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All About Quail

Did you know that there are approximately 200 different types of quail? Quail is categorized by the colour and aging of its delicate, brown meat. Today, commercial quail has replaced wild quail in grocery stores and is available year-round.

Ideas for marinades

Marinades that include raisins, cherries, olives, prunes or lemon can enhance the flavour of quail. For more ideas in selecting best seasonings, consult our fruits, herbs, spices and condiment affinities charts.

Here are some wet marinades to try.

  • Apple juice, cider vinegar, honey and rosemary.
  • White raisin juice, lime juice, ground pepper and rosemary.
  • Orange marmalade, soy sauce, lemon juice, crushed garlic and freshly grated ginger.
  • Port, lemon juice and preserved peach slices.

Cooking methods

Quail is delicate and must be cooked carefully. We recommend the quail be barded with bacon, fat, or else stuffed. Roasting or grilling is preferred, as it cooks quickly yet the meat remains tender and moist.

Roasted Quail

  • Baste the quail, truss it, then set on the rack of a roasting pan
  • Place in a 180° C (350° F) pre-heated oven.
  • Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, basting frequently.
  • Cover loosely with aluminum foil allowing vapour to escape and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

Grilled Quail

  • Marinate for 4 hours.
  • In a frying pan, grill the quail for 20 to 30 minutes, turning frequently.
  • Baste during cooking with the marinade.

Grilled butterflied Quail

Butterflying a quail allows it to cook faster and more evenly on the grill.

  • Flatten the quail by breaking its back.
  • Insert a bamboo skewer in the middle of one wing through to the opposite wing and a second skewer into the thigh through to the other thigh.
  • Rub the interior and exterior of the bird with a mixture of salt, garlic powder, ground cumin or cinnamon, coriander or paprika and baste with olive oil.
  • Wrap the skewers in aluminum foil to keep them together and to prevent them from burning while grilling.
  • Grill each side for 4 to 6 minutes over medium heat.
  • Baste frequently with olive oil.

Braised Quail

  • Bard and truss quail.
  • Sear quail on all sides in a lightly-oiled, large casserole. Remove quail and set aside.
  • Add finely chopped vegetables such as onions, carrots, and peppers to the casserole and simmer gently.
  • Place quail in pan on top of vegetables.
  • Add liquid, either wine, bouillon or fruit juice.
  • Cover and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes over medium heat, or in a 180º C (350º F) oven.
  • Remove quail and set aside.
  • Reduce the liquid, deglaze with port or cognac.
  • Reduce heat.
  • For a smoother texture pour the sauce through a sieve.

Tips and advice

  • When selecting quail, make sure that the proportion of flesh is greater than the proportion of bones, and that it is round and plump.
  • Because quail is very small, usually ½ quail or 1 quail per person is considered a normal portion as an appetizer and 2 quails per person is adequate for a main dish.
  • It is important not to let the meat dry out during cooking. This is why it is preferable to bard it or to place a few fresh vine leaves inside before roasting to keep it moist and tender while cooking.
  • Best cooking methods to keep quail meat moist are roasting, stewing or grilling.
  • Use marinades to heighten the flavour and tenderize the meat. Quail can be left in a marinade for up to six hours.
  • To get a better presentation, preserve the shape of the poultry and facilitate carving, tie the quail prior to cooking. You can also “buttonhole” the quail by making incisions in the fleshy part of the thighs and sliding the opposing legs into the incisions.
  • Quails are cooked when they reaches an internal temperature of 82° C (180° F).
  • Quail can be served halved. Marinate, then thread one or two halves on to a metal skewer. Baste with a bit of oil and grill each side for five minutes over high heat. Add an extra five minutes more if cooking over medium heat. They are ready when they reach an internal temperature of 82° C (180° F).
  • Quail can also be made into a terrine or a pâté. Its small, delicate bones can be eaten, especially if the bird is well-done.

Did you know?

Quail eggs are sold commercially, as well. The tiny, speckled eggs are highly prized and used for appetizers and decorative purposes. They are well-known for their exquisite flavour and fine, creamy texture. They are also popular in Chinese and Japanese cooking.

Nutritional value

Quail has few calories and contains 150% less fat than beef. It is an excellent source of iron (three times more than chicken!) and is a good source of Vitamin B complex.

Storage life

Fresh quail can be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator for two days. To freeze quail, ensure that it is hermetically sealed in freezer wrap or a freezer bag. It can be kept in the freezer for up to three months.

There are several methods for thawing quail. The safest way is to defrost in the refrigerator. This method limits juice seepage and the development of harmful bacteria. Thaw for 10 to 11 hours per kilo (5 to 6 hours per pound). Leave the bird in its wrapping but pierce a few holes at the bottom to allow the juices to drain.

Quail can also be thawed by placing it in cold water. Place the frozen birds in hermetically sealed bags then in water. Replace water frequently. Four quails will thaw in about one hour.


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