Quail, like other poultry, is prone to becoming tough and dry if you overcook it. And, because quail is smaller than chicken, turkey and duck, it's easier to overcook. Brining – the process of soaking meat in a saltwater solution – provides a good deal of protection against the undesirable effects of overcooking. Also, like marinating, brining gives you an opportunity to impart extra flavor into the meat. Brining quail in a properly made brine helps you turn out a juicy, delicious meal, no matter how you're cooking it.
Fill a large container or bowl with enough cold water to fully submerge the quail you're brining. Usually, 1 gallon of water is enough. Clear out some space for the brining vessel in the refrigerator.
Add in about 3/4 cup of table salt without iodine or about 1 cup of kosher salt per 1 gallon of water. Salt quantities don't have to be exact, but using more is likely to make the small birds too salty. Mix in the salt gently until it's dissolved. This is technically all you need for brining quail. However, adding other seasonings further flavors the poultry.
Add 1/2 cup sugar or another sweetener for each 1 gallon of brine. The sweetness offsets the saltiness imparted into the quail. Instead of white sugar, try the same amount of brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup or fruit juice. Quantities don't have to be precise, so go by taste and how sweet you want the quail to be.
Add other seasonings into the brine, if you wish. Ideas include minced garlic, onion, oregano, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme or bay leaves. Add them to taste or according to your recipe.
Submerge the quail in the brine and soak it for one hour in the refrigerator. Longer brining may make the meat too salty, since these birds are relatively small. If, after trying this process once, the quail doesn't seem as salty and juicy as you want it, brine it for another hour next time.
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- Cook quail to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer in the center of the breast and in the thigh to confirm doneness.
- Keep brining quail and other meat in the refrigerator. Brine is not a preservative, and unless the meat is kept below 40 F, bacteria will quickly begin to grow on it and in the brining solution.
- Discard the brine after use because it has been contaminated by raw poultry.
- Don't salt brined quail before cooking it, as it will already be salty.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living with his family in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.