Since the first time crispy fried quail graced my plate, there was a constant desire to duplicate the taste and texture with other upland birds. Deep frying is a great way to maintain moisture in game birds that tend to dry when cooking. The oil fights to keep the moisture in the meat, and the bird fights to keep the oil out. The result is a crispy coating with moist, succulent meat inside.
One of the best ways to do southern-fried grouse or quail is to soak them in buttermilk. The thick, fat-rich milk helps to tenderize the meat and maintain moisture. It also serves as an excellent compound to hold the dredged coating before cooking. Soak birds for 24 to 48 hours. The longer the birds are in the buttermilk, the more background flavor – a hint of lemon – you’ll notice when eating.
It’s best to cut the birds in half and remove the backbone. The birds can also be cut into four, removing the legs and thighs as one piece, and leaving the breast and back as the other. The smaller leg and thigh will cook about twice as fast as the thicker breast meat.
- 2 ruffed grouse or 4 quail
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 quart buttermilk
- Cooking oil for frying
- Cut game birds into halves or quarters. Place in a sealable plastic container and pour the buttermilk over. Place the contents in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Make sure all pieces of the bird are submerged. Use a plate to weigh the meat down, if necessary.
- In a sealable bag, combine flour, salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. Seal the bag and shake until the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Drain the upland birds in a colander, leaving a heavy coating of buttermilk over all of the pieces.
- Place the game bird pieces into the flour mixture and shake until well coated and no moisture is showing through the dry ingredients. Repeat until all pieces are coated. Set aside for 15 minutes to allow the birds to come to room temperature. If moisture shows through the coating, place them back in the bag and shake until dry.
- In a Camp Chef Dutch oven, pour three inches of cooking oil and heat to 375°F. Place the coated pieces of game birds into the hot oil. The temperature will drop to about 350°F, where it should be maintained. Cook the larger pieces five minutes on each side, creating a brown, crunchy coating.
- Remove the finished pieces of game bird and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any grease drippings. Serve within five minutes.