Timber 2 Table Wilg Game Recipes

How to Debone an Upland Game Bird for Stuffing

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes

Remove the bones from your upland birds to make stuffing and eating a breeze.

I love upland game birds. And, since they tend to cook quickly and at lower temperatures than their barnyard chicken and turkey cousins, I love to stuff them with various mixtures. But upland birds, quail in particular, are kind of small and difficult to eat when cooked whole. The ribs and bones make it hard to reach the tasty stuffing, too.

The solution? Debone the bird without cutting it open. Then you can pack it full of tasty stuffing and cook to your liking. It sounds harder than it is. After you’ve done a few, it only takes a few minutes per bird. Larger birds like grouse and pheasant are easier than quail, but the method is the same for all. Don’t worry if you tear the skin on the back of the bird. Young quail are especially prone to tearing. I’ve deboned a lot of birds and I am happy if I can get 4 out of 10 quail deboned without tearing the skin. If you do tear it, simply use toothpicks to pin the bird together after stuffing.

Start with a plucked, skin-on bird. The skin will hold everything together once the bones are out. For this article, we did a few quail to be stuffed with wild rice, sausage and mushrooms, then grilled. Recipe to follow on the next Timber2Table blog post.

Don't toss the bones once you are finished. Freeze them and use the bones from several batches to make homemade stock for future recipes.

Make a shallow slit down each side of the wishbone

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1 | Cut around the wish bone

Step 1: Make two shallow slits along the front of the bird along each side of the wish bone.

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Reach in and pull out the wishbone

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2 | Remove the wish bone.

Step 2: With thumb and forefinger, reach in and pinch the top of the wishbone and pull it out.

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Separate the wing bone from the breast bone.

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3 | Separate the wing bone from the breast bone.

Step 3: Find the joint where the wing bones attach to the breast bone. On small game birds, I normally only keep the drumette portion of the wing attached. If you wish, push the wing bone up and through the meat and remove. On quail, I normally leave the wing bone in.

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Use your finger to loosen skin around backbone.

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4 | Use your finger to loosen the skin from the backbone

Step 4: Use your fingers to separate the skin and meat from the bird’s back and rib bones. Fold the meat down and over the bird, basically turning it inside out.

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Separate thigh bone from spine with tip of knife.

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5 | Use knife to separate thigh bone from spine

Step 5: With the thigh joint exposed, use the tip of your knife to separate it from the spine.

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Push the meat down and away from thigh bone.

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6 | Push the meat down and off of thigh bone

Step 6: Use your fingers to push the meat down the thigh bone from the inside. Twist to separate the thigh bone from the leg bone and lift the thigh bone out.

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Push the meat free from the leg bone.

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7 | From the outside, push the meat down and free from leg bone

Step 7: From the outside, push the leg meat down the leg bone from the foot end. Pull the bone out.

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Don

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8 | Remove the tenderloins from the breastbone.

Step 8: Use the tip of a knife or your thumb to remove the two tenderloins that stayed attached to the breast as you peeled it out. If stuffing the birds, I usually add the tenderloins back to the cavity with the stuffing.

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