Originally, guinea fowl breeding was for game however it has since been domesticated and is more widely available. You can purchase and easily find out how to cook guinea fowl all year round although it is best between September and November.
The flavour of the bird is often described as a balance between chicken and pheasant so experiment with different recipes for guinea fowl. There are several species of guinea fowl, each of which originated in West Africa but they can also now be found in Europe. France, Belgium and Italy are amongst the largest producers of the bird in Europe.
The birds are best when they have been slaughtered within 14 weeks after hatching as the younger birds have a more succulent and tasty flesh. Older birds are good to eat but are slightly drier so it is best to put them in a casserole as the liquids help to keep the flesh moist. Like a lot of birds raised for meat, guinea fowls can be raised free range or in intensive systems. Most free-range birds have to be imported from France as there are few places in the UK who raise the birds for commercial selling in this way. Guinea fowl breeding in intensive systems raises the concerns of animal welfare as they are often kept in crowded and unpleasant conditions. Guinea fowls need to be kept slightly differently from chickens, for example, they prefer to be in smaller colonies and need more heat. They are livelier than chickens and therefore cramped conditions are far from ideal for the birds. As with many meats, a trusted butcher should be able to provide information about the bird’s life before you buy it, including how it was reared, slaughtered and prepared.
The bird, once the giblets are removed, will keep in a fridge for three or four days. As it is so similar to chicken, recipes for guinea fowl are often chicken recipes with the meat substituted. For example, guinea fowl au vin, works well with the different poultry meat. The meat tastes like a gamey chicken but is much smaller and much drier. One bird should serve two people comfortably while one chicken could serve 4 with leftovers. Cuts of guinea fowl are also the same as chicken, the breast, leg, thigh, and can also be cooked whole. As it has a more gamey flavour, hearty ingredients such as apples, herbs, bacon, cider and brandy go wonderfully with the bird.
When thinking about how to cook a guinea fowl, it is most important to not let the meat dry out; techniques such as braising work so well to keep the meat succulent. Guinea fowl is best when roasted but due to the dry nature of the bird, needs to be basted with butter at regular intervals or covered with bacon, to keep the meat tender and moist. Another way to cook the bird, is to remove the backbone, marinate the meat and barbeque it. As it is an African bird, something to try would be pairing it with traditional African ingredients and flavourings such as a combination of cayenne pepper, plantain, sweet potato and paprika.
Guinea Fowl Recipes