How to Cook Quail to Perfection

Let this small bird speak volumes at your next dinner party.

By Team Made In
Aug 9, 2022
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Quail, one of the smaller members of the pheasant family, has been a fixture protein in French dishes for generations. This small-but-mighty bird has a similar taste to chicken, with all dark meat and tender flesh. If you’re looking to impress at your next dinner party, here’s a guide to shopping for, prepping, and cooking quail perfectly, every time.

How to Shop for Quail

Once you decide you want to try this Old World game bird out for yourself, your next step is selecting your bird. When visiting the butcher, choose birds that are plump to ensure you have a better ratio of bone to meat. The skin of a healthy quail should be yellow or creamy with a pink hue—avoid quail with dry, wrinkled skin. You can purchase bone-in, semi-boneless, or fully boneless birds.

Cook your bird within two to three days after purchasing to ensure the best flavor.

How to Cook Quail

You have a few tried-and-true methods when it comes to preparing quail: roasting, grilling, sautéing, and even frying. If you want to lock in flavor and ensure a juicy, flavorful meal, wet or dry brine your bird ahead of time.

How to Roast Quail

Roasting quail has an end result of dry, seasoned skin while maintaining a juicy, flavorful interior. This method works well if your quail is the main protein of an entree or appetizer, as it allows the flavors to take center stage.

To roast your quail, you’ll need a Roasting Pan or Baking Dish, butcher’s twine, and a meat thermometer. Ensure your bird is at room temperature before cooking.

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.

  • Optional: Tie the legs of the quail together with butcher’s twine and place in your pan.

  • Season the quail with salt, pepper, and any other desired herbs or spices. Follow up with a thin coat of butter or olive oil, about 2 tablespoons for the average bird.

  • Roast, breast-side down, until the internal temperature of the breasts and legs are both at least 165F,  10–15 minutes.

  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5–10 minutes before serving.

How to Grill Quail

Grilling quail has a similar end result to roasting, with the added bonus of smoky, charred flavors. This is also a great preparation method if your quail is the main dish.

For this cooking method, you’ll need a charcoal or gas grill, kitchen scissors, and skewers.

  • Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. If using a charcoal grill, position hot coals on one side, leaving the middle section clear. If using a gas grill, use medium-high heat and only two burners, either the left or right or front or back, leaving the middle burner off.

  • Make incisions alongside the spine of the bird until the backbone can be removed. Spatchcock the bird so that it lies completely flat, then insert skewers through both legs along the width of the body to keep its shape.

  • If you didn’t dry brine your quail, now’s the time to season it on both sides before placing it on the grill. Then cook between 3-–4 minutes, or until the first side is browned.

  • Flip the quail to the back side and cook for another 3–4 minutes, allowing the other side to brown.

  • Once both sides are browned, move the quail to the middle or indirect heat on the grill. Continue cooking with this indirect heat until its interior temperature is around 165F, 10–12 minutes more.

  • Look for clear juices and a slightly firm feel to know it’s done.

  • Allow quail to rest for 5-10 minutes after removing them from the grill before serving.

How to Sauté Quail

Sautéing quail lends a milder flavor that works well for side dishes or as part of a larger dish where quail is not the main protein.

For this method, you’ll need a large Frying Pan or Saute Pan, kitchen scissors, tongs, and skewers.

  • Using kitchen scissors, make incisions on both sides of the spine until the backbone can be removed, then spatchcock with your hand until completely flattened. Insert skewers through the legs, along the width of the body, to keep the bird flattened.

  • If you didn’t dry brine your quail, now is the time to season both sides with salt and pepper before adding quail to pan and browning one side, about 4–5 minutes.

  • Use tongs to flip onto other side and cook until interior temperature is 165F, 4–5 minutes. Clear juices should be running from the meat once cooked through.

  • Transfer bird to a Serving Platter, spooning drippings on top.

  • Allow to rest for 5–10 minutes before serving.

How to Fry Quail

Since quail is similar in taste and texture to chicken, it only makes sense that it would be just as delicious fried. Frying quail is a great and easy way to turn this delicious bird into something special, whether that’s a fried quail sandwich or just fried quail on its own.

For this method you’ll need a Dutch Oven, plenty of vegetable oil, buttermilk, spices and flour.

  • Mix buttermilk with spices like cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, and coat quail in the mixture for about an hour.

  • Pour oil into your Dutch Oven and let it heat up to 325F.

  • Remove quail from the mixture, dredge quail in flour, and add to the Dutch Oven for 6-8 minutes.

  • When the quail are golden brown, remove from the Dutch Oven and place on a wire rack to drain excess oil.

Ready to Try it for Yourself?

If you’re ready to try your hand at one of these methods of cooking quail, try out this Grilled Quail recipe from Chef Andy Knudson of Austin-based Tillie’s restaurant. Served with okra, radishes, and sauce vierge, this is the perfect test of your newfound quail cooking skills.