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Pan-Seared Peanut Butter & Jelly Woodcock Recipe

Cooking woodcock can sometimes present a culinary challenge. Here's one way to sweeten up your next meal.

Pan-Seared Peanut Butter & Jelly Woodcock Recipe

If you've griped over the gaminess of woodcock, this quick and easy recipe serves up a sweet and savory treat. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Woodcock will always have a special place in my heart and a place at the table in my fall diet. My introduction to upland bird hunting was through these timber rockets and they’ve since become the anchoring thread that keeps me tied to the uplands. Here in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, on a late-fall flight day, woodcock are about as abundant as ring-necks or sharpies on opening day in western prairies. If it wasn’t for woodcock, I’d be much less of an upland hunter. My regular shooting of them also led to unlocking some creativity in the kitchen.

When it came to preparing wild game, I was as mundane as meat and potatoes — thank God for my wife. If she ever gets tired of her day job, she’ll have no problem dazzling diners as a five-star chef. She has some serious talent when it comes to pairing a protein source with an impromptu, whatever’s-in-the-pantry pan sauce, topped with a six sense for knowing how to balance flavor profiles. After a few seasons of my groans over gamey woodcock, she stepped in to help prepare this winning doodle dish. 

It’s also worth mentioning here that if you haven’t started consuming the delicate, light white meat of woodcock legs, you are seriously missing out. After removing the feet, I pop the hip joints and cut out the entire thigh. Because they predominantly use their wings to move around — rendering the rich, red breast meat we’re all familiar with — woodcock don’t walk or run nearly as much which leaves their legs as a tender little treat. See for yourself before you toss them away next time.

upland bird hunter with a limit of American woodcock
Don’t limit your thinking to the old adage that woodcock meat tastes bad. This flavor-packed recipe is fun and simple for everyone. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Serves: 1-2 portions
Prep Time: 1-2 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • Breasts and legs of 3 woodcock
  • ½ cup peanut butter whiskey of your choice (divided)
  • ½ cup berry jam, jelly, or preserves of your choice (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of fresh minced parsley (optional)
peanut butter and jelly woodcock recipe
A reusable, sealable container or bag prevents the marinating meat from taking on various odors from the fridge (this goes for your brine baths as well). (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Preparation Directions:

  1. Place woodcock breasts and legs into saltwater brine overnight.
  2. Remove meat from brine and pat dry.
  3. Mix ¼ cup whiskey and ¼ cup jam in resealable container or bag (A reusable, sealable container or bag prevents the meat from taking on the various odors of other foods in the fridge).
  4. Add meat and fully immerse in mixture.
  5. Place back in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours, longer if desired.

Cooking Directions:

  1. Remove meat container from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. This should take no more than 15-20 minutes.
  2. Bring pan or skillet to medium-high heat.
  3. Melt butter in pan.
  4. Remove meat from container and discard mixture.
  5. Sear breasts and legs for 1.5 minutes.
  6. Flip meat to sear the other side for another 1.5 minutes.
  7. Remove meat from pan and set aside.
  8. In the same pan, add ¼ cup whiskey. Deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits and cook for 2-3 minutes to burn off the alcohol.
  9. Add ¼ cup jam and cook for 2 minutes to thicken.
  10. Add meat back to pan for 1 minute.
  11. Serve meat over your favorite mashed potatoes or rice.
  12. Drizzle pan sauce over top.
  13. Garnish with fresh minced parsley (optional)
  14. Pour a sip of whiskey to wash things down and savor the sweet taste of success.
  15. *For an added kick to your taste buds, cook and cut up a few strips of bacon and sprinkle over the top.
peanut butter and jelly woodcock recipe
This recipe leaves little waste, as both breast meat and legs are consumed. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

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