some homemade plum jelly. If you’re looking to share a memorable meal with someone, this is one you should try.

Yield: 1-2 servings


2 woodcock, whole breasts and legs

6 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup wild rice

2 cups chicken broth or water

Salt and pepper, to taste


Cooking Directions

  1. Allow the woodcock pieces to rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before cooking. This will help them cook more evenly.
  2. Heat broth or water over medium-high heat until boiling. Stir in wild rice, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer for 45-60 minutes.
  3. Preheat a cast iron sauté pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Swirl the butter around the pan to melt, and add the oil. Season the woodcock with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Add the breast and leg pieces to the pan and lower the temperature to medium-low (so the butter won’t burn). Don’t add more than 2 birds at a time, as it can get tough to manage.
  5. Continually spoon the sizzling butter and oil over the top of each piece. You may need to tip the pan slightly to pool the butter/oil mixture. This cooks and crisps the outside of the meat to a nice golden color.
  6. Periodically rotate and flip the pieces to contact the pan and cook evenly.
  7. Turn the heat back up to medium to further brown the butter, and continue to rotate the pieces until the internal temperature is at least 160-165o
  8. Remove the woodcock from the pan and let rest for 5-10 minutes. When the rice is fully cooked, remove from heat, drain excess liquid, and let rest 5-10 minutes.
  9. Plate the birds on top of the rice (or with your other favorite side dish) and enjoy while retelling the story of the hunt!
Taste of the Wild Contributor_Ryan_Lisson who is also the founder of Zero to Hunt

About the Chef: Ryan is a wildlife biologist, hunting mentor, and outdoors writer from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He enjoys spending time outside with his wife and two kids, and preparing different wild game recipes. He is also the founder of, a website to mentor and coach new adult hunters so they can experience the outdoors too.

Visit, a website to mentor and coach new adult hunters so they can experience the outdoors too.

Zero To Hunt Cover Photo

A note from the kitchen:

Use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bird to ensure it is properly cooked. A loose tent of aluminum foil on the prepared woodcock is helpful during that important 5 to 10 minute resting window.

Categories: Featured, Game Birds & Waterfowl

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