There are three main types of pigeon which are fit for human consumption: squab, wood pigeon, and wild pigeon.
Though perhaps a little out of favour in the 21st century, pigeon has historically been a very popular and prominent choice of meal for a variety of different reasons ranging from ease of catch to ease of cooking.
Pigeon has a very interesting place in the modern palate.
Though not commonly used by the home cook as much as other meats, pigeon is a regular feature on fine dining menus and at gastropubs.
You’ll find many dishes made with pigeon breast, fewer using the whole pigeon.
Here are the types of pigeon that are most recommended for eating:
Squab is the term used to describe a young domestic pigeon that is typically under four weeks of age.
Squab is considered to be a good ‘entry-level’ type of bird for those who have never sampled pigeon before, as the younger meat tends to be more tender and produces a more delicate flavour.
2. Wood Pigeon
If you enjoyed the first taste of delicate squab meat and want to move on to something that packs more of a punch, then look no further than wood pigeon.
People tend to opt for wood pigeon when they want to experience a deeper, more minerally taste that feels a lot more complex on the taste buds.
Like most game birds, with a little extra care taken in the cooking stage, wood pigeon can be made to be just as tender as young, farmed squab.
3. Wild Pigeon
Any kind of wild pigeon as opposed to farmed is also suitable for eating, but there are a number of things that you have to take into consideration when dealing in this area.
Firstly, when buying a wild bird, you want to opt for one that has the plumpest breast portions and the best distribution of fat under the skin.
Pigeons are small birds by nature and can dry out very easily during cooking, so the more fat they have, the moister the meat will remain.
It is also important to look out for shot damage that might have ruined significant amounts of meat.
The best advice is to always buy your pigeon meat from a reputable butcher or dealer with experience, as well as always opting for a bird that still has its head and feet attached.
This is a clever tip that will help to give you a better impression of the overall condition of the pigeon.
Once you have chosen your pigeon, you need to come up with a recipe that best showcases the meat.
Due to the richness of good pigeon meat, all of the best accompaniments are things that can really cut through the intense flavour, such as redcurrant jelly, red wine reductions, cinnamon, cumin, and a good fruity sauce like blackberry.
There’s a great selection of pigeon recipes here.