Goose & Swan
General & Historical
Wild geese range throughout the northern hemisphere (southern
hemisphere geese are a little different) and were domesticated in
prehistoric times. Unlike domesticated turkeys and chickens though, they
have not changed much from their wild form or behavior.
In Renaissance Europe geese were on the tables of the middle class
at festival time while the aristocracy dined on peacock - until the turkey
came from Mexico and rudely displaced the peacock. Roast goose, however,
continued as a Christmas feature even unto this day.
Roasting a Goose is less complex than roasting a Turkey for a number of
- You're not going to have to decide whether fresh or frozen because
you'll probably only be able to get frozen.
- You aren't going to have to ponder size so much because all the market
will have is likely around 10 to 12 pounds.
- You're not going to have to make decisions about sex (the goose's, not
your own - can't help you there) because they aren't labeled by gender.
- Salting and/or brining are not needed.
- Time and finish temperature aren't as critical because a goose isn't
going to end up with cardboard breasts if you run 5 degrees over.
- Stuffing isn't as deep so it'll come up to temperature more with the
rest of the goose, which is going to go hotter anyway.
- Most Americans have never tasted goose so they won't be able to
criticize every detail.
- Goose roasts to a much darker shade so it's more likely to be even in
- You are less likely to be expected to produce the full dress American
Thanksgiving experience with sides, gravy, trimmings and pie, so you
have a lot more flexibility.
Equipment You Will Need:
- An oven with good temperature control and sufficient room for the
goose and its roasting pan.
- A roasting pan. Highly preferred are shallow pans fitted with a
V-rack, and with convenient handles on the pan and the V-rack.
These are readily available at prices from $15 to $150. Disposable
aluminum pans are too flimsy for even a duck - a disaster waiting to
happen - and they have no rack.
- Aluminum foil.
- Rubber Gloves - these are for turning the goose over part way
through roasting and removing it from the V-rack after roasting. Silicone
Rubber oven gloves work fine, but I simply won't pay the price of those
Orca things and they're rather stiff anyway. Get the thickest set of flock
lined rubber dishwashing gloves they have at your local market in size
"large". These will do just fine if you are organized and work
- A meat thermometer with a probe long enough to penetrate to the
center of the goose.
- Kitchen twine and a trussing needle or other method of
getting string through skin (Note-2).
- Bamboo skewers.
- A basting device, preferably a good quality bulb baster or some
sort of shallow scoop that can get down into the roasting pan with V-rack in
Planning and Buying:
Buying: You'll probably be buying your goose frozen.
There just isn't a steady enough demand for goose to allow stores to stock
fresh ones. Buy about 2 days in advance and stash it in the fridge. It'll
be partially thawed by time you are ready to cook it. See that the factory
vacuum package is fully intact so it won't leak on other stuff - if not,
Roasting vegetables in the pan: many traditional recipes
call for adding potatoes, apples and such to the roasting pan at a particular
point. I find this to be less than satisfactory for several reasons.
- You must remove the goose from the oven, remove the rack and pour out the
collected fat, then return some of it, add the vegetables, replace the
goose and put it back in the oven. Aside from the cooling that happens here
the vegetables will cause a flat spot in the temperature rise until they
are up to temperature - and there's the clear danger of handling all that
- A lot more fat will exude from the goose. The vegetables tend to pick
up char from the bottom of the pan and become saturated with goose
grease. This is less desirable for today's information workers than it
was for hard working peasant farmers.
- Timing is hard to judge. If you're an experienced farm cook who cooks
goose in your own oven often enough to get the hang of it, maybe it's a
good idea. For someone who cooks a couple geese in a lifetime it's not
so good an idea. Use your bulb baster to bring out enough goose grease
to roast these items in their own pan.
Stuffing or Dressing? Dressing is the same as stuffing
but cooked separately in a casserole with some flavorful stock added to make
up for not being inside the bird.
Unlike turkey goose is still usually stuffed. It's not such a great
distance to the center so the stuffing will follow the meat more closely in
temperature, the goose is going to a higher temperature than turkey anyway,
and goose adds more flavor to the stuffing than turkey does.
Click Image to Enlarge
25 min & turned
- Finish thawing your goose. When ready to use it you can pull it out,
cut away the shrink wrap, and let it finish thawing at cool room
temperature or in cold running (or very frequently changed) water
(see Note-1). Ideally your goose should have
just reached a cool room temperature when you start to stuff it.
- Remove the giblets, neck and big lumps of fat when you can -
Do Not Discard Fat. Pull out any additional
fat you can get at being careful not to cut or tear the skin. Refrigerate
or freeze the giblets and neck to use in your next batch of stock, except
the liver which you can fry up in a little goose fat and eat with a sprinkle
of lemon juice and salt before anyone else thinks of it.
- Cut up the fat, put it in a pan and fry slowly until it is thoroughly
rendered. Make sure it doesn't overheat! When the cracklings are getting
crisp it's done - the cook gets to eat those. Filter the fat through a
sheet of plain undecorated paper towel.
- Prepare your stuffing / dressing by whatever recipe you chose to use.
- Prepare your roasting pan. Cover the V-rack with aluminum foil and punch
a bunch of holes through it at the lowest points so it'll drain well.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Remove the wishbone so the front of the goose will be rounder. This bone
is very strong and hard in a goose - you need to place the goose breast
side up, pull back the skin and cut around the bone carefully being sure
you don't cut through the skin anywhere. when you've freed it at it's
center you can pull it forward and down to break it loose at the tips.
- Rinse out your goose and pull out any gookies you can still find in there.
Dry it thoroughly with paper towels.
- Rub the goose all over inside and out with a mixture of kosher salt and
fresh ground pepper. Additional spices and seasonings can be added to the
mix. For instance, a particular Lithuanian recipe calls for 2-1/2 teaspoons
of Hungarian Paprika and 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds.
- Tie the wings so they're tight against the body with kitchen twine,
taking it across the back.
- Heat your stuffing as hot as allows you to still handle it and stuff the
goose. Don't stuff too tight as you want heat circulation and many
stuffings expand a bit. Note in the photos the goose looks under stuffed
going into the oven but is filled out at turn-over time.
- Pin the neck skin with a bamboo skewer to close
the front. Lace the rear opening to close it (Note-3).
You may find a couple flat pieces of broken off bone you need to
remove to do this. Tie the ends of the legs together so they don't spread
and stick out oddly when roasted.
- Place the goose breast side down on the prepared roasting rack.
Pour two to three cups of water in the pan (depending on pan size) so stuff
doesn't burn before the goose starts dripping well. When the oven has
reached 425°F/220°C slide the beast in and roast for 25 minutes
(for an 11 pound goose).
- Turn the oven down to 325°F/160°C.
- Pull the goose out (pan and all). With a sharp skewer, puncture a lot
of pinholes through the skin on the backside. Put on your rubber gloves,
grasp the goose firmly and flip it breast side up
(see Note-5). With your skewer punch a whole lot of
pinholes through the skin on the breast side.
- Slide the goose back into the oven. If you have a cable type thermometer
insert the probe into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone.
- Continue to roast, basting with pan juices about every 15 to 20 minutes
until the goose reaches an internal temperature of around 175°F/80°C
at the thickest part of the thigh and 160°F/75°C in the center of
the stuffing (see Note-3 and Note-4).
- Remove goose from the roasting pan (rubber gloves, again) and place it
on a platter to catch juices that still come out. Tent loosely with foil
and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Internal temperatures
will rise about 4°F during the resting period
- Get any side dishes that need oven finishing into the oven.
- Carve the goose in the privacy of your kitchen,
slice and serve.
- Thawing: Yes, all the books, recipes, cooking
articles and "experts" scream "Never Do This!" but the rabid
bacteriophobes at the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) say it's OK.
Actual research has proven a cool countertop or cold running water thaw is
less risky (on multiple counts) than thawing in the refrigerator, and far
easier to time. The "Never Do This" recommendation is based on an FDA decree
that has no research whatever to support it. If you find you just won't be
ready by time it's thawed, put it back in the fridge before it is
- Lacing: is supposed to be done with a
trussing needle but I didn't have one so I used a splicing fid (a rope
working tool) left from my sailing days. Worked just fine.
- Finish Temperature: Yes all your thermometers
and many of your books and recipes say fowl must go to 180°F/82°C -
based on a USDA recommendation. That recommendation was reviewed in 2006 and
the USDA could find no supporting data whatever, not even scribbled notes, to
support the 180°F recommendation and now says 165°F/74°C is
- Stuffing Temperature: If it just isn't going to
make it before the goose is overcooked, pull the goose, scoop out the stuffing,
put it in a casserole and put it back in the oven while the goose rests.
- Rubber Glove Removal: To get those slippery
gloves off just wash your hands with cleanser with the gloves on, then they
won't be slippery, will pull right off and won't need further washing.
Carving your Goose
Perhaps you're one of those risk takers who carves turkeys at the table -
well don't try that with a goose. Not unless a comedy routine is what you're
But a goose should carve similar to a turkey, right? Wrong. The tool you
need to disassemble a goose is not a carving knife but a sharp, maneuverable
boning knife, and the whole bird is slipperier than a greased pig. One of
those 2 pronged carving forks can help but the bird is still going to squirm
and try to escape.
As with a turkey you start by bending back the thighs and wings so you
can cut the joints apart. The joints are much tighter than on a turkey and
take some effort to dislodge.
When cutting from the body the meat clings hard to the
bones and the bone structure is convoluted and the whole thing is dark
which makes it more difficult to see what you're doing. Use a small knife,
not a carving knife.
Once you've disassembled your goose you can slice the breasts and other
large chunks. The flesh is firm and will slice quite thin without breaking
up, but a santoku is more appropriate than the long slicing knife you'd use
for turkey. The first joint of the wing is actually larger than the drumstick
but the drumsticks have less of a tendon problem than with turkey.
Once you've got it all sliced up, arrange the slices on a platter and
- Be prepared to handle dangerous quantities of very hot oil. The roasting
pan must always be handled with great care lest it spill. Safe and proper
basting tools should be used.
- Do not refrigerate a goose after stuffing, cook immediately.
- Observe cooking temperatures given above and take them seriously. Harmful
bacteria multiply very rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, a
range your goose will be in for most of the cooking time.
- When handling an uncooked goose, do not handle any other food until you have
cleaned up with soap and water.
- Do not let an uncooked goose come in contact with any other food.
- Immediately upon moving an uncooked goose, scrub the cutting board or
surfaces it was touching with soap and water and preferably a little bleach.
I generally scrub everything with cleanser which releases bleach in
- The USDA recommends that leftovers should be in the refrigerator within
2 hours of coming out of the oven. In general that's just not going to
happen but try to keep close. If there are large amounts store in
multiple smaller batches so the temperature will drop quickly.