Roast Quail

Roasted Quail

The first time that I had quail was at Ma Cuisine in Beaune, France. One of their wait staff helpfully translated the menu for us in real time as the combination of foreign language and hand-written menu proved indecipherable to Angela and me. I ordered the quail mainly because I had never had it before and their reputation implied that it would be good.

And they truly managed to exceed my expectations that night. Quail is a more flavorful and slightly gamier version of turkey without turkey’s propensity to be overcooked and dry.

The small size is both a blessing and a curse: it’s very easy to prepare exactly as much as is needed no matter the number of guests but it’s all significantly difficult to eat. Following the recommendation in the cookbook, we simply ate with our hands.

This recipe is a bit different than the one that I had in France but it’s still quite good. The quail I had in France was larger than the quail I’ve found in the United States; in France, I was served a single quail as an entrée whereas in the U.S. two quail are usually more appropriate. However, if you aren’t particularly hungry or don’t want a lot of protein, a serving of a single quail would work quite well.

Quail, simply by its nature, is not an every day food. It’s too exotic for that. But, for a special occasion, quail can provide an elegant dinner.

Roasted Quail

Roast Quail
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant

4 six oz. cleaned quail
salt and pepper
4 sprigs of thyme
4 tbsp butter, softened

  1. Twenty-four hours in advance, dry the quail with paper towels and then season all over with salt and pepper. Remove the thyme leaves from the sprigs and sprinkle the thyme leaves over the quail. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the broiler.
  3. Dry the quail and remove any thyme remaining on the birds. Tie a string around the quail to keep the legs tucked back and pointed up.
  4. Place the quail breast side up on a shallow baking sheet and broil 4″ from the broiling element for 5 to 6 minutes or until the breasts are well browned.
  5. Turn the quail to one side and broil for 1 minute. Turn the quail onto the other side and broil for 1 more minute.
  6. Turn the quail breast side up and broil for 1 final minute. Remove from the broiler.
  7. Allow to rest briefly, then serve.

Serves 2.


14 Responses to “Roast Quail”

  1. 1 xue June 24, 2008 at 5:26 am

    funny, i just bought quail last night! they’ll be dinner tomorrow, i’ll try this broiling method out 😀

  2. 2 Cynthia June 24, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Those turned out beautifully. I love quail, and the Zuni Cafe cookbook is also amazing! The place I used to work marinated semi-boneless grouse in herbs and garlic, then put them on the charcoal grill–also a great method for summertime cooking.

  3. 3 Matt June 24, 2008 at 9:23 am

    xue – I hope you like how the quail turn out. Make sure to let them cool a bit before eating them or you’ll burn your fingers.

    Cynthia – Thanks for the compliment. I agree with your comments about the Zuni Cafe cookbook. In fact, the cookbook provides a similar method for cooking quail over a grill but, unfortunately, I live in an apartment without a patio or balcony so I don’t get to do any grilling.

  4. 4 niall June 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Firstly, your quail look absolutely delicious, but I have a few question.
    Do you eat quail pink, or cooked through like chicken?
    Also on wikipedia is says you eat the bones as well, is this true?

  5. 5 Matt June 24, 2008 at 10:16 am

    niall – According to the USDA, quail should be cooked to 165°F but other than that I’m not entirely sure; I cooked it according to the time in the recipe. The meat will be a bit pink no matter how long you cook it simply because the meat is darker than other poultry.

    I didn’t eat the bones and wasn’t aware that anyone did until you posted your comment. I suppose you could eat them but they seemed a bit bigger than I’d want to digest.

  6. 6 Daniel June 24, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Matt, Skip the engineering unless you’re engineering the food. What can I say but… now I’m hungry. Have to try this quail some day soon. Thanks.

  7. 7 Sonia June 26, 2008 at 11:48 am

    i’d love to see you do some mexican food.. look into the Doña Tomás cookbook, “Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking”. It is from a restaurant in Oakland, CA that i used to work at.

  8. 8 Matt June 26, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Daniel – I’m not sure I follow your comment. Any particular reason I shouldn’t be an engineer?

    Sonia – I’m interested in Mexican food and I appreciate the interest in seeing me cooking it but, living in Southern California, we’re blessed with a number of local restaurants serving good and cheap authentic Mexican food so it almost seems a waste. However, with a specific recommendation, I may see if I can get my hands on that cookbook.

  9. 9 Sonia June 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    yeah, i must admit that i am a bit jealous of those that live closer to the border of Mexico than i do… That cookbook and restaurant though, are about as good as it gets up here in the East Bay. ..well i guess i can’t say that though.. as good as it is, if you have visited the Mission in San Francisco, you would know that that area has some bomb taquerias on every other block.
    ..but people from Southern California beg to differ… lucky bastards.

  10. 10 Matt June 28, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    We actually have a pretty good taqueria just down the street from us (I actually had their carne asada tacos last night). I put the book you mentioned on hold at the local library so I’ll at least give it a look through. The next couple weeks are going to be busy for me so it may be awhile before I get to make anything out of it.

  11. 11 Andreea February 22, 2010 at 11:35 am


    I intend to prepare quails for a party on Saturday, and found this recipe. I just want to make sure I got it right: the total cooking time is 9 minutes? It just seems very little, to me…but I may be wrong.
    Could you please let me know?


    • 12 Matt February 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      The total cooking time is 9 minutes. Quail are quite small and a broiler is very hot. They simply don’t take very long to cook. Also, unlike chicken, it’s not necessary to cook quail to well-done.

  12. 13 andreea February 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the reply. Any side dishes you could suggest for this?

  13. 14 hattonhall October 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    When is a quail not a quail?. ………When it’s bin caught, cutup, cooked and digested.
    Mmmmm! I now have to convince one fine lady that the cuddly fluffy little cherubic birds I plan to buy to let run with our chooks soon will be worth the cookin’ not long after !
    Wish me luck folks !


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