At the Beginning There Was…

If you google for goose recipes in Russian, most of them will have the Panikovsky’s goose speech (see below) mentioned at least in part. Talk to Russian speaking people of my generation about cooking or eating goose, and immediately they recite it by heart, smiling. I am no different.

Вы не знаете, что такое гусь! Ах, как я люблю эту птицу! Это дивная жирная птица, честное, благородное слово. Гусь! Бендер! Крылышко! Шейка! Ножка! Вы знаете, Бендер, как я ловлю гуся? Я убиваю его как тореадор, – одним ударом! Это опера, когда я иду на гуся! «Кармен»!
— «Золотой телёнок», 1931, Илья Ильф и Евгений Петров

You don’t have any idea what a real goose is! Oh, my, how I love this bird. It’s a wondrous fat bird, noble word of honor! A goose! Bender! The tender wing! The slim neck! The juicy thigh! Do you know how I catch a goose, Bender? I kill it like a toreador, with a single blow. It’s an opera when I go out for a goose! Carmen!
— The Little Golden Calf, 1931, by Ilʹi︠a︡ Ilʹf, Evgeniĭ Petrov

“You don’t have any idea what a real goose is!”

As a child, I’ve been only reading about Christmas goose in books. For some reason, our family avoided cooking geese and ducks. When I turned 19, I decided it’s time to check the truth and roast a goose for Christmas. According to classic literature, it supposed to be fairly doable for a novice. It was a cold winter evening, a hungry family, and a tiny Soviet gas oven in a tiny Soviet kitchen (similar to the one on this picture). My mom often complained the oven was “made of tin” because it didn’t keep the heat. Soviet home cooks invented a cheap and easy improvement by placing a deep tray filled with rock salt on the bottom of the oven, where the gas heating elements were. Our oven was “improved” the same way. I am mentioning it so you would understand the magnitude of the disaster when more than a pint of goose fat escaped right there. It happened way before the goose was ready to eat. That day I learned what a real goose is — hours to cook and a lot of fat. The idea of roasting a goose again terrified me for almost 30 years until I felt brave enough to try it again.

“Oh, my, how I love this bird.”

I have a vivid memory how it happened last Thanksgiving. A picture of a beautifully roasted duck on Facebook and a few sentences describing simple and logical steps worked like a charm! The problem was, when I went to a store, all ducks available were frozen. But there was a ready-to-cook gorgeous goose. I recalculated timing for a larger bird, and it was a success! For my first goose (on the picture below), I didn’t buy a proper roasting pan with a rack and used whatever was available in my pantry.

Roasted Goose
Roasted Goose

Oh dear! It was almost forgotten, the taste of real poultry I couldn’t find anymore in chicken or turkey (unless they are rare heritage/heirloom breeds)! Last season we enjoyed roasted goose at least once every two weeks for as long as geese were available.

“It’s a wondrous fat bird, noble word of honor!”

With every roasted goose, you can collect 2 to 3 pints of fat. Strain it into a clean glass jar with a lid and keep frozen or refrigerated. It is one of my favorite cooking fats!

Cooking in goose fat
Cooking in goose fat

“A goose! Bender! The tender wing! The slim neck! The juicy thigh!”

While roasting a goose is easy, to carve the bird artfully and elegantly in front of the guests is somewhat challenging for an amateur. I completely destroyed my first goose — started with its thighs, something went wrong, gave up, and carved the rest brutally, cursing. Preparing for the next goose, I decided to watch instructional videos. Here is my fav (for the accent and overusing the word “fantastic”) — How to carve a goose (Waitrose). Eventually, I got better.

Goose served with caramelized apples, prunes, and potato gratin
Goose served with caramelized apples, prunes, and potato gratin
Potatoes au Gratin
Potatoes au Gratin

By the way, forget about the tender wing. Panikovsky, apparently, had an urge to lie about something. The tips and the second joints of the wings are cut off. They are reserved for stock.

“Do you know how I catch a goose, Bender?”

For most of us, there is no need to chase a goose before cooking it. What’s the catch? The catch is to choose your roasting pan wisely!

The cheapest solution is to use a large disposable foil roasting pan. It has disadvantages, though. You still need to add a roasting rack. Now, imagine the time when you need to remove it from the oven with its heavy load and filled with hot fat. Then there are moderately priced or expensive roasting pans. Besides being enormous for storage in your pantry, some of them also have a weakness — a rack sliding inside the pan. Feel free to choose any design but the one with a sliding rack. For your safety, it should stay still. A deep stable pan with a stable roasting rack is a catch.

roasting pan and frozen goose
roasting pan and frozen goose

“I kill it like a toreador, with a single blow.”

Start with the highest temperature your oven can produce, 450-475F. This is your kill in one heat, pardon my pun. After the first 15-20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 300-325F and let the goose peacefully cook low-n-slow for another 3-3.5 hours. That’s all you need to know about roasting a goose.

Before writing this recipe, I went to see what other prominent cooks have to say about roasting goose and found many steps I didn’t pay attention to. The geese I’ve got were clean, properly plucked. I didn’t prick the skin or blanch it with boiling water. I didn’t baste the birds while cooking because their skin was generously fatty. I suppose my ignorance was a bliss. Inspect your goose and prep it as needed using your common sense.

“It’s an opera when I go out for a goose! Carmen!”

Just like Bizet’s Carmen, a goose has it all: a memorable juicy meat and a haunting golden skin, a terrific variety of textures and flavors, a romance with highs and lows of heat, and a painful tragedy of the amount of fat. Let’s see the numbers. The goose in the picture above is 10 lb, 16″ long. On average, depending on the size, a goose is $65-$75. Carefully carved portions of one goose feed 6 to 8 people. You collect 2-3 pints of fat for cooking. Reserved wing parts, the neck, and the carcass of the goose make 2-3 quarts of stock.

Goose breast and vegetables
Goose breast and vegetables

Christmas Goose

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 45 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American, British, Eastern European, European
Keyword: goose
Servings: 6 people


  • 10-12 lb goose
  • 2 each apples large, tart (e.g., Granny Smith), sliced
  • 1 handful prunes or a combination of your favorite dry fruit
  • 1 handful herbs fresh thyme, oregano, savory sprigs
  • 1 each bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 tsp kosher salt or your favorite smoked salt
  • 2 tbsp caramelized garlic whole cloves, optional
  • 4 tbsp caramelized onions halved, small, optional


  • If you start with a frozen goose, give it at least 3 days to slowly thaw in a refrigerator. Cut off the tips of the wings, or the tips + the second joints. Reserve them for a stock. Inspect bird's cavity. In most cases, you will find a package with liver, heart, gizzard, and neck. Reserve them for the stock, except for liver, which should be cooked separately.
  • Preheat oven to 475F.
  • Prepare the stuffing. Wash, core, and slice apples. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. (Caramelized garlic cloves and balsamic marinated onions are available in bulk at HEB's and Central Market's olive bars.)
    Stuffing for Goose
  • Pat dry the cavity with a paper towel and stuff it. In some cases it need to be secured, in some cases not. It depends on the amount of skin and fat around it. Tie the legs. Place goose on th rack and it is ready for the oven.
    Roasting Goose
  • Reduce the heat after 15-20 minutes to 300F and continue roasting for another 3-3.5 hours. Be aware, that reaching 160F inner temperature is not enouph. Your goose will need more time to become fully cooked. Let it rest for 35-45 minutes before you start carving and serving it.
    Roasted Goose


Gordon's Christmas Roast Goose
LCL Group: Поделитесь своим самым лучшим способом приготовления гуся, а?
Christmas 2017 Version (to follow LCL Group comments)
to stuff 1 goose and 4 River Belle apples
- 1 small red cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 large onion, slivered
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
- 8 prunes
- 2 strips of smoked bacon, sliced
- 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, picked leaves
- 1 cup Gravenstein apple juice
- 1/2 tsp Christmas spice mix
- 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tsp smoked sea salt
Hollow the apples with a melon knife. Discard the part with the core, reserve other pieces. Heat a frying pan with 1 tbsp of goose fat. Season apple pieces with salt and pepper, and quickly saute them until lightly caramelized. Transfer to a bowl.
In the same pan, caramelize onion slivers. Add bacon, cook stirring. Transfer to the same bowl.
In the same pan, add more fat and saute cabbage until soft. Do not overcook! Transfer to the same bowl.
Add cranberries, prunes, thyme, spices, salt to the same bowl and mix.
Stuff apples and goose. Arrange apples on a baking tray. If there is an extra stuffing left, it can be cooked with the stuffed apples. The tray with apples goes into the 350F oven 45 minutes before the goose is ready to serve. It can stay in a warm oven for longer and it becomes even better.
The apples and the stuffing look very good and taste amazing. The stuffing for the goose mostly works as a medium to add the apple juice (2 x 1/2 cup during the roasting, after the first 2 hours and 1 hour after that). It doesn't look appetizing to serve but good tasting.
to roast
300F for 4.5 hours, basted and added apple juice two times, covered wings and leg bones with foil to protect from overdrying. The most important advantage of low temperature is that the goose fat is not burning even for a short time period at the beginning.
Roasted Goose