How to Smoke Quail

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Smoked quail may still be pink after reaching a safe cooking temperature.
Smoked quail may still be pink after reaching a safe cooking temperature. (Image: Elzbieta Sekowska/iStock/Getty Images)

Tender, succulent smoked quail begins with brining. The salt and liquid in the brine infuses the meat, softening the game bird so it's moist after you smoke it. Slow cooking in the smoker completes the tenderizing process, often resulting in quail so tender it almost falls from the bones. Both savory and sweet flavors complement quail, so experiment with your favorite spice blends and rubs. You can smoke quail in an electric smoker or a charcoal smoker with similar results.

Things You'll Need

  • Buttermilk
  • Kosher salt
  • Brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)
  • Bowl or zip-top bag
  • Baking pan
  • Foil
  • Nonstick spray
  • Pepper, rub mix or preferred seasoning (optional)
  • Wood chips
  • Meat thermometer

Combine equal parts buttermilk and water to form a simple brine, using enough liquid to fully submerge the quail. Add ½ cup of kosher salt for every ½ gallon of brine. For a sweeter flavor, add up to ½ cup brown sugar or maple syrup to the brine mixture.

Place the quail in a large bowl or gallon-size zip-top bag. Pour the brine mixture over the quail and seal the container or bag. Refrigerate the quail in the brine for 2 hours.

Heat the smoker while the quail marinates in the brine. Allow the coals to burn until they're white-hot and reach a temperature between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, heat an electric smoker to a temperature of 225 F.

Rinse the quail under cool water to remove the excess brine. Line a pan with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the quail in the pan in a single layer.

Season the quail as desired. Use freshly ground pepper, chili powder, sage, or your preferred poultry or smoker seasoning mix.

Add wood chips to the smoker pan, if desired. Hickory and mesquite both complement the flavor of quail.

Place the quail in the smoker. Smoke the quail for approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until its internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit when measured with a meat thermometer.

Remove the quail from the smoker and cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tips & Warnings

  • Quail legs cook more quickly than the meatier sections of the bird. Wrapping the legs with bacon slows cooking while adding flavor, or you can wrap the legs with foil instead.
  • Baste smoked quail with barbecue sauce in the last 30 minutes of smoking, if desired.

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