Quail is a small game bird. The meat is dark, but has a delicate flavor; this makes it a good choice for children, who may find other wild game too strong tasting. Because game meat is less tender than that of domestic animals, it's easy to overcook a quail accidentally, making the meat rubbery and tough. The best way to handle quail is to cook it quickly and pay close attention during the cooking process.
The best way to introduce children to game meat is to serve it in a familiar form. Roasting and grilling are both familiar, simple cooking methods that will appeal to kids -- especially if you serve the quail with a tasty dipping sauce -- but are also sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy. No matter how you prepare it, quail is an excellent bird for a quick meal because they are small and cook in a short amount of time. One big downside is that quail can cost several dollars each for a 3 to 7-ounce bird, so you might want to test the waters with small quail appetizers for your family before you spend the money on enough quail for a meal.
Begin by thawing the quail, if necessary, slowly in the refrigerator. You can reduce the gamey flavor of quail by soaking it in a salt solution (one tablespoon of salt dissolved in one quart of cold water) or a vinegar solution (one cup of vinegar mixed with one quart of cold water). You can also marinate the quail in the refrigerator, which will add flavor and help prevent the meat from drying out. Before cooking the quail, leave it out on the counter for about 30 minutes until the meat comes to room temperature. By raising the temperature of the meat before cooking the quail, you will help prevent it from becoming dry and overcooked.
One of the best ways to cook quail is roasting it in the oven. For the best flavor, sear all sides of the quail in a pan on the stovetop, then roast the quail at 350 F for about 10 minutes. Add a balanced seasoning easily by sprinkling dry salad dressing mix inside the body cavity. Baste the quail with pan juices about once every two minutes. Stuffed quail will require a few more minutes of cooking time, while halved or boneless quail may cook faster. The quail is done when the meat is firm to the touch and the juices run clear. Don't worry if the meat is still slightly pink; the meat of game birds will not turn white like domesticated chicken or turkey.
Another way to cook quail is grilling. Begin by heating the grill and lightly brushing it with olive oil. Add flavor by dusting the bird with dry dressing and seasoning mix. For whole quail, cook it over the hottest part of the grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, then finish over indirect heat for another 10 to 12 minutes. Quail breasts or halves will cook faster, about 5 to 7 minutes per side, while quail legs will only take 3 to 5 minutes. Grilled quail legs, because of their tiny size, make a fun little appetizer for kids. If it's too cold or you don't have enough time to use an outdoor grill, try grilling inside on a stovetop grill pan. Heat the pan for 15 minutes on high, then lower the heat, brush the quail with olive oil, and cook as you would on an outdoor grill.
- BBC Good Food: Quail
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service; Meat Preparation: Game from Farm to Table; May 2011
- "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review"; The Secret of Tender Quail is in the Cooking Time; Jennifer Garbee; March 2008
- Diamond H. Ranch: Basic Quail Cooking Instructions
- CookThink: What's the Point of Bringing Meat to Room Temperature Before Cooking?
- "Chicago Tribune"; How to Grill Indoors; Bill Daley; August 2011
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