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Roast Quail

simple roast quail recipe

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is a basic roast quail recipe that can serve as a stepping stone for other, fancier recipes. Once you know how to properly roast a quail, you can then play with glazes or marinades — even though I am not normally a fan of marinades, they will work with quail because the birds are so small.

I include a brining step here if you like brining. If you do brine your quail, they will be more tender and you can cook  them a few minutes longer — but you run the risk of them becoming too salty. Don’t brine too long! If you don’t brine, the meat will have a nicer texture, but you have less room for error when you roast them.

How to serve these? With any wild game sauce, or with a simple squeeze of lemon. Add the starch and veggie of your choice and a big white wine or dry rose and you’re in business.

Figure on 2 quail per person as a main course and 1 per person as an appetizer. Oh, and put a bowl out for bones. Quail are best eaten with your fingers.

Serves 2, and can be scaled up.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups white wine or water
  • 4 bay leaves


  • 4 whole quail
  • Lard, butter or olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 celery sticks
  • Black pepper


  1. If you choose to brine your quail, boil the water or wine with the kosher salt and bay leaves, then turn off the heat and let cool. Submerge the quail in this brine for 2-6 hours.
  2. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. This will take a little while for most ovens, up to 30 minutes. While the oven is preheating, take the quail out of the fridge and pat them dry. Coat with lard, olive oil or melted butter (your quail will be browner with melted butter) and salt generously. Set aside at room temperature while the oven heats.
  3. When the oven is hot, get a small roasting pan or cast-iron frying pan and set the quail in it. They will want to tip over, so steady them with cut pieces of the celery stick. Try to prevent the quail from touching each other to speed the cooking process.
  4. Roast the quail in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The lower end of the spectrum will give you quail that are juicy, succulent and a little pink on the inside. The higher end of the spectrum will give you a fully cooked quail, which is OK, but which I find boring. Your choice.
  5. When you take the quail out of the oven, place on a cutting board and loosely tent with foil for 5-10 minutes. Use this time to make the wild game sauce of your choice, or just squirt lemon juice on the birds before serving.

simple roast quail recipe

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

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8 responses to “Roast Quail”

  1. how-to-cook-quail | Good. Food. Stories.

    […] keep them moist during their brief time under the heat. His simple (really!) recipe for brined roast quail is a great introduction—my rule of thumb on brining timing is about an hour per pound, so […]

  2. Evelyn

    Thanks for the recipe, it’s delicious however I think the quail I got is larger thus they weren’t pink, they were bloody and I had to leave them for almost an hour in the oven… But hmmm!!! Yummy!!! :)

  3. Jessica

    I used your recipe tonight for my very first time cooking quail (courtesy of the hubby) and it was AMAZING! Thanks for making the recipe so easy to follow.

  4. Nickelle

    What is the quail resting on in the picture? I can’t tell but it looks yummy.

    Do you have a suggested wild game sauce for the quail? I’m new to cooking game birds so I’m not sure what to pair with it.

  5. Bob Graham

    It most likely was your oven if it took an hour. Test your oven. Get a good oven thermometer ($9) and set you oven at 300, let stand with thermometer for 30 minutes, I do a bit longer. Write down the set temp and the measured temp, raise to 350, anther 20 minutes at least, record. Continue each 50 degrees.

    Cooks Illustrated tested the ovens of their test kitchen chefs (I assume they have high end ovens). The actual oven temps were very far from the set temp. I tape my measurements “calibration” inside of a close cupboard door. I can draw a curve showing as the set temp rises how the actual climbs further higher than the set temp.

    Search this site. Search the net and include cranberry or pomegranate along with quail recipe. Enjoy!

  6. Robin

    This recipe is super easy! Last week I cooked some quail, without brining it, and this week I used this recipe. A big improvement, especially considering that it took so little time. Thank you so much! :)

  7. Thomas

    Hank, or anyone–
    How do you pluck to keep the skin from tearing? Second, I shot a few quail, and waited to dress them until I got home. They smelled bad, and even after roasting the smell persisted. So the next time, I shot a whole mess and I pulled the breast out immediately, and ended up barding them with bacon. Delicious, but the bacon really overpowers everything. How do you recommend handling quail? (I’ve handled a few dozen wild ducks, and only noticed a smell once, and it tasted fine after cooking).

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