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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.

            1. this is my mother's recipe, my dad killed LOTS of ducks in the '50s and '60s. I grew up eating duck this way, and both my mother and I have converted many avowed wild duck haters. I prefer mallards but do love teal... mallards are easier to handle using this recipe. Tell your husband not to breast the ducks, pluck them (or have them plucked, this is easy to have done here in the South).
              wash and dry the ducks and remove any remaining pin feathers. salt and pepper them well, then stuff each cavity with an equal portion of cut apples, oranges, onions and celery. place the ducks in a large dutch oven breast up, then add campbell's beef consume until the ducks are 3/4 covered. this may take 4-6 cans. cover and bake in a low oven, 300 ish for 4-5 hours. (I know Sam,this is the opposite of your rec.) Your kitchen will smell terrific! when the ducks are dome remove them one at a time with a slotted spoon, they will be almost falling apart. remove the fruit/veg and discard. reserve the stock. I serve each duck in a large bowl with stock and hard bread for dipping and a wild rice casserole.
              The ducks will have lost all of the wild flavor, which many find unpleasant. Not me!
              I also like the "bloody duck" my dad used to make by wrapping the ducks in foil and throwing them in the fireplace for about 20 minutes!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tee

                I have never tried oven braising with wild duck. Thanks for the input; I'll be giving your idea a try as soon as I get my next one.

                1. re: Tee

                  Tee, wild duck is like octopus - brown and braise low and in a very short time like I do or stew for a long time as you recommend. Your dad's method is closer to mine.

                2. I see you are in Lewes, which means your husband is probably pulling in ducks off salt water. If that is the case, your ducks will need to be brined in 1/4 cup salt to 4 cups water (plus any spices/herbs you wish) overnight to help the fishy taste. Also, oldsquaw, mergansers, eiders or really any "sea duck" are best served in a mixed stew -- I will not shoot them at all, however, because in California I have plenty of better-tasting ducks to eat.

                  If he is bringing home mallards and black ducks, shot off fresh water, I would highly suggest you pluck them and roast them whole. Rub with oil, salt heavily, brown on all sides in an oven-proof pan, rest the bird in the pan on some celery stalks, then roast at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. You want an internal temp of 140-150. Duck can and should be eaten rare -- or stewed like crazy. No middle. Like the octopus Sam mentioned...

                  For what it's worth, my whole website is about wild game cooking, and I have a ton of duck recipes on it, some fancy, others easy. It's: www.honest-food.net

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gamecook

                    Thanks for the tips! We are also in Maine a lot and Doug hunts primarily for fresh water duck so I am set. I think I am going to steer clear of salt water fowl for now.

                  2. Thanks everyone! We were away for two weeks and I was ready to cook my duck when my husband told me duck season is over for the year. I will retain this though and try a couple of these recipes next fall. I am looking forward to it!!!