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Gingery Grilled Quail

photo: Scott Phillips

Servings: 4 to 6

With ground ginger in the seasoning rub and fresh ginger in the glaze and butter, this bird really earns its title. The bold Asian-influenced flavor pairs especially well with the rich meat of the quail.


For the seasoning

  • 1 packed Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. wasabi powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil; more for the grill
  • 8 quail (6 to 8 oz. each), semiboneless or whole, spatchcocked if whole


For the glaze

  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. Asian (toasted) sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari


For the butter

  • 1 packed Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. soy or tamari sauce
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened


For the garnish

  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Flaky sea salt (optional)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 840
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 470
  • Fat (g): 53
  • Saturated Fat (g): 17
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 10
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 21
  • Cholesterol (mg): 215
  • Sodium (mg): 620
  • Carbohydrates (g): 21
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Sugar (g): 16
  • Protein (g): 55


Season the birds

  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, sesame seeds, ginger, coriander, wasabi, and salt.
  • Rub the quail all over with the oil, then with the seasoning, using most of it on the meatier side of the birds.
  • If using semiboneless quail, consider skewering them, using two skewers threaded through each side as shown in the photo, for easier handling.


Make the glaze

  • In a small saucepan, whisk the mirin, sake, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce over high heat, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 20 minutes. Set aside.


Make the butter

  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, ginger, and soy sauce, and allow to sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the butter, and stir to combine. Set aside.


Grill and glaze the quail

  • Prepare a high (500°F to 600°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Oil the grate.
  • Grill the quail, breast sides down, until the skin has nice grill marks; 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the birds over, brush with the glaze, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes on that side.
  • Finish grilling the birds over indirect heat: For a gas grill, simply turn off all but one of the burners and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 350°F.
  • For a charcoal grill, briefly remove the birds from the grill, then remove the grill grate. Use long-handled tongs to bank the hot coals to one side. Put the grate in place. Place an oven thermometer on the grate over the cooler area, close the lid, and let the coals burn down until the thermometer reads about 350°F.
  • Transfer the birds to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking, breast side up, brushing with the glaze every couple of minutes until the glaze is used up and the quail are medium rare or medium, 8 to 10 minutes. You may want to rotate the position of the birds so the same ones are not always closest to the heat.


Butter, garnish, and serve

  • Transfer the birds to a cutting board, breast side up, and spread with some of the butter. Tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut into halves, garnish with the chopped scallions and salt, and pass the remaining butter at the table.



You can substitute 4 squab or poussin, 2 game hens, or even 2 small chickens for the quail, though cooking times will differ. These birds should be spatchcocked before seasoning, and don’t need to be skewered. The seasoning rub and glaze can both be made several hours ahead; keep covered at room temperature until ready to use. The butter can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before serving.


Rate or Review

Reviews (1 review)

  • user-6975932 | 03/16/2019

    I did this with a fresh bone in skin on whole chicken breast and this is one of the most fantastic grilled chicken recipes I've ever had. I used jared ginger and only used 1/2 tsp. of the Wasabi powder because my wife doesn't like a lot of heat and I was afraid it might be too much for her. It was perfect for bnoth of us. Other than that I held to the recipe closely. An absolute home run.

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