Women Afield—Dove Delicacy: How to Clean and Cook Dove

By Lisa Metheny published on in Hunting

Doves are one of this country’s most hunted game birds. Why? They offer fast-paced action in the hunting fields. They are common in all regions of the country, they are easy to clean and taste yummy.
Dove being inserted into a zipper bag on a beige background.

Doves can be stored in a zipper bag in the refrigerator for a day or two prior to cleaning them.

There are several methods for cleaning doves. Some folks use the knife method while others simply use their hands. Both ways are acceptable and both will yield you delicious breast meat. Because doves are a relatively small bird with soft feathers, the hand method is my choice.

Cleaning Your Doves Using the Hand Method

  1. Hold the dove in your hands and start with the dove breast facing up; its head near the index fingers and the tail near the wrist. There is no need to remove the wings with this method.
  2. With your two thumbs, start at the middle of the breast and firmly, yet gently, begin rubbing the fine feathers that cover the breast in the opposite direction they are growing. Small downy-like feathers will begin to rub off as you carefully work your thumbs through the feathers and deeper towards the skin covering the breast meat.
    Dove being held in hands prior to cleaning, on a cream colored background.

    Cleaning a dove is not difficult if you know what you’re doing.

    It should only take you a few seconds, if that, to rub the feathers off the breastplate.
  3. Under the feathers, dimples or goose bumps cover the skin (just like the skin on a chicken breast). Use your thumbnail to break through this outer skin.
  4. Once the skin is opened, peel it back to expose the breast meat.
  5. Two hands holding a dove showing the bumpy skin-like membrane that attaches the breast meat to the breastbone on a cream colored background

    Under the soft feathers is a bumpy skin-like membrane that attaches the breast meat to the breastbone.

    Slide your thumbs under the breastbone (located about mid-section on the bird).
  6. Lift up the entire breastbone with meat still attached and snap the breastplate up toward the neck breaking the breastbone.
  7. Twist the breast bone completely off from the carcass of the bird. You should now have a breastplate with breast meat still intact.
  8. Peel the breast meat off the breastbone and rinse in cold water.
Before I cook the dove, I like to let them set a couple of hours in buttermilk to remove any gamey taste. The recipes for dove are endless; here are two of my favorites.

Dove Breasts and Wild Rice Casserole

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • 10 dove breasts
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • 4 scallions (green onions)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tarragon
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1 1/2 C chicken stock
  • 2/3 C wild rice
  1. Rinse the wild rice, drain and set aside.
  2. Skin the dove breasts, drizzle with lemon juice and salt and pepper the breasts.
  3. Chop mushrooms, scallions and celery and sauté them in butter lightly (3-5 minutes).
  4. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with the wild rice.
  5. Arrange the dove breasts on top of the wild rice.
  6. Pour celery, mushroom, and scallion mixture over doves.
  7. Add the rest of ingredients (tarragon, white wine, and chicken stock).
  8. Place the covered dish in a 325° preheated oven and let cook 90 – 105 minutes.

Dove Enchiladas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • 8 whole dove breasts; boned and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 C onion; chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic; minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 10-ounce cans enchilada sauce
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 2 teaspoons + 2 teaspoons ripe olives, chopped
  • 1 C (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sliced jalapeños
  1. Sauté dove, onion and garlic in oil until dove is browned; set aside.
  2. Warm enchilada sauce in a skillet; remove from heat.
  3. Place tortillas, one at a time, in sauce.
  4. Let stand 1 minute or just until tortillas are softened.
  5. Set remaining sauce aside.
  6. Spoon dove mixture evenly over each tortilla.
  7. Sprinkle each tortilla with 1 teaspoon chopped olives and 1 tablespoon of cheese.
  8. Roll up tortillas, and place in a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking dish, seam side down.
  9. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas.
  10. Bake at 350° F for 15 minutes.
  11. Top with remaining cheese, and bake an additional 5 minutes.
  12. Garnish with jalapeño peppers.
Yield: 4 servings.

What’s your favorite dove recipe? Share it with us in the comment section.

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