Sous Vide Pepper Sage Quail

My middle setter, Yuba, locked up on what I swear was her twentieth textbook point of the morning as we hunted busted singles and doubles. Her initial point locked some thirty valley quail in a creekside thicket, a single falling as the covey levitated in the January morning mist. We secured a few more as Yuba masterfully worked the cover. A morning not to be forgotten.

Field experiences like this boost meal preparation and enjoyment to another dimension, but game birds are notorious for easily drying when prepared and small birds like quail are easily overcooked. The Sous Vide enhances this basic grill recipe, preparing the quail while maintaining tenderness and succulence. The final step of searing on the grill provides the firmer finish and bite of freshly cracked pepper without the risk of overcooking or drying out. A fine compliment to a remarkable hunt with memories as smooth as a delicate red wine blend pairing.

Serving Size: 4

Time to make: 10 minute marinade, 3 hours sous vide, 2 minutes grill

Special Equipment: Sous Vide, Sous Vide Bags, Grill

Also works with: Other upland bird species and are delicious when prepared as presented here, particularly dove breast. Double the marinade and dry ingredients for larger birds and ensure proper sous vide temperature and bath duration.

Beer/Wine Pairing:  Blonde Ale, Merlot, or Sauvignon Blanc

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4 quail

2 c Soy

1 c Worcestershire

½ c strawberry balsamic vinegar

1 c olive oil

3 cloves crushed garlic

½ tsp dry, crushed sage


1 tbs cracked black pepper

1 tbs kosher salt

¼ c retained marinade

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds



Mix all ingredients in a gallon zip-lock bag

Add whole, cleaned quail and marinate for 3 hours

Sous Vide

Program the sous vide to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) approximately 10 minutes ahead of time.

Remove quail from marinade (retain the marinade) and place in clean zip-lock or vacuum-sealed bags. Note: quail may need to be individually bagged to ensure they reach proper temperature throughout.

Place bags with quail in the sous vide bath for 3 hours.


Heat grill to 600 degrees F (315 degrees C) and bring retained marinade to a boil prior to removing quail from sous vide.

Remove quail from sous vide and sear 45 seconds per side on preheated grill.

Remove quail from grill and baste with heated, retained marinade.

Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper, kosher salt and toasted sesame seeds on basted quail.

Serve over a bed of brown rice with broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and/or grilled squash.

A note on sourcing the cut or foraged ingredients

Two fresh crushed Mediterranean sage leaves are recommended over dried sage. Sage is simple to grow in a home herb garden and is perennial, meaning a single plant will produce for years and can yield more than enough to dry and maintain a healthy supply.

Brad Trumbo

Brad lives in southeast Washington State with his wife Ali and pack of Llewellin setters on a small homestead. He serves the public as a fish and wildlife biologist and active Pheasants Forever life member. His free time is devoted to habitat, the pursuit of fin and feather, and writing about his outdoor passions.

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