Tea Smoked Quail

Smoked poultry or fish are seen often in Asian cuisines, while in the west, particularly America, meat is more often smoked.  Here we are smoking quail, which would typically in Asian smoking recipes, be par-cooked before being smoked.  I have chosen to instead follow a more western approach and finish the cooking, if needed in an oven or on a grill afterwards.  I enjoy the level of control that this allows as well as a last ability to crisp up the quail skin.  Either approach can give excellent results.

Tea Smoked Quail

The image shown here is for whole quail. Often for sale you will find the convenience of semi-boneless quail where the backbone and breastbone have been removed, preparing them for stuffing or grilling flat. Also, unlike for roasted quail, I did not tie the quail legs down as I prefer full and even access of the smoke to all portions of the bird.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Main Course, Main Dish, Starter
Cuisine American, Barbecue, Chinese, International
Servings 6 quail
Calories 180 kcal


  • 1 Small Saucepan
  • 1 Strainer
  • 2 Hotel pans


  • 1/2 cup black tea leaves divided, Keemun is a favorite of mine for smoking
  • 1/3 cup water boiling
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil toasted or dark preferably
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Black or Szechuan pepper freshly ground
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest grated, preferably Mandarin orange
  • 6 each quail whole or semi-boneless
  • 8 each orange zest long strips
  • 1/2 cup rice uncooked
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 each cinnamon stick


  • Steep one teaspoon of the tea leaves in the 1/3 cup boiling water for four minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
  • Place a strip of orange zest inside of each quail and place the quail into a heavy duty plastic bag.
  • Combine 2 tablespoons of the steeped tea with the sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, pepper and grated orange zest. Whisk well and add to plastic bag with quail. Seal bag pushing out as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator for two hours, turning mid way.
  • Line a wok, hotel pan, stove top smoker or roasting pan with foil. Add an additional piece of foil to allow removal of spent smoking mixture if needed. Combine the remaining tea leaves, rice, brown sugar, cinnamon and the remaining 2 strips of orange zest and place in the bottom of the wok or pan. Alternatively, use your own tailored smoking blend.
  • Remove quail (after two hours) from the marinade and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Place quail on an oiled rack over the tea smoking mixture.
  • With the exhaust fan running, heat the wok/pan over high heat. When the mixture begins to smoke well, cover tightly and crimp foil to keep in the smoke. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to smoke for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Carefully open and check the quail for the desired amount of smoking. If more is desired, carefully remove the rack with the quail. Remove the extra layer of foil and replace with fresh foil and fresh smoking mixture. Return rack with quail and repeat.
  • If additional smoking is not needed, you may find that the quail is not cooked through. In this case, finish cooking the quail in a preheated 375 deg F oven for a few minutes until desired doneness is reached.
Keyword Smoked Quail, Tea

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