Smoked Quail – Enjoy Juicy and Tender Meat

A recipe and some tips for cooking a smoked quail to diversify your diet.
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
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Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
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Last updated: August 13, 2023
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The perfect smoked quail is tender, succulent, and flavorful. The secret for tenderness and juiciness is proper brining and slow cooking. The brine infuses in the meat and softens it, making it moist after smoking. Slow cooking the quail on an electric or charcoal smoker makes the meat tenderer so that it almost falls from the bones. You can experiment with different rubs and spices to get a sweet or savory flavor from your smoked quail.

This article has great smoked quail recipes with detailed step-by-step guides and pro tips and tricks on how to make delicious smoked quail.

Reasons for Smoking a Quail

Smoked Quail - Enjoy Juicy and Tender Meat
Hot smoking is a modified cooking technique suitable for cooking poultry, fish, and meat.

You can smoke quail in a smoker or an outdoor barbecue grill adapted with a drip pan of water under the meat. Do you still have no smoker and can’t choose one from the sea of options? Read our detailed buying guides on the best propane smokers, best electric smokers, for high-end, budget-friendly options.

The Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker remains the most acclaimed electric smoker among grill enthusiasts and pitmasters. It is a perfect option for cooking quail.

Here is why smoking is a better cooking technique for quail:


Smoking quail is pretty fast, especially if you do proper preparations like brining to tenderize the meat prior. You only need to ensure the meat is cooked. According to Michigan State University Extension, birds should cook to a final temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. With the reviews of the best smokers, you can make your smoked quail fast and tender.


Quails are exotic birds and are not typically available in every grocery store. You may have to purchase a quail from a specialty butchery or order from a farmer who keeps them. Their rarity makes them a special delicacy with better value than chicken and other common poultry.


Smoked quail has a beautiful appearance, taste, and smell. According to an article by the Washington Post, smoking food creates the ‘Maillard’ reaction which occurs when the heat breaks down sugars and amino acids on a dry surface. The taste components of a crunchy browned exterior of a smoked quail are a result of the Maillard reaction.

How to Choose Quail

When choosing quail from the specialty butchery or farm, go for the plumpest, unblemished option. A plump quail will have the best meat-to-bone ratio. Besides being unblemished, the skin should appear creamy or yellow with a light pink tint.

Avoid quail that looks dry or has peculiar smells if you want the best cooking results.

You can buy either boneless, semi-boneless, or boned quail for different quail recipes.

Also, you should use the quail within two or three days of purchase when it is still fresh. You can store it in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness for at least three days.

Preparing the Quail

Preparing quail for smoking is fairly easy, especially if you buy it from a butchery. For smoking, brining and marinating are the only preparations you may need to make. According to Science Direct, brining a game bird is an essential preparation step that prevents the drying of the meat. You can dry brine or wet brine. Although rare, dry brining has been proven to retain more moisture than wet brining.

The chemistry behind brining ensures your quail is juicier even if you cook it for a while in heavy smoke. Essentially, the salt in the brine binds to the bird’s muscle proteins and denatures them. The muscle fibers retain more moisture during the entire cooking process.

Dry Brine:

  • Less messy;
  • Results in crispier skin as it leaves the quail’s skin dry;
  • Takes less time;
  • Requires fewer ingredients.

Wet Brine:

  • More flavorful.

What Quail Goes With

Since quail has a delicate gamey flavor, you should not overpower it with strong flavors. It goes well with light salads and spring vegetables. Other suitable sides to serve with smoked quail include; cauliflower fried rice, creamy coleslaw, cornbread pudding, sweet potatoes with chorizo, and apple cranberry sauce.

Smoked Quail - The Recipe

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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Servings 2 people
Calories 760 kcal


  • Smoker
  • Wood Chips
  • Meat thermometer
  • Bowl
  • Foil
  • Baking pan
  • Kitchen shears
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Aluminum foil


Buttermilk brine

  • ½ gallon water
  • ½ gallon gallon buttermilk
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar or maple syrup

Barbecue sauce

  • ½ onion grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground hot chilies
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or lard
  • 2 tequila shots
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • Salt


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 quail remove backbones and flatten

You can skip the process of making the barbecue sauce if you already have a barbecue sauce or rub that you prefer like the popular smoked quail Traeger.


    • Make the buttermilk smoked quail brine.
      Combine the water and the buttermilk in a bowl then add the kosher salt. For every ½ gallon of brine, add ½ cup kosher salt. Add the brown sugar or maple syrup for sweetness. The brine should be enough liquid to submerge the quail.
    • Prepare the sauce.
      Heat a pan over medium-hot heat then add the butter or lard and heat through. Add the grated onions and saute for 3 minutes until they turn translucent. Add all the other sauce ingredients and stir well. Let the ingredients simmer slowly for 30 minutes or more. If you don’t like a chunky sauce, remove the sauce from the heat and pour it into a blender to puree it.
    • Flatten the quail.
      Use the kitchen shears to remove the quail’s backbones. Cut along either side of the quail’s spine then place it on a cutting board breast-side up. Press the breast to flatten the quail. You can also snap out the ribs and curved saber bones near the wishbone.
      Smoked Quail - Enjoy Juicy and Tender Meat 2
    • Brine the quail.
      Place the quail in a large bowl or zip-lock bag then pour the brine mixture over it. Cover the bowl or seal the ziplock bag and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
    • Set up the smoker.
      If you have an electric smoker, heat it up to 225 degrees F. If you have a charcoal smoker, place coals in it and light them up. Let the coals burn until they are white-hot at a temperature between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You can add wood chips to the smoker. Hickory and mesquite go perfectly well with quail’s flavor.
    • Prepare the baking pan.
      Line the baking pan with foil and spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the quail from the refrigerator and rinse it under cool water to remove the excess brine. Rub vegetable oil all over the quail then lay it on the smoker pan in one layer.
    • Place the quail in the smoker.
      Put the quail in the smoker and cook it for about 1 ½ hour, until its temperature reaches the recommended smoked quail temperature which is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. After one hour, use the meat thermometer to check if it is cooked. In the last 30 minutes of smoking the quail, remove it and place it on a cool surface. Baste the barbecue sauce all over it then return it to the smoker to finish cooking.
      Smoked Quail - Enjoy Juicy and Tender Meat 4
    • Serve.
      Remove the quail from the smoker and cover it with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.


    When smoking quail, the legs tend to cook faster than the other meatier sections. You can do the bacon-wrapped smoked quail trick, where you wrap the legs with bacon to slow the cooking. The bacon will add delicious flavors to the quail.
    Alternatively, you can wrap the quail’s legs with foil. Use high-quality aluminum foil like the popular Amazon basics Aluminum foil. It is certified kosher and is large enough for all of your cooking needs including lining baking sheets, creating foil packets for keeping food moist while cooking, and storing leftovers.


    Calories: 760kcal


    What temperature do you smoke quail at?

    The perfect temperature for smoking quail is between 200 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit. You should smoke the quail until its internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. If the smoke reduces, add a fresh batch of wood chips until the bird is properly cooked.

    Should quail be served pink?

    Quail is safe to eat when cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat.

    Is quail healthier than chicken?

    Quail meat has numerous health benefits. According to the USDA food composition database, Chicken is higher in Vitamin B3, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, and saturated fat. On the other hand, quail has higher Phosphorus, Zinc, Monounsaturated fat, Polyunsaturated fat, and iron. Quail meat will meet your copper needs 50% more than chicken breast. Since they both give different nutrients that are all beneficial to our health, it is hard to disqualify one over the other.

    Final Thoughts

    Slowly smoked quail on a pellet grill or a smoker is a delicacy everyone deserves to experience. Before smoking, you can dry brine or wet brine to your taste so the quail meat can begin tenderizing. Add a handful of wood chips to the smoker for the ultimate smoked quail flavors.

    When smoking, ensure there is enough oxygen in the smoker and certain coals are not burning the quail skin. You can also use wood chips on a propane grill or pellet grill. All you have to do is bundle up the wood chips in aluminum foil, poke a few holes, and place heat deflectors under the grill gate. You can get creative and make other recipes like the popular smoked quail poppers, smoked quail eggs, or bacon-wrapped smoked quail. Ensure the quail cooks to 165 degrees. The juices should run clear and the meat should not be pink.


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