Roast Pigeon


Preparation info

  • Serves


    as part of a banquet
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Mr Hong

By Dan Hong

Published 2014

  • About

I love eating small birds. Pigeon (aka squab) has to be one of my favourite birds to eat. It’s so expensive, but worth it. The flavour of the meat is a bit like gamey duck – it’s the crab of poultry – and so good that it’s worth picking over every last bone and working for the meat. Start this dish a day ahead, as the birds need some time to hang out before cooking.



  • 110 g ( oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 110 g ( oz) salt
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice
  • 15 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) ice



For the brine, fill a large saucepan with 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water, add all the ingredients except for the ice and heat over a high heat. When boiling point is reached, take off the heat and add the ice, which will immediately cool the mixture.

Maltose Liquor

For the maltose liquor, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl, and keep whisking until the maltose and sugar have completely dissolved.

Trim the wing tips off the pigeons and discard. Put the birds in the brine and cover with a weighted plate to make sure they remain fully submerged for 24 hours.

After about 2 hours take the birds out of the brine and attach a butcher’s hook underneath each wing of each bird, as you will need to hang them later.

Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil. Holding onto the butcher’s hooks, carefully blanch the pigeons in the boiling water, lifting them in and out of the water several times to tighten the skin, just like a teabag commercial in the 1990s. Do this for about 15 seconds. After blanching, dip the whole bird in the maltose liquor several times (again, for 15 seconds or so). Hang the birds in a dry and cool room until their skin is very dry. This will take about 24 hours, but if you can’t do that, at least hang them for a few hours, but overnight is even better.

The Rest

Fill a large heavy-based saucepan or deep-fryer to one-third full with oil and heat to 200°C (400°F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 5 seconds. Fry each bird for 5–7 minutes, until the skin is golden but the meat is still a little pink. If you aren’t sure whether the pigeon is done, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be around 65°C (150°F).

Transfer the birds to a wire rack sitting in a roasting tin and rest them for about 5 minutes before carving. Chop each pigeon into six pieces, straight through the bones, and serve immediately with the spiced salt and lemon wedges.