For Christmas I tried cooking goose for the first time. If you or your family do this as an annual tradition, you’ll likely find this article too basic. In that case, I wish you a Happy New Year and send you off to read some frog memes. For those who remain, the following is an account of my successful goose roasting, and some lessons learned along the way.
Buying and Pricing
Goose isn’t a particularly common meat in the United States, so finding one randomly in my local grocery store was an unexpected treat. I paid about $7/lb and bought a 12 pound goose. It had been frozen, so I made sure to thaw several days in advance, just like I would for a turkey.
Unlike turkeys, you don’t want to purchase the largest goose possible. The ideal weight is between 10 and 12 lbs. If you’re concerned about factory farming and animal welfare, know that geese are almost always pasture-raised. Geese are grazers and foragers, so it’s actually more cost effective to just let them roam and graze, with some supplementation. (This also assumes the geese aren’t being used to make foie gras, which is a disgustingly inhumane practice.)
Preparing a goose is unlike any poultry I have worked with. I still treated it similarly to a turkey, salting under the skin 24 hours prior to roasting. When you loosen the skin, you’ll find it very thick and difficult to loosen from the meat. I had to slip a knife in to help out on a few occasions, and it took far longer.
The fat content of goose is very high, which is one reason the skin is so thick. In order to help it render while roasting, I also made several long slits in the skin/fat along the breast (two on each side of the breastbone), ensuring I only cut through skin and not into the meat. All this was done at the salting stage.
The internet can’t seem to agree on the proper way to roast goose. I’ll add my experience to the pile, and mention some issues I’ve seen with other descriptions.
Many recipes will tell you to bring the goose to room temperature prior to roasting. I didn’t do this, and my goose turned out just fine. Other recipes insist you brine the goose in a large pot of salt water rather than salting it to ensure juiciness. I had no issues with juiciness when I salted. (Who honestly has a pot big enough to fully submerge a 12 pound goose in salt water anyway?)
When I pulled the goose out of the refrigerator to get ready to roast it, there were a few more actions needed to deal with the goose fat. I poked several holes with a metal skewer in various places around the bird (including the thighs) for additional steam ventilation. I also cut a slit in the skin right where the thigh meets the rest of the bird on each side. As with turkey, I didn’t want juices to pile up in that pocket only to spill onto the butcher’s block when I went to carve it. Around the cavity of the bird you’ll find that there’s a ton of extra skin. I trimmed most of this off, but did not discard it.
I prepared a roasting pan with a rack, and put about 1 cup of water in the bottom to help prevent smoking and scorching as the fat renders. This water will completely evaporate by the time the goose is done, leaving only delicious goose fat you can filter and save for other uses.
I roasted the goose for 30 minutes at 400F, then another 1.5 hours (approximately) at 350F. A meat thermometer is crucial here. Several sites said to roast until the breast registers 180F. Do not do this. I roasted mine until the breast hit 155F, and let the rest time carry it to 160-165F, the usual safe zone for poultry. Serving meat at 180F (unless you’re braising chicken thighs) is a surefire way to end up with a disappointed family at dinnertime.
Since my sweet potato casserole still had to bake, my goose got a 45 minute rest. You could definitely get away with a 20 minute rest. I had to cover my goose to rest (not ideal) to wait for the sweet potatoes. I think that did affect the crispiness of the skin, but not enough to garner complaints.
A goose is definitely the most difficult bird to carve. The bones and sinew are very thick, and removing drumsticks was not done in a very dignified manner. You’ll find the breastplate much thinner and more brittle than chicken or turkey, so be aware of that when carving the breast. The breast is much thinner than other poultry as well. Overall, we found we got less meat per pound off the goose than with turkey or chicken.
If you’ve never had goose, it is a unique experience. Some people liken it to beef. I’m not sure I fully agree with that, except in the richness of flavor. The aroma and taste is one of very strong dark poultry. The texture is more substantial than chicken or turkey; it’s very thick textured and flavored, if you can imagine. There’s a gamey flavor to it that I’d expect people to either love or hate. If you like game meat, you’ll love goose.
I didn’t make a gravy to go with it because I didn’t want to detract from the flavor. The goose was great without it, but next year I think I’ll make a thinner gravy—more like a pan sauce to accompany the meat.
Leftovers and Auxiliary Products
Recall the fat/skin I cut off prior to roasting? I rendered that on the stove in a Dutch oven until the skin became crispy (around 1 hour). With that handful of skin I salvaged 13 oz. of goose fat. The family (and dogs) loved munching the crispy goose skin as a snack. In the bottom of the roasting pan was also another 13 oz. of rendered goose fat. I took all the fat and filtered it through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer into a glass jar. Goose fat is highly prized for cooking and can be used much the same way as ghee or lard, so don’t discard that fat.
We had a large carcass left over, so we dismembered it (sorry) into three main sections for broth. (It has to fit in the instant pot.) As of this writing, I’m making my second batch of goose broth for canning. I yield about 12 cups per batch, so I’m expecting 36 cups of goose broth total. After I make the goose broth, I put it in a bowl in the refrigerator to solidify more goose fat. Once it’s solid, I can skim off more goose fat, filter it, and add it to the jar. Then I can the broth in a pressure canner.
Compared to turkey, there is much less meat left over, but far more auxiliary products (broth, fat) that can be extracted from the carcass.
Goose takes more effort and care to prepare in some ways than a traditional turkey, particularly if you’re interested in extracting everything valuable out of it. In my opinion, it’s worth the time and work. I’ll net 39 oz. of goose fat, 36 cups of goose broth, a few crispy goose skin snacks, plus enough meat to have fed three people (heartily) at least twice. Checking online, goose fat alone retails for about $2.50/oz, so the fat I’ve extracted has more than paid for the goose I bought by itself. That’s before the value of the meat or the broth.
The main mistake I made was in overestimating the cook time. 2 hours for a 12 lb. goose was plenty. Next time, I’ll also try to do a better job loosening all the skin from the meat. I got a bit frustrated with the difficulty and could have done a better job loosening thigh skin. I’ll also rest the goose uncovered in subsequent roastings.
The gamey, rich flavor makes a unique and hearty Christmas feast. I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve already had some experience roasting other poultry.