Smoked Quail Recipe

smoked quail

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Have you ever wanted to learn how to make smoked quail? Well, I have been smoking quail for many years now and it is quite easy and even in the smoker, only takes about an hour of your time to complete.

If you want to brine the quail, I recommend a buttermilk brine which does them a lot of good.

Buttermilk Brine

  • 1/2 gallon buttermilk
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt

Mix salt and water together until the water returns to clear. Add the buttermilk and mix will. Place the quail in a ziploc bag and pour the buttermilk brine over them to cover.

If you don't have a lot of quail, you can half the recipe.

Let the quail brine for about 2 hours.

Rinse the brine from them under cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Place them in a foil pan with skin side up.


Sprinkle my rub on them for great results or you can use a plain salt/pepper mixture made of half kosher salt and half coarse pepper.


Place the entire pan in the smoker at 225°F (107°C).

Quail usually take about an hour or so but the problem is that the legs usually get done before the breast does so you can wrap the legs in bacon to slow things down a bit in that area. I have seen folks wrap the entire quail in bacon but in my opinion this is not necessary.

I often smoke them with no bacon wrap at all and I keep the temperature at about 225. They are tender, delicious and very juicy.


Note: If you're looking for a digital meat thermometer, my guide called “6 best digital meat thermometers” will help you decide which one is best for you.

The quail, like most poultry, is safely done (per the USDA) the very moment it hits 165°F (74°C) however, it is also okay to cook them to only 150°F (66°C) as long as you hold them there at that temperature for at least 2.8 minutes.

I usually try to hold them at that temperature for at least 5 minutes to be extra safe but they are so much better when you don't overcook them and dry out the meat.

Tip: If you have my book entitled “Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue” find my very own recipe for Cuban Mojo and spoon that over the  quail generously before placing them in the smoker. You'll be amazed at how good it is!

Here's a picture of it:


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  1. One thing I didn’t catch was to what internal temperature you smoke the quail (or pheasant). I would be amazed if you smoked it as other poultry: 165 F. Temperature is what kills bacteria and viruses and other stuff in meat, and about 133 kills everything. So after that temperature, we’re smoking/cooking for taste/texture alone. I recently was about to go on a pheasant tower shoot here in Florida and I realized I still had four pheasants in my freezer. After thawing and cleaning them up a bit, I dry brined them in Kosher salt and put them (actually, only the breasts ’cause the guys who clean them at the tower place only give us the breasts) upright on the smoker grate, then draped bacon on top to completely cover the birds (securing with toothpicks where necessary). I smoked them at 225 – 240 until the breasts reached an internal temperature of about 155 F. Sure, they were a little pink inside, but NO blood as you would find in a chicken or turkey at that temperature. The meat was tender and moist and delicious! Quail is the same when smoked this way. Don’t overcook these game birds! I also find that smoked birds remain “good” in the fridge longer, not that they weren’t eaten. After several days in the fridge, we mixed it with Publix rotisserie chicken in a partridge/chicken salad. YUM!

    1. I have to be very careful with what I recommend but while the USDA still recommended to cook quail and all poultry to 165°F (74°C) internal, you can safely cook them to only 150°F as long as you hold them at that temperature for 4-5 minutes. I do the same thing with almost all poultry that I cook especially where the breast is concerned. Legs and thighs are often fine if not better at higher temps due to the extra fat content as well as connective tissues.

  2. I have raised quail for a few years and have cooked and eaten them many ways including smoked. your recipe here is the most simple I have found. Thank you very much. Jeff Adams

  3. Wanting to play around with game birds and smoking and came across your recipe here! Was curious, did you buy the quail already spatchcocked? Have you tried them whole and this way worked best? Thanks for the start gonna tweak to my smokers specs :)

    1. Yes, the quail I can get around here are already butterflied and they cook up really well that way. You can also cook them whole if you prefer or you can cut out the backbone yourself with a pair of kitchen shears..the bone should be really tender on these small birds.

      I have had them whole and I much prefer the spatchcocked version since they lay flat on the grate and cook much more evenly.

  4. I would like to know why I stopped getting recipes sent to me. I bought your book and rub and sauce recipes.

    1. Steve, I just checked your subscription and we are still sending you the ad-free version of the newsletter. I suspect that it is getting caught up in one of gmail’s sorting tabs or perhaps it is going to the spam or junk folder. Do some looking around in the various folders and tabs and if you can find one, use the button at the top to mark it as “Not spam”.

  5. I must be missing something. After one hour at 225 degrees F, the quail are not anywhere close to cooked. Are the quail supposed to be at room temperature before placing in smoker?

    1. Gerald, it may be that your quails are larger or fatter. How are you gauging the temperature of your smoker– i.e. are you using a commercial type thermometer at grate level or are you using the factory installed thermometer?

      Remember, the most important thing is that they reach the proper temperature before you remove them from the smoker and call them done even if it takes them longer than stated.

  6. Hello Jeff – really enjoying your recipes, thank you for all the wonderful information, it’s been so much fun experimenting with all of your recipes. I do have a question for you – I have 6 frozen and skinless wild pheasants that I want to smoke, would I approach this smoke the same way the you did with your Quail? Or do you have another process that you would recommend

    Thanks Jeff

    Cheers Mario

    1. Terry, there is a local grocer here in Tulsa that carries them in the frozen department. A few of the other meat stores may carry them as well or at least be able to acquire them.

  7. Will this same recipe work well for pheasant? Are there any modifications would you make for pheasant?


  8. Just wanted to say thanks for all the help Jeff!!! You have helped our family enjoy Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners a lot more!! Hope Yall have a great x-mas!!!

  9. Hey I noticed you said skin side up. We always skin ours. Would the same procedure apply. We've raise these birds since hatching and don't wanna waste any. Thanks for your help. 

  10. When I tried to get your icon for my iPad I lost the link when I clicked on it are you going to offer this again as I would really like to have this icon and app thank you

  11. Hi Jeff,

    I got started about a year ago with a Brinkmann electric water smoker and in my humble opinion it's perfect for beginners. Available at Home Depot for about $70 and HD has a reasonably good selection of wood to get your started. And it's easy to use.

    Please do a review with your comments. I think the Brinkmann is a good way to get people started……. 

    Love the news letter, I have a three ring binder with tips, tricks, and recipes from you and family & friends from Texas and Georgia.

    I tried smoking some King Fish steaks to make some smoked fish dip and it was awesome!

    Best regards,

    Bud Hartman, Ft Lauderdale Fl and the Fl Keys.