Although you might think that quail, as many other types of poultry, would "taste like chicken," these tiny, tender birds have a richer flavor that is more similar to red meat than chicken. Quail can frequently be found on menus and tables in the southern United States, where quail hunting is a popular fall activity. Whether you’re looking to bring a taste of the South to your table or simply change up your dinner menu, grilled quail takes minimal time to prepare and makes an elegant, flavorful main dish.
Buy quail that has already been butterflied, since this will help the quail cook evenly on the grill. Check the quail to make sure there aren't any feathers or loose bone fragments.
Place the quail in a baking dish or a large mixing bowl. Season the birds simply with salt, black pepper and fresh, finely chopped herbs such as thyme. If you’d rather marinate your quail, combine ingredients such as chopped or minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey or agave nectar, olive oil and fresh herbs like thyme or parsley in a smaller bowl. Pour the marinade over the quail, toss to evenly coat the bird and cover the dish or bowl. Put it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least two hours.
Turn your grill on, setting the burners to medium-high. Remove the quail from the marinade and grill them, starting with the breast side facing down.
Continue grilling the quail for three to five minutes before flipping the bird with tongs and grilling the other side for another three to five minutes. When it’s done, both sides of the quail should be golden brown and your meat thermometer should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the quail from the grill and transfer them to a serving platter. Let the birds rest for about five minutes before serving them.
How to Cook Quail on a Grill
How to Cook Quail in the Oven
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- The Gift of Southern Cooking; Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock
- The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy; Michel Stroot
- Techniques of Healthy Cooking, Professional Edition; Culinary Institute of America
- The New York Times: Grilled Quail
- Country Living: Grilled Quail
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Cook Food to Safe Temperatures
- Buy enough quail so that you can serve two for each person. Quail doesn't have a lot of meat, so you want to make sure you have enough.
- Butterfly the quail yourself by placing the quail on a flat surface, with its backbone-side facing up. Use a sharp knife or poultry shears to cut along each side of the backbone, removing the spine and spreading the bird out so that it lies flat.
- Allow the quail to marinate overnight or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator for more intense flavor.
- Try a different take on grilled quail by halving each bird and wrapping each half with prosciutto. Place each quail half on a skewer and marinate it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before placing the wrapped quail on the grill. Serve the grilled, wrapped quail with sauteed figs and mushrooms.
Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.