Food & Drink

Cast Iron Chicken-Fried Quail

How a Texas couple fries fall’s favorite bird

Photo: Ralph Lauer

“You can’t serve chicken to ranchers—it’s just not going to fly,” chef Tom Perini says. But chicken fried quail is a different story. Tom and his wife, Lisa, perfected the recipe a decade ago and serve it at catering events and occasionally at their award-winning Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas.

“Chicken-fried steak is a traditional Texas meal,” Lisa says, “and this is a fun spin on that.” Because quail is often juicier and more flavorful than chicken, explains Tom, it doesn’t need a lot of seasoning, so they keep it simple with salt, pepper, and flour. The recipe calls for a bird that’s been deboned, making for neat eating. 

Quail season in Texas opens on October 31 this year, but for those who crave  quail outside the season, the Perinis recommend ordering frozen quail through Broken Arrow Ranch, a supplier based in Ingram, Texas. When the bird is ready to fry, the Perinis stick to a cast-iron pan. “There’s just something about the way cast iron holds heat, and something about the way quail looks frying in the pan,” Tom says. They plate it with classic sides. “Mashed potatoes and gravy with a fried quail,” Tom says, “those just always go together.” 


  • Chicken-Fried Quail

    • ¾ cup whole milk

    • 1 large egg, beaten

    • 2 teaspoons salt

    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    • 4 boneless quail breasts

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • Vegetable oil or shortening, for frying


    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    • 2 cups cold whole milk

    • Kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper


  1. Whisk together the milk, egg, salt, and pepper in a shallow plate. One at a time, dredge the boneless quail breast in the egg-milk mixture, then in the flour. Repeat dredging in the liquid and then the flour. The surface of the bird should be fairly dry. 

  2. Clip in a deep-fry thermometer to the inside of a deep 12- to 14-inch cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Pour in oil to the depth of 1 inch and bring the temperature of the oil to 325 degrees over medium high heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Put a wire baking rack on top of the paper towels. When the oil is hot, add the quail. 

  3. In 2-3 minutes, when the meat juices start to pool on top and the bottoms are golden brown, turn and cook until golden brown, 2-3 more minutes. Drain on the rack and transfer to a warm platter while you prepare the gravy. 

  4. For the gravy: Pour off the fat from the pan through a strainer, leaving ¼ cup fat and pan drippings in the bottom of the skillet, discarding the rest. Return any browned cracklings in the strainer to the skillet. Warm the pan drippings over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking to avoid lumps. Add the milk, whisking frequently, bring to a simmer, and cook until the gravy is thickened, about 3 minutes.  

  5. Stir the gravy up from the bottom frequently, scraping up the browned bits. Add the salt and a lot of pepper. Taste for seasoning. Pour over the quail or serve on the side. Enjoy immediately.