grouse is a small bird, as popular with shooting enthusiasts as it is with chefs, and increasingly, home cooks.

As it is an agile bird, its meat is lean and typically lower in fat than a lot of other birds such as chicken, making grouse recipes a popular alternative to red meat.

Due to its small size, a typical serving of grouse is one per person. UK species of grouse include black grouse, capercaillie, ptarmigan, and the most popular, red grouse. The red grouse is a medium-sized game bird, with a brown-red coat, black tail and red eyebrows. The start of grouse hunting season in the UK is on August 12th, and is commonly referred to as 'Glorious Twelfth.'

Where do Grouse live?

The birds are generally found in the heather moors of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern areas of England. 

The grouse bird is the only truly wild game bird in the UK, as attempts to raise them have never been a success. However, their habitats are managed by gamekeepers who carry out the careful rotational burning of the heather on the moors to produce fresh new heather shoots. The heather, which makes up the majority of the birds’ diet, gives the meat an enjoyable natural flavour.

How much does it cost to go grouse shooting?

People pay quite a lot of money for the experience of shooting and eating grouse, ranging anywhere between £35 per bird to £33,000 per day for a large shoot.

In order to keep track of population numbers, grouse counts take place on hunting estates in the spring and summer. While the spring count can take place at various time depending on location, the summer count generally lasts between July 20th and August 12th.

If the numbers do not exceed 200 grouse per kilometre, the shoot may not go ahead.

What to look for when buying grouse 

When buying grouse, the flesh must be a distinctive deep red colour. The bird should be plump with fresh-looking skin, not oily or too moist but not dry enough to split.

Birds with a pungent smell should be avoided. As it is a game bird, it will likely have some shot damage, but this should be clean and minimal. The bird should be unblemished and there should be little to no bruising marks as this can affect the meat’s flavour. 

How long should grouse be left to hang?

Freshly shot grouse can be eaten straight away or can be hung for two to three days. Grouse already has quite a strong gamey flavour, so hanging the meat will only accentuate this.

Of all the meat on the bird, grouse legs taste the strongest.

How to cook grouse

Young grouse are distinguishable by their softer heads, pliable beaks and shorter third feather on the wing, whereas older birds often have marks on their claws where they have previously been shed.

The younger bird is generally preferred but the mature bird can impart great flavour when braised, cooked slowly with liquids such as wine and a stock.

Younger birds taste best when roasted whole, commonly served with rich, autumnal ingredients. To keep the bird moist whilst cooking, bacon can be wrapped around the bird. Depending on the age of the bird, cooking times can vary between 20 and 40 minutes.

Grouse Recipes