Squab (Pigeon or Rock Dove) is succulent, but it retains the earthy flavor undertones that please many diners. Squab is a rich, dark meat of delicate texture. The average squab weighs about 14 ounces, enough to serve one person. Squab should be served medium-rare, so that the juices run pink and the meat remains slightly rosy and moist.
Some people are surprised to find out that squab is actually juvenile pigeons who have never flown. In fact, they were once the meat of choice for thousands of years in countries across the world. These are not the bothersome residents you see gathering all over city buildings and parks. They are the more edible and elite relatives that were actually one of the first birds to be domesticated, even before chickens.
Who Eats Squab?
Squab is considered a delicacy in some countries. You can find them used as the star ingredient in many Cantonese, Moroccan, and French dishes. In the United States because of pigeon misconceptions, a taste and menu for this underestimated meat are rare, and finding the meat is even more difficult. Due to its rarity and the small size of the bird, the price of pigeon is typically ten times that of your run-of-the-mill chicken.
Thus, squab meat can usually be found in upscale “white-table” restaurants. You can also find it served in Asian communities where the birds are used during big events such as weddings and to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
What does Squab Meat Taste Like?
Pigeon meat has a universal appeal that is often described as being similar to the dark meat of a chicken but with a mildly sweet berry and nutty essence minus the gamey taste. This makes it truly unlike any other bird. When it is cooked properly, you can expect richly-colored meat that is juicy and lush with a silky texture.
One reason for their unique flavor is because, like duck and goose, the birds are entirely dark meat, only without the fibrous texture. This is because they have high concentrations of myoglobin. Myoglobin is a protein that stores oxygen and is responsible for the beautiful color and flavor found in dark meats. While a chicken will only have a concentration of myoglobin in their legs, this bird has it throughout their entire bodies.
A second reason is that the pigeons are killed before they mature. Like veal, the meat remains tender because they are still young. Immature birds are trapped around four weeks of age just before they take to flight. This ensures that the meat around the wings will remain unused and therefore will never harden.
Squab Nutrition Facts
The meat found in pigeons is very lean and easily digestible. It is high in protein and full of minerals and vitamins. A typical bird will weigh about a pound.
Here are some common nutritional facts per 100g:
• 141 calories
• 5g fat
• 0 carbs
• 22g protein
• 88mg sodium
• 380mg potassium
• 260mg phosphorus
• .2mg copper
• 4.5mg pantothenic acid
• 2 micrograms vitamin B12
• .53mg Vitamin B6
• 10mg Niacin
• 2mg Vitamin B2
• .32mg Vitamin B1
How to Cook Squab
- Squab can be found in cuisine throughout the world. In Asia, the bird is usually fried crispy to a golden color and presented whole like Peking Duck.
- • Unlike other game birds, a pigeon can be cooked to any taste from rare to well-done.
- • In French cuisine, the pigeon is often pan-roasted giving it a crispy light-colored skin. They are also served as confit and matured birds are braised for use in a casserole.
- • Indonesian recipes often deep fry the bird crisp and flavor the meat with chilis.
- • In Egypt, the bird is stuffed with herbs and rice before it is grilled or roasted.
- • Moroccan restaurants commonly serve pigeon in a pastille, similar to a pot pie.
Where to Buy Squab Meat?
It can be difficult to find a supplier of pigeon meat, especially if you need a large amount for restaurant needs. There are online suppliers that supply specialty meats. Local farms may also offer this type of bird since it is a sustainable meat source.
Is Squab Legal in the United States?
Though each state may have its own particular set of guidelines, it is legal to raise, buy, and sell squab meat in the United States.