Though better known for its eggs than its meat, quail has been featured in cuisines from around the world for centuries. Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into everything the first time quail eater needs to know — from what the meat tastes like, to simple recipes for preparing flawless quail every time, as well as where to source the best quality quail meat available today.
Often described as a cross between a chicken and a duck, this little bird is full of culinary contradictions. It’s a game bird, but most often raised in captivity; neither completely white meat nor dark meat; and unlike any other avian, it can be cooked and served bones and all. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the quail such a special treat, as well as quick cooking methods that make it an easy dinnertime solution.
What Does Quail Meat Taste Like?
The first thing you’ll notice about quail is how tiny the bird is: Weighing in at about 4 ounces each, you’ll usually need to serve two quail per person for a meal. This small size lends a delicate texture to the meat, with much less chewiness than chicken or even duck.
In contrast to chickens, however, most quail is raised free range, giving it a taste that is somewhere between dark meat and white meat thanks to its moderate activity levels and frequent foraging. It’s a wonderfully rich and flavorful bird, with much of the fatty and savory element of duck without the greasiness.
Depending on which of the nearly 200 varieties of quail you find to cook, the flavor can be somewhat different. Overall, though, the density of this bird’s body structure shows through in its flavor no matter what — leading to a strongly flavored meat that needs much less seasoning than chicken to yield delicious results. Short marinades and fast cooking methods will preserve the natural flavor of the bird better than the long braises or bakes favored for larger fowl.
Can too much of a good thing like quail meat be a problem, though? That seems to be the basis of a long-running myth stating that it’s impossible to eat quail every day for 30 days. While the myth likely has its grounding in a biblical story, plenty of people have put it to the test — including a host of professional poker players using it as a prop bet. In the end, it turns out that most of the contestants found it easy to continue eating quail as long as it was fresh and properly prepared.
Quail Meat Nutrition
Quail meat provides a number of benefits for your health and is a great addition to your diet. Quails are high in protein, with 21 grams per 100g, which provides for muscle building and repair. Quails are also rich in B12, with over 500% of the daily value needed. It also contains Vitamin A and E.
When you purchase quails, their nutritional content varies depending on the cut you buy. Depending on how many grams of food you eat as your daily diet, as well as your height and weight, will determine the recommended intake. The average person should consume 455 milligrams of Iron each day. Quail meat contains 4-8% Iron, which will help meet the recommendation for most people.
Risks and Considerations For Eating Quail Meat
Quail meat is a great and flavorful cut of meat, and easy to cook as well. Quails are smaller than other poultry, and need to be cooked quickly. This means that quails should either be wrapped in bacon to keep the moisture in, or be cooked for less time than larger cuts of meat. But there are precautions you need to take when cooking your quails as well: it’s very easy for quails to dry out or overcook, so you want to make sure that you use the right size pan and set the oven temperature correctly.
How to Cook Quail Meat
There seem to be as many ways to cook quail meat as there are people who eat quail, with each quail-eating cuisine professing the superiority of its recipes. Whether fried, grilled, smoked, baked, broiled, or sautéed, it’s hard to go wrong cooking this delicious bird so long as you don’t overcook or over season it.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at two recipes for simple preparations of quail: One continental, and one occidental.
Mediterranean Style Grilled Quail
A quick marinade adds the finishing touches to quail’s naturally distinctive flavor, and throwing them on a hot grill means dinner will be ready in no time. Plan on serving two per person as an entrée, or one per person as appetizers.
- One or two fresh quails per person
- Olive oil
- Freshly chopped garlic
- Prepare the marinade by combining a generous amount of olive oil with small seasonings of each other ingredient.
- Brush the marinade on every quail, and let sit for no more than 15 minutes to absorb the flavors.
- Bring your grill to high heat, and use tongs to place each quail directly on the grill.
- Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until the birds have noticeable grill marks
- Serve with a side salad, grilled vegetables, and/or potatoes.
East Asian Pan-Fried Quail
Offering a bolder take on additional flavors, this Asian-inspired dish works exceptionally well when cooked in a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one available, any heavy-bottomed pan will do.
- 2 quails per person
- Sesame oil
- Freshly chopped garlic
- Freshly grated ginger
- Soy sauce
- Rice wine vinegar
- Combine sesame oil with small portions of freshly chopped garlic and grated ginger, then brush each quail with this mixture.
- Pre-heat your cast iron skillet or pan on high heat; you can test if it’s ready by placing a few drops of water in the pan. If the water drops sizzle immediately, then the pan is hot enough for the next step.
- Add two tablespoons of sesame oil to the hot pan, then gently place each quail in while being careful to avoid oil splatters.
- Sear quail for three minutes on each side, then pour in enough soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to cover the bottom of the pan.
- When the liquid has reduced by about half, remove the quail from the pan. Serve over rice, and drizzle with the pan sauce to finish.
Types of Meals to Make With Quail Meat
There are a number of ways to cook quail meat, with most preparations being simple. Grilling with lemon juice is one way to prepare it, but without the risk of overcooking. Quails are also good with salsa or barbeque sauce if they are cooked whole or cut up into pieces. Quails are smaller than other meats, so don’t over cook them by leaving them in the oven for too long. One of the most popular ways to prepare quail is by frying them after coating in flour and spices like paprika and salt.
The type of meal that you’re making will determine what time of cooking process you use for your quail meat. Anything that needs to be more tender should be cooked at a lower temperature, while more intense flavors should be cooked at higher temperatures to bring out the flavors. You’ll want your oven or stove set to 350 degrees for most types of quails.
Quail Cooking Tips and Tricks
One method is called sous-vide, where you place the quails in vacuumed packed bags and cook them in a water bath. This is probably the best way to prepare quails if you want something that’s moist, tender, and rich in flavor.
Another way to get great flavor from your quail meat is by pan frying it with some oil. You’ll want your pan heated at 375 degrees before adding your quails. After you’ve added your quail meat, turn the heat down to medium so it can cook all the way through. When pan frying quails, be sure to use a pan that’s just big enough to fit your quail without having too much excess space.
Some people enjoy using their oven or stove-top because it gives them control over the cooking process. To use an oven, you’ll want it set at 350 degrees and bake until the meat is cooked all the way through. If using a stove, be sure to have your pan just hot enough that it can cook quickly without drying out the quail meat.
Types of Quail Breeds for Meat
There are many types of breeds that one can choose to raise for meat, but the three most common are Coturnix Quail, Bobwhite Quail, and Japanese Quail. The bobwhite quails are known to be better at foraging than the other two breeds by themselves, so if you want them to eat bugs in your yard, then you should choose the bobwhite quails. They are also known for being more difficult to keep in coops because they want to roam outside. If you have a small property, it may be easier to raise Japanese Quail or Coturnix Quail instead of the Bobwhite Quails because they are content with sleeping inside. They are also not as good at foraging, but they are easier to keep in coops.
Coturnix quails are the most common type of quail that people raise and eat. They stand smaller than most breeds and therefore require less room in a coop and less food overall per bird. They are the fastest-growing breed, so they should be butchered sooner than other breeds. Coturnix quails have a mild taste and are typically sold dressed without being cleaned.
The Bobwhite Quail is known to be better at foraging outside rather than eating your feed, which makes them more difficult to raise. They’re also known for being difficult to keep in coops because they like to roam outside. If you have a small property, it may be easier to raise Japanese Quail or Coturnix Quail instead of the Bobwhite Quails because they are content with sleeping inside. They are also not as good at foraging, but they are easier to keep in coops.
These are the largest of all breeds, so they need larger coops and require more food per bird. They are also the slowest growing breed, so it takes longer for them to reach maturity than other quails. If you have ample space to raise them, they have a milder flavor than the Coturnix Quail.
Where to Buy Quail Meat
Frozen quail meat is relatively easy to find in major cities, where it is regularly stocked at specialty and Asian grocers. For the best taste and texture, though, we strongly recommend sourcing the freshest quail meat available — which can be quite tricky if you don’t live in an area where it can be hunted in the wild.
In our opinion, D’artagnan is the best online source for fresh quail. They have multiple offerings, including semi-boneless quail, whole quail, French jumbo quail, and even quail eggs. Since all of their quail is raised cage-free and without chemicals or antibiotics, you can be assured that it will taste as fresh as possible.
For a stateside alternative, Manchester Farms (based out of Columbia, South Carolina) is an excellent choice. Like D’artagnan, their birds are raised cage-free and without hormones or antibiotics, ensuring an amazing flavor. They have plenty of options for serving sizes and styles, and make it easy to host a small dinner party with quail as the main course.
FAQs about Quail Meat
Here are some common questions about Quail Meat.
Where do quails come from?
Quails are a close cousin to partridges and pheasants. They originated in Africa, spread throughout Asia and eventually to Europe in the 17th century.
What can be done with quail eggs?
1. To boil Quail eggs: Place the washed quail egg in boiling water for 4 minutes or until hard boiled.
2. In an omelette: place 3-4 quail eggs at the bottom of a hot pan and cook over easy on medium heat with butter; then let sit for 5 minutes to cook through before flipping, making sure you keep it moving while its cooking; finally add gruyere cheese and fill omelette with spinach (or any other filling).
3. For Deviled Quails Eggs: Cut cooked diced red peppers into quarters, hard boil quail eggs, place in bowl and cover with mayonnaise, add salt & pepper to taste.
4. For Quail Omelette: Place thinly sliced applewood smoked bacon at the bottom of pan with melted butter for flavor then add beaten eggs, cook until set on low heat then stir in crumbled goat cheese and fill omelette with cooked asparagus, then flip and cook for another minute or two.
Can you raise backyard quail?
Yes, if you live in an area where birds like quails can thrive (a warm climate). Raising quail can be a worthwhile hobby.
What are the best cuts of Quail Meat?
Quail meat is excellent in stir fries, delicately grilled or roasted for a quick dinner recipe. Quail breasts are typically the tastiest cut of the bird, but they will also need to be trimmed away from any bone. As with most cooking, it’s best to avoid overcooking your quails because they are an already small size and will dry out if left in the oven too long.
Quail meat is also great cooked sous-vide style – vacuumed packed bag and cooked in a water bath at 150 degrees F for around 45 minutes – which produces moist, delicious results every time!
Can you buy Quails at grocery store?
Yes, you can buy Quails at the grocery store.
Quails are on display in most major chains during that time of year when they are in season – typically early December through February. To find quail meat during the rest of the year, ask your butcher or check Asian markets which also sell it frozen for later cooking.
How much does quail meat cost?
Quail meat typically costs $5-$7/lb.
What’s the Best Type of Quail Meat to Buy?
As with all poultry, you should look for meat that is pale pink to light brown in color, which indicates a fresher bird. Avoid any quails whose flesh appears dull gray, has an unpleasant odor or appears slimy. If you’re buying frozen quails, it’s a good idea to buy them in vacuum-sealed bags because they can last up to a year when stored properly.
How Should I Store Quails?
Fresh or thawed quail meat should be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within one day of cooking for optimal taste, though meat that is cooked and stored in an airtight container can last up to 3 days. Make sure you don’t leave quail meat out for more than 2 hours because it can be a bacteria-ridden food if not stored correctly. Quails should never be frozen raw because the texture changes drastically, making them undesirable for eating. Frozen quails should only be thawed inside the refrigerator and can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 year, though it is recommended that they only be stored as long as 2 months.