Go Ahead and Roast a Goose: You KNOW You Want To

Roasted goose with fresh herbs
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When it comes to poultry, do you prefer dark meat to white?

Does your attitude toward turkey hover in the vicinity of grudging tolerance, due to the fact that the white meat is usually dry, while the dark meat can sometimes be a bit chewy?

If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, you've come to the right place. Especially if you're planning a holiday meal for 6–8 people (in other words, more than you can feed with a typical 5-pound chicken).

Or if you're planning a bigger dinner, where you might want to feature roasted poultry AND a roast beef or pork loin or leg of lamb. That'll work, too.

Get Ready To Roast a Goose

If you're still reading, it means that you're going to roast a goose. Congratulations! Afterward, when you push back your chair and consider the experience from start to finish, you might wonder why no one ever told you about roasting a goose.

But don't fret. Wisdom comes late to some, to others not at all. Better to be among the former group. You're going to want to do it at least twice a year for the rest of your life.

The thing about goose is that it's extremely fatty, similar to duck. But they're big enough to serve a large crowd: in the ballpark of 10–12 pounds for a young goose. (To be precise, what we roast is technically a gosling, about 6–8 months of age.)

Like duck, it's also a red-meat bird, and like duck, goose breast is meant to be cooked medium rare.

That means you're going to want to pull the breasts when they reach 130F. We'll get to that in a bit.

I should clarify that yes, the goose breast is going to be pink, and that is absolutely the way it should look. Overcooked goose isn't like overcooked chicken or turkey. Instead of turning dry and stringy, it will become tough and chewy and taste like liver.

Fresh Goose Vs. Frozen

Make sure you get one that's grain fed. Fresh geese are usually available most of the year (April–January), and frozen ones are available year-round.

If you get a frozen one, be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator, just as you would for a frozen turkey. For a 10–12 pound turkey, expect this to take 48 hours.

Once it's thawed, let the goose sit at room temperature for half an hour before you begin cooking. (Do this with a fresh one as well.)

There may be whole slabs of fat within the body cavity, which you should pull out. Also trim away the tail and those loose flaps of skin around the opening of the body cavity.

Save these bits! Goose fat is a marvelous thing, and you're going to render it out to use for searing the breasts and also for making roasted potatoes. Simply drop the fat into a small saucepan along with about a cup of water, and simmer until the fat melts. Then chill and scrape the solidified fat off the top.

Be sure to pull out the giblets and use the neck in particular to make gravy. The gizzard is good for gravy too, but skip the liver and heart and kidney, as their flavor can be a bit much.

A Note on Rendering the Fat

Since goose has large amounts of fat under the skin, you have to render it out so that you don't just bite into mouthfuls of fat when you eat it.

Note that quite a few roasted goose recipes start off by steaming the goose to render out the fat. Sometimes the steaming is followed by braising, concluding with browning the skin.

As a cooking technique, this is perfectly valid, but it's not technically roasting. And the distinction I make here isn't just about semantics. A goose cooked that way will not have a crispy skin, and crispy skin is one of the highlights of a roasted goose.

You CAN steam the goose to render out the fat and then roast it. But you have to let the goose dry out overnight to ensure that the skin crisps up when you roast it. I'll write up that technique one day.

Still, the fact remains that steam helps to render out the fat. So as a compromise, I'm going to have you pour two cups of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.

You'll need a roasting pan with a rack, an instant read thermometer AND a digital probe thermometer.

Roasting The Goose: The Steps

Preheat the oven to 350F.

  1. Prep the goose by pricking the skin with a heavy gauge needle or safety pin. Prick at an angle so you don't go too deep. You only want to pierce the skin and the fat, not the flesh underneath.
  2. Season inside and out with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can halve an apple, an orange and an onion and stuff them into the cavity, along with some fresh sage.
  3. Place the rack in the pan and the goose on the rack. Pour 2 cups of hot water into the pan and transfer to the oven.
  4. Roast for about 40 minutes, then take the temperature at the breast with your instant read thermometer. If it reads below 130, leave it in and check again in a few minutes. Once the temperature of the breast is reading between 130–140F, take the goose out, carve off the breasts and set them aside, covered in foil. The breast meat should look pink.
  5. Now, insert your probe thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh and set the alert temperature for 170F. Return the bird to the oven and roast until the thermometer alert goes off, another 30–40 minutes. Remove the goose from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Now get a sauté pan hot, add some of your rendered goose fat and sear the breasts, skin-side down, for about 4 minutes, until the skin is super crispy and golden brown. Set aside.
  7. Carve off the legs and wings and sear them the same way, skin-side down. Meanwhile, slice the breasts on a slight bias. When the legs and wings are nicely browned, remove from heat.

The liquid at the bottom of the pan is great stuff. Pour it into a container and let it chill. The fat will rise to the top, and you can use the liquid below for stock.

As for the fat, it's worth its weight in gold. You can use it for roasting potatoes, roasting vegetables, sautéeing, basically anywhere you'd use butter. You can even use it as shortening for pie crusts or other baked goodies.