If you raised your own poultry this year or perhaps were lucky enough to be successful in your waterfowl hunt, you might be curious about how to butcher a goose. Geese can be more challenging to process than chickens or turkeys simply because they have more feathers and down – but rest assured, it can be done! Here’s how.
What You'll Learn Today
When Should You Butcher a Goose?
Geese can be grown to their ideal market weights either on range or in confinement. Those raised in confinement tend to mature much faster but it does increase feed and housing costs.
The ideal age for butchering a goose is anywhere between nine and 20 weeks of age. While this seems like a relatively large window, it’s important that you do try to stay within that window. If you butcher before nine weeks, your goose won’t have reached its maximum size yet.
However, if you wait too long, it will be very difficult to get all of the pin feathers out of your goose. Trying to remove all of these pin feathers can easily triple the amount of time it takes to process each goose.
If you’re not sure whether you’re still in the “window of opportunity”, there’s a simple test you can do to figure this out. Simply catch a few birds and pull out several tail and breast feathers from each one. If the tips are soft and flexible or show signs of blood, you should wait at least one more week before slaughtering.
If they are not, you’re ready to go!
Remove all feed the night before you kill your geese. This will reduce the likelihood of half-digested rations and manure getting all over our hands and equipment. Continue to offer water.
How Do You Butcher a Domestic Goose?
If you’ve butchered any other type of poultry before, including chickens, ducks, or turkeys, you’ll be relieved to hear that the process of butchering domestic geese is quite similar. You will generally yield about 70% of your carcass with giblets and around 60 to 65% if the giblets are removed.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to butchering and processing your geese.
How to Slaughter a Goose
Your first step will be to catch your goose and suspend it upside down. This is generally done in a funnel that will allow the head to come through the bottom. You can buy a funnel that is specifically made for this purpose or you can make one out of an old plastic jug.
Cut the jugular vein with a sharp knife, ideally on either side of the neck. When the jugular vein is cut properly, the goose will die instantly (though the death throes may last for a few minutes after the goose has died). It is the most humane method of butchering any type of bird.
Try not to cut the head off as this can cause unnecessary mess and blood loss. It also leads to a mangled-looking bird.
Allow the goose to bleed out for five to ten minutes, then continue on to the plucking process.
What’s the Best Way to Pluck a Goose?
Plucking a goose can be somewhat challenging, especially if you’re butchering birds that are older and more mature and especially if they are in the middle of a molt. It can be extremely difficult to pull all the feathers without damaging the skin.
Therefore, you may want to instead just skin them. That way, you can still get all the meat without the tedium of plucking. That said, if a roasting carcass with skin to keep the meat moist is what you have in mind, you’ll need to pluck them.
There are essentially two ways to pluck a goose – dry plucking and wet plucking. Most experts don’t recommend dry packing because it is quite a bit more difficult.
Instead, wet pluck. This involves immersing the carcass in scalding water of about 150 degrees Fahrenheit for up to five minutes. The water needs to get down to the skin and cut through the oil in the feathers, so it might be beneficial to add a drop or two of liquid dish soap to the scalding water.
In that three- to five-minute span, you will need to raise and lower the goose in the water to make sure the entire bird is completely saturated. Be careful about soaking the goose for too long, especially in one position, as it can partially cook the skin and makes it more likely to tear.
Check that the feathers have adequately been loosened via the scalding process. You can do this by pulling out a tail or wing feather. If it pulls easily, no more scalding is needed. If it does not, you may need to put it back into the water.
Once the carcass has been scalded, it’s time to pluck. You can use a straight plucking machine. These are expensive but can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to pluck your birds (just a few seconds in a plucker instead of ten or more minutes plucking). You may find that, even with a plucker, you will still need to remove large tail and wing feathers by hand.
How to Remove Down and Pin Feathers from a Goose Carcass
You may need to take one extra step to remove the down and pin feathers from your goose. This is usually done with something known as a wax dip.
To do this, you will lower the carcass into a wax bath for up to two minutes, then dip it in cold water. This hardens the wax. Then, you’ll dip it in hot wax for a second time, and once again in the cold water. You will then strip these two wax layers by hand or with a specialized dewaxing machine.
In doing this, you can save the down and pin feathers for later use.
Dressing the Goose
Next, you’ll need to dress (or eviscerate) the goose. Start by removing the head with a poultry knife. Then, remove the feet.
Remove all internal organs, being sure to pay special attention to organs like the lungs, liver, and heart.
Get out all the guts, then give the entire carcass a good rinse both inside and out.
If you plan to eat the bird immediately, your work ends here. Get that roaster in the oven! If not, you can put the goose in an airtight plastic bag meant for freezer storage. When you bring it out, you should thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing about two hours per pound.
How to Butcher a Goose: One More Resource
Are you looking for more guidance on how to butcher your goose – or perhaps prefer to learn things the visual way? If so, be sure to check out this step-by-step guide to butchering geese humanely. It has all the details you need to know to get started and also offers clear, explicit instructions.
How Do You Prepare a Whole Goose?
When you’re reading to cook the goose, start by rinsing and draining it. If you plan on stuffing it, fill its neck and body cavity with your favorite aromatics, like oranges, apples, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. Fasten the skin on the neck to that on the back with a skewer, then tie the legs together.
You should roast your goose in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about six to twelve minutes per pound. It is fully cooked when the temperature reads 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you plan on cooking skinless goose meat, you may want to marinate it ahead of time (ideally, overnight) to help tenderize it.
That’s all there is to it! Butchering and preparing a goose for the dinner table might sound daunting, but in reality, it’s easy as pie. Enjoy!