How to Cook Quail & Quail Meat History (2024)

Quail is a collective name for several genera of small, plump birds in the pheasant family. Species or subspecies of the genus Coturnix are native to all continents except the Americas.

The Pharaoh, or Coturnix coturnix, quail are of Eurasian stock (found in Asia, Africa and Europe), and are migratory upland birds that travel in large bevies of up to a hundred. The small birds are physically unable to fly long distances. Instead, they shoot forth in a straight line at low altitudes, leaping from one stopping point to the next, crossing arid wasteland, rivers, or swamps. Often they exhaust themselves in the process, dropping to the ground virtually unable to move. From a hunter’s perspective, their straight flight and easy fatigue make them simple prey.

This behavior gives rise to the belief that it was hordes of the common quail (Coturnix coturnix), called selav, or “plump one,” in Hebrew, that saved the Israelites wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. Was this the God-sent miracle or manna mentioned in Exodus and Numbers? The birds certainly could have been traveling in their annual migration. As late as the turn of the last century, Egyptian bird catchers still exported more than 2 million quail a year to European chefs.

European, Japanese, and rain quail of southern Asia belong to the same family, Phasianidae, of the order of Galliformes. They are classified as Coturnix.

When early settlers arrived in what is now the northeastern United States, they encountered birds about the same size and coloring as the quail they had known in the Old World, and misnamed them. To complicate matters, the bobwhite quail (so called for the male’s loud whistle) was known as a partridge in the South. Among quail found in America are the bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii), mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus), and Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae).

Though technically a game bird, quail that is available in stores will always be from a quail farm. If you want wild quail, you’ll have to hunt it yourself. Over the last 25 years, farmed quail has become more widely available in the United States. It was not always so. When Ariane Daguin founded D’Artagnan in 1985 quail were harder to find, and usually ended up at white-tablecloth restaurants. But thankfully, today quail is being prepared in many home kitchens.

Few game birds are as versatile, simple to cook, and easy to enjoy as quail. These plump, juicy birds should be the basis for “Game 101,” because they make everyone - from novices to professionals - look like a champion. Grilled, broiled, or sautéed, they’re almost impossible to ruin. The medium-dark flesh has a mildly gamey flavor that readily takes to being marinated, stuffed, or highly seasoned. They are small, so allow one quail per person for an hors d’oeuvre, and at least 2 per person for an entrée. Because they are lean, they need to be cooked quickly over high heat and served medium rare to retain their moisture and flavor.

How to Cook Quail & Quail Meat History (2024)


What is the history of quail meat? ›

They were domesticated around the 11th century in Japan, and originally kept as song birds. In the 1950s, they were brought to Europe and are now bred for their meat and eggs. Quail are the smallest farmed bird, some weighing as little as 100g when fully grown.

What is the preferred cooking method for quail? ›

The easiest and most traditional way to cook quail is to simply roast them whole in the oven. You will need 1 bird per person.

Why is quail a delicacy? ›

Quails are easy to keep in captivity, easy to cook, and have tender, flavorful flesh. Their taste is similar to, although more assertive than, chicken, and even their small, tender bones can be eaten. They are so small that even one whole bird would serve only as an appetizer for a human appetite.

How old are quail when you eat them? ›

Quail grow quickly. In just 7 to 8 weeks, they're ready for processing.

Did they eat quail in the Bible? ›

Numbers 11:31-35 New Living Translation (NLT)

No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the LORD blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.

Why can't you eat quail for 30 days? ›

A persistent myth holds that it is impossible to eat quail every day for a month. This has been the subject of a number of proposition bets; however, it has been achieved on several occasions. This "every-day-for-a-month" estimation may have been derived from a Biblical passage about quail.

Do you need to soak quail before cooking? ›

You don't need to marinate or brine the quail, but since the meat is lean and fairly dry, doing so can reduce the risk of drying the meat out during the cooking process.

How gamey is quail? ›

Many people consider quail to have a much gamier taste than chicken. It is often referred to as tasting like a mix between chicken and duck. Additionally, quail is typically more tender than chicken meat and is known for being very moist when prepared correctly.

Is quail meat healthy? ›

Quail is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, iron and macronutrients such as calcium, phosphor, zinc and more. Here are a few prominent health benefits: it contains a host of vitamins, including Vitamin A, D, K and B. Quail eggs and meat are rich in selenium, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

Why do we not eat quail eggs? ›

Because they have larger yolks relative to their size, quail eggs have more cholesterol and fat than chicken eggs.

Why is the common quail poisonous? ›

Coniine from hemlock consumed by quail has been suggested as the cause of coturnism, though quail resist eating hemlock. Hellebore has also been suggested as the source of the toxin. It has also been asserted that this evidence points to the seeds of the annual woundwort (Stachys annua) being the causal agent.

Are quail healthier than chicken? ›

Quail Vs Chicken

Compared to eating chicken, eating quail is better for you because quail meat is higher in vitamin C and iron. Quail gives you vitamin A whereas chicken does not. And quail also gives you more minerals and amino acids than chicken meat.

How to properly eat quail? ›

They are small, so allow one quail per person for an hors d'oeuvre, and at least 2 per person for an entrée. Because they are lean, they need to be cooked quickly over high heat and served medium rare to retain their moisture and flavor.

Is quail white or dark meat? ›

The leg muscle is darker in color. Look at the breast muscle: A quail's breast muscle is "white meat" due to the lack of a protein called myoglobin, which helps supply muscles with oxygen. The longer a muscle is used, the more oxygen it requires and the more myoglobin it needs.

What part of quail do you eat? ›

Bones: Quail bones are quite tiny, and the smaller ones can be eaten if you don't mind a bit of crunch. Larger bones or any that you don't want to eat are more candidates for the stock pot for broth. Small birds such as ormolu were traditionally eaten whole, bones and all.

What is the origin of quail? ›

They originated from North America but can also be found across Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. Wild Japanese quail species live in Russia, East Asia, and other parts of Africa. Quails inhabit the same area for almost all of their lives – most of them do not migrate.

What cultures eat quail? ›

Known for its impressive health benefits and delicious taste, quail meat is one of the most popularly eaten meats in the world. It is consumed extensively in Asian countries like China and Japan. Originating in North America, quails are also found in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America.

Did Native Americans hunt quail? ›

However, California quail (Callipep/,a californica) were a choice food of Native Americans. Bobwhite are the most prized species by sportsmen, with the California quail in second place.

Did Egyptians eat quail? ›

Pictorial and archaeological evidence from ancient Egypt shows a wide range of fowl being prepared and eaten including ducks, geese, pigeons, and quail. Wild birds and waterfowl were also eaten. They were caught either using clapnets or throwsticks.

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