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Oct 9, 2008 10:57 AM

Cooking Wild Duck

My husband is an avid duck hunter but we always end up giving the meat away because I have been under the impression that wild duck does not taste very good. This fall, I have made it my mission to at least try to cook one and see how it comes out.

In your experience, have you found that wild duck tastes very different than farm-raised duck?

Does anyone have any good recipes for wild duck or techniques to improve the flavor?

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  1. Wild duck does not taste like farm-raised duck. But that doesn't mean it isn't good when properly prepared. The key to wild duck, as with any wild game, is not to over cook it and to eliminate as much of the natural fat as possible (replacing it, if fat ratio needs to be adjusted, with domestic oil/fat products).
    There are countless recipes for preparing wild duck. Here are a few pretty good ones:
    I like to roast my wild duck and often stuff the cavity with peeled fruit (oranges, apples, etc.) to enhance the flavor and help with maintaining the moisture in the meat. Just don't overcook it and you'll probably do fine.
    My son, an avid hunter, combines duck and wild pig in a duck sausage that's a real crowd pleaser. If you've got access to wild pig (even domestic pork works pretty well) and you have the equipment to grind up the duck and pork to make sausage you might like that combination also.

    1. Cooking wild duck to medium rare is key: singe, draw, and season with salt & pepper, truss and bard. Brown all over in a bit of butter and then braise very slow and low for 25 minutes. You want juices to run clear pink and for breasts not to get dark brown. Braising is usually with wine and veal stock. There are numerous sauces that go with wild duck.

      1. Aside from the difference in taste, be warned that wild duck will not be very meaty, nor very fatty -- certainly not as meaty as fatty as farm raised duck.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit

          A problem I have encountered with wild duck is, depending on the species, it can taste a little fishy (if they eat a lot of fish). Attached is a recipe for grilled duck with a dried cherry sauce which I have made a few times and enjoyed.

        2. Yes, wild ducks taste different than farm-raised ducks, but "wild duck" isn't monolithic. There are lots of different species, each of which tastes different than the others.

          For your first wild duck experiences, you probably want to avoid fish-eating ducks (scaups, mergansers, etc.). The flesh tends to be a little, well, fishy. And the fat can be VERY strong. Teal and wood duck are my favorites, followed by canvasback and mallard.

          But the species isn't the end of the equation. Fat content will vary depending on time of year and how many miles the duck has put on its odometer lately. Take a look at the breast; does the skin look thick and yellowish (indicating a high fat content) or thin and dark (indicating low fat)? The former duck is a good candidate for breasting out and cooking with high-heat methods such as sauteeing or grilling. (Be careful not to cook the breast much past medium rare.) The latter will probably be better off cooked low and slow.

          If you're going to cook over high heat, brining is a good idea. I put boneless skin-on breasts in a zip-top bag and seal them up in a zip-top bag for an hour or so with a fair amount of heavily salted orange juice and whatever herbs and/or spices sound good at the moment. As far as braising goes, I like OJ there, too, as a braising liquid, either alone or in conjunction with stock (chicken or - better yet - duck) and/or white wine. Be sure to toss a cut-up onion in the pot. Yum.

          When breasting ducks out, I like to use the remainder of the carcass for soup. Cut it up, toss it in a pot with some aromatics, and simmer until the leg and thigh meat are tender. Remove the meaty parts, pull the meat off the bone, and return the bone to the pot. Continue simmering for several hours, then strain and defat the liquid. Toss the meat back in along with some carrots, potatoes, onions, or whatever and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.

          If you like to eat domestic duck, don't give up if you try one wild duck and don't care for it. Try a different species and/or preparation method. You'll probably find something you enjoy.

          1. In your experience, have you found that wild duck tastes very different than farm-raised duck? Yes, wild duck tastes different from farm raised duck, in addition what the duck is eating affects the flavor. Fishy duck was mentioned, I often avoid Northern Shovelers (spoonies) because of the "swampy" smell.

            Does anyone have any good recipes for wild duck or techniques to improve the flavor? Instead of investing the time into roasting your first duck, try "duck fingers". Remove the breast meat, cut into strips, marinate in teriyaki and cook on the BBQ grill.

            My favorite way to prepare duck is first use a mallard, pintail, or teal and roast it the way tadao posted. I don't like most of the other ducks, thus the "duck fingers".

            Google: Scott Leysath, he has many recipes for game.

            If this is your first time eating shot birds, remember chew softly.