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Dec 19, 2006 01:35 AM

How to prepare duck?

I want to try to cook a duck at Christmas. I've never cooked one before, so I was planning on going with the package directions, which is much like cooking a turkey. I read on previous posts on here, though, to cook duck at a low temperature for a long period of time. So, what is the difference in result between cooking it like a turkey (add seasoning under skin, rub skin with olive oil, 375 degrees until internal temp of 175...usually 2-3 hours or so depending on size) and cooking it slow? Also, what internal temperature is good for a duck?

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  1. While someone is bound to have done it, I'd advise against seasoning under the skin, which adheres more tightly to the bird because of its subcutaneous layer of fat. That fat also obviates the need for rubbing the skin with oil or butter. In fact, the main issue with duck is how to get rid of the fat. There are several ways to do this. Probably the most common is to prick the skin (not the flesh) in places where the fat accumulates (where the thigh joins the body before roasting, for example) so the rendered fat can run out. Others suggest steaming the bird for 10-20 minutes before roasting, claiming this renders some of the fat and opens the pores so the fat, but not the juices, can escape during cooking. Marcella Hazan famously blanches the bird in simmering water, then pats it dry with towels and goes at it with a hair-dryer on high, the better to keep the pores open.

    I usually roast duck at a high heat, around 225-250C (440-480F), since this ensures you of a crisp skin. Steamed first for 10-15 minutes and then stuffed, a 2 kg (5 lb.) duck needs 50-60 minutes roasting time. Marcella's unstuffed 5-lb bird roasts for 1 1/2 hours at 375F.

    Internal temperature recs are all over the place. 145F will leave the meat quite rosy, which many people consider desirable. 160-170F is probably close to standard. 180F is overdoing it, though this is less a problem for duck since it doesn't dry out as easily as turkey or chicken.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Addendum: Before stuffing or roasting, remove any globs of fat from the cavity (grab them and yank). And when roasting, start the bird breast side down, then turn it on one side, then on the other side and end with it breast side up, to crisp the skin nicely.

      1. re: carswell

        Wow, your reply is a third method to cooking a duck! Thank you, but I am now given another possible option.

      2. Anyone have any other suggestions for cooking duck?

        3 Replies
        1. re: sunshinedrop

          I recently braised a duck in parts, just with thyme and its own fat. It was amazing. Google Jacques Pepin method.

          1. re: magiesmom

            +1 for the Pepin method. It's a one pot meal that cooks quickly and results in crisp skin. The only issue is whether or not you're comfortable butchering your own duck (or maybe your butcher can do this for you?). The resulting duck, parsnips and shallots are oh so good!


          2. re: sunshinedrop

            I personally like to take it apart and cook the breasts rare for one dish and the leg thighs portion in a confit fashion to get the best of both

          3. Duck is wonderful, and although the first time is daunting, you will get the hand of it.

            Because Duck always has such a thick layer of fat under the skin, I always prick the skin with a very sharp tined fork. Do this many times during cooking. All the fat will melt and drain out, and it will leave the meat tender and juicy, and the skin deliciously crispy

            1. The LA Times Food section today featured a simple Christmas meal plan featuring duck as the main course. The writer goes into the different options of roasting duck (because of the high fat content that needs to be rendered but you don't want to deal with a splattered oven). Her main recommendation is similar to what you were thinking, slow cooking at a low heat for a long time and then increasing the heat near the end to crisp up the skin. Here's the article (you may need to register if you're not already)

              1. the difference between roasting a turkey and a duck is that a duck has ALOT of fat. You want that fat to cook off and get a crispy skin.

                I'm eager to try the "amazing five-hour roast duck" from 150 best american recipes. Roast at 300 degrees after making slits in skin/fat. Remove duck and pierce skin every hour. After 4 hours turn up heat to 350 degrees,sprinkle w/ S&P and roast another hour.

                This is said to allow for fat to release and get crisp brown skin.