Before being usurped by turkey, goose was the preferred choice for the Christmas lunch table in England and more recently there are signs of it making a bit of a comeback. Goose meat is richer and darker than turkey. It has a higher fat content, but a lot of the fat melts away during cooking leaving deliciously tasty and succulent meat.

Although not cheap, goose makes a wonderful treat for any special meal. In addition the goose fat collected during cooking makes the best roast potatoes and is almost worth the entrance price alone.


Geese were bred in ancient Egypt and goose liver was esteemed by the Romans. Goose has long been important in French cuisine where it plays a key part in traditional dishes such as cassoulet, confit d'oie and foie gras. It is now eaten widely in Europe and Asia, especially China.


The common domesticated goose is a descendant of the greylag goose (Anser anser) still found in the wild in Ireland, western Scotland and some other parts of Europe. Goose is the name for the female bird, the male being a gander.


Fresh geese are available from specialist suppliers and quality butchers. You may need to order in advance, particularly around Christmas. Geese are quite big-boned and so choose a larger bird than you would a chicken (allow at least 750g per person). Having said that, smaller (younger) birds are the most tender, so two small geese are preferable to a single huge one.

Choose plump-looking free-range birds.

Keep refrigerated, giblets removed, for up to 2 or 3 days.

Scoop out any excess fat from the cavity and put aside for roasting potatoes. Rinse the goose inside and out and pat well dry. Prick the skin to enable the fat to be released during cooking (try not to pierce the flesh) and rub the skin with salt and pepper.

Place breast side up on a rack over a roasting pan. Roast at 220°C for 30 minutes followed by around 2½ to 3½ hours (depending on size) at 180°C. Baste the goose every 20 to 30 minutes and remove the fat that accumulates in the pan or it will smoke furiously (the fat can be stored in the fridge for a few days, or frozen). If parts of the goose seem to be browning too quickly, wrap them in foil.

The goose is cooked when a skewer in the thickest part of the thigh reveals clear juices (the flesh may still be slightly pink). Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 15 minutes or so before carving.


From the website of (Rick Stein endorsed) suppliers Highland Geese:

To keep our geese company I bought six white geese from Donald MacDonald from Skye. The two old geese surveyed the new comers with heads on one side and then moved in. They cut out one young gander and herded him away. He was horrified and rushed back to the others where upon the old geese pinned him to the ground and both hammered him. Somewhat dazed he was herded away to their goose house. Three times he ran away and each time the performance was repeated. After that he has dutifully undertaken his responsibilities to his harem and they have laid eggs every year since and produced a number of goslings.