Everything You Need to Know About Cooking a Goose
The traditional festive bird can be intimidating. Here's how to approach it.
Goose for me always seemed like a Christmas feast from days of yore, something special, slightly old-fashioned, and honestly, a little terrifying to prepare. Even though I love using goose fat for roast potatoes, the idea of cooking a whole goose seemed beyond me. But then, on a trip to a favorite restaurant, I found that they were serving roasted goose breast as a special, and when I ordered it, I was blown away by the dish. Duck has always been one of my favorite things to eat, and this landed in a similar place, but a little richer and deeper in flavor, like duck breast and filet mignon had a baby. It was glorious and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months afterwards. Then, my husband bought me a goose pot. So I decided I needed to put a goose in it.
Here’s the thing about cooking goose at home: It actually isn’t that hard. One goose will generously serve six to eight people, so it is a perfect choice for a dinner party. You can cook it whole or break down the parts. It roasts beautifully but is also a surprising and delicious choice for a braise. And the best part, however you choose to cook it, you will end up with a whole lot of rendered goose fat, which is about the single best friend a potato ever had. Even better? You don’t actually need a goose pot to do any of it!
Find a Goose
This is actually often the most difficult part. You want to source a high-quality goose, preferably one that has not been sitting in the back of a butcher’s freezer for a year waiting for that special-order moment. And you are not making or serving goose for a random Tuesday dinner (although if you are, you are my new hero, and I want to know you), so it is worth a bit of a splurge. My go-to for specialty poultry of all sorts is mail-order from D’Artagnan. The birds are extra meaty, the fat renders beautifully, and they come in a variety of sizes so that I can get the one that will work best for my event. Plus, they are cage-free, and raised humanely with no antibiotics or hormones, which is difficult to guarantee when you are ordering through a butcher who may or may not be sourcing from a similarly ethical company. I’m going to be making their goose for New Year’s Eve this year. If you have a local butcher that you trust, you can ask if goose is something they can source for you, but be sure to ask about the raising practices.
Roasting A Goose
The best way to roast a goose is in a lower temperature oven so that the fat can render properly. Place the goose on a rack in a deep roasting pan (or in your handy goose pot, you know, as one does), and put four cups of water in the bottom of the pot. You want the water there to help capture the fat without risking an oven flare-up.
Pat your goose dry, and using a very sharp paring knife, and holding at a slight angle, pierce the skin all over about every two inches, being careful just to pierce the skin and not the flesh. This will help the seasoning penetrate and the fat render properly. Season the goose generously inside and out with kosher salt and let sit uncovered at room temperature for 2 hours. (If you are really hoping for extra crispy skin, really dry it off with a hair dryer).
Heat your oven to 325 with a rack in the lower third. Roast for about an hour and fifteen minutes then using a meat thermometer, temp the breast meat and the thickest part of the thigh. You are looking for 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Let the bird rest for at least 25 to 30 minutes before carving. If you don’t care about presenting a whole bird on a platter? When the breast meat hits 135 to 140 degrree, carve the whole breast off the bird and set aside while the thighs come to proper temp back in the oven, and recrisp the skin in a nonstick skillet right before carving. This will give you perfectly rosy medium-rare breast slices and fully cooked thigh and leg meat which is the holy grail of goose cookery. Use a fat separator to retain all of the wonderful rendered goose fat and use it as you would duck or chicken fat or cooking roasted potatoes or root vegetables. For the world’s best fries, put your French fry cut potatoes in a pot and cover by an inch with rendered goose fat, and put your heat on high. Bring the fat and potatoes to a rolling boil, reducing the heat as necessary, and once it is boiling, cook for about 20 minutes until the fries are golden brown and crispy.
Braising a Goose
Goose is great for braising, and a perfect cold-weather make ahead dinner party or holiday dish. The most important thing about braising goose is that you want to render out a lot of the fat before you start braising. To do this, cut your goose into pieces as you would for a whole chicken, and pat very dry. Prick the skin all over as for roasted goose and start the pieces skin side down in a large cold pot and turn the heat to medium high. As the pan and goose begin to heat up the fat will render slowly and the skin will brown and crisp.
Once the fat is fairly well rendered and the skin is deeply golden brown, remove the pieces and strain all but a tablespoon or two of the fat out of the pot and reserve. Use the remaining fat to caramelize your aromatics, like shallot or onion, carrot, and celery. Add the goose pieces back to the pot skin side up, and add liquid to just the same level as the goose, with the tops sticking out of the liquid. Chicken stock is good for this, as are wines like Riesling, or fruit juices like apple or pear cider, or a combination. Add a bay leaf or a spring of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables if you like, small potatoes or parsnips, or even slices of apple or firm pear.
Cover and cook over low heat or in a 300 degree oven until the meat is tender. Remove the pieces of goose from the pot. Skim any excess fat off the top, and remove any bay leaves or thyme twigs. Do a final check of seasoning, and if your sauce is not thick enough, reduce over high heat to the consistency you like. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar if it needs brightening. Finish with chopped fresh parsley and return the goose pieces to the sauce to serve.