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tough, chewy duck...how do you avoid this? or fix this?

I've always been succesful with roast ducks in the past, but my duck tonight turned out tough. Something I didn't discover until we had some difficulty carving it, and then when i took my first bite.

It was a big duck- 7 lbs. Not sure if it was tough because it was old? Or maybe a male duck?

I used this recipe:

and the duck was beautiful. Not greasy, just super chewy, esp. the leg meat. The meat was still juicy, and appeared to be cooked just right.

I found one of Bittman's articles, suggesting that you braise in sauerkraut after roasting the duck.

Does anyone else have any ideas for ways to avoid/combat tough, chewy duck?

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  1. Brine and/or marinate the duck a couple of days ahead.... Here's an article that may help the next time: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Cooking-Me...

    1. For a 5 to 6 pound duck, I roast it on a rack, breast side up, at 450 degree for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Just salt and pepper, no need to prick the skin, no need to basting or turn it. The fat gets rendered out and the meat is cooked through but still tender and moist. The leg/thigh will be tough unless it is cooked through; no medium doneness stuff unless one is sauteing duck breast for magret.

      1. Thanks for your replies... no doubt that this duck was cooked well. It roasted for around 2 hours total- at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then at 350 degrees for the next hour & 45. The juices were running clear (indicating that it was cooked) but the leg didn't move as easily as other roasted ducks in the past. I'm thinking it might have been an athletic and possibly older duck that would have needed lower heat for a longer amount of time;-)

        I will try one of those 4 or 5 hour at 300 degrees F recipes, or the 1 hour plus at 425 degrees F approach next time!

        4 Replies
        1. re: phoenikia

          Is it possible that it was a muscovy duck? They can be larger, and can be very tough in the legs.

          1. re: EricMM

            Quite possible.

            Good to know that muscovy duck can be very tough in the legs!

            I bought it at the market, and it was just advertised as a fresh duck, from a duck farm in Ilderton, Ontario. Not sure what breed it was.

            1. re: phoenikia

              I think it was probably Muscovy duck.

              Anyone have a recipe for slowcooking/braising/roasting tough Muscovy duck legs? Thinking about trying a recipe that roasts them at 250 F for a couple hours, followed by a 30 min 450 F blast to brown them.

              1. re: prima

                I ended up roasting a pair of Muscovy duck legs at 260 F for close to 3 hours, then covered with foil since the legs were nicely browned, and lowered temp to 200 F for the last hour. No need to have a 450 F blast. I poked holes in the duck skin, to help release fat, once each hour. The duck turned out much more tender than my previous 2 Muscovy ducks. Will probably try 225 for 4 h next time.

        2. Was it frozen when you got it?

          I once bought a frozen organic chicken, which was so, so, tough and boingy when I roasted it that I'm sure if I had dropped it on the floor it would have bounced. I did some research and what I discovered was that it must have been frozen while it was in rigor mortis. Thus, when it thawed out and went into the oven, it was still in rigor mortis.

          Chickens (and I would assume other meat/poultry) have to be frozen either before rigor mortis sets in, or after it goes off. Is it possible that this is what happened?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ferdzy

            It was a fresh duck that had never been frozen. It seemed to be a normal fresh duck when I put it in the oven.

          2. I've never had good luck with duck except when I pressure cooked it first and finished it up with the glazing in the oven. I get consistent results from this, though. We don't have a good source for duck here, so others may have had different results.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Laralee

              Would you mind expanding a bit on this?

              Do you pressure cook the whole duck or do you cut it into pieces? Do you brine it first or otherwise season it? How long do you cook it for? Suspended over the water, I'm guessing...

              Edited to add: Oops. Just realized it was an old old thread that had been revived. Older posters may not be around...

              1. re: LMAshton

                I'm the OP, who also revived the post, and I'm still interested. :)

            2. Duck is my favorite thing (second to foie gras)... then again, that's duck too. LOL :)

              My experience in cooking meat in general is that the temperature and time can vary tremendously based on the starting temp of the duck when you put it in, the size, etc.

              I *always* use a leave in digital thermometer because I've found my cooking time can literally vary by an hour, *especially* for duck.

              Overcooked duck will still *look* pink, but will be chewier than rubber.

              1. Roast at 375 until you can easily pull off a leg

                Cook on a roasting pan, duck on a rack , start with 1-1/2inches of water in the pan to reduce scorching

                Poke fatty areas with a fork, fattier areas get more pokes

                Place some produce in the cavity: 1/4-1/2 apple, rib or two celery, 1/4-1/2 onion.

                What did you do different from your successful ducks vs this duck

                2 Replies
                1. re: Alan408

                  I'm still amazed that some home cooks still stick with the '450 F' method of roasting anything. But whatever.
                  Here's how one of the best cooks in the world roasts a chicken. Note: There is absolutely zero difference in roasting a chicken or any other bird visa vi the 'method' he uses.
                  The only difference is in the amount of time it takes. If the bird is old or a game bird, which do tend to be 'chewier' or say a Muscovy duck it is even more important to follow HB's method to the letter.
                  We have all had roast birds that have the top quarter inch as hard as shoe leather. That is b/c when the 450 F heat hits the protein strands on the surface of the bird they turn into rubber bands after reaching over 212 F.
                  Note HB's comments at the beginning of the vide.

                  1. re: Alan408

                    The only differences between my successful ducks and the original 2009 duck was the size and type of duck. The 2009 was probably a Muscovy duck, since the Oct/Nov 2013 Muscovy duck legs turned out tough in a similar way, unlike any other ducks or duck legs I've roasted.

                    The original 2009 tough duck was roasted the same way I used to use for all ducks, turkeys, geese ands chickens- high heat for 30 minutes, then moderate heat for a couple hours, poking the skin from time to time, which would result in a golden bird with a leg that pull off. This 2009 bird's meat looked cooked, but was tough and chewy. It was the first time I ended up with tough duck in almost 25 years of roasting ducks, including wild and domestic ducks. I braised the leftovers in sauerkraut, which helped soften them up.

                    Since 2009, I've roasted Brome Lake ducks with the high then moderate method, as well as 375 F the entire time method, and they've been successful.

                    A pair of Muscovy duck legs in Oct/Nov 2013 turned out tough with the 375 F the entire time method that has been working well with chickens and Brome Lake ducks.

                    My most recent Dec 2013 Muscovy duck legs (2nd pair of Muscovy duck legs I've roasted, purchased the same day as the Oct/Nov pair, same size and duck farm, but frozen until Dec) were roasted at 260 F for 3 hours, then 200 F for an hour. For Muscovy duck, I'm going to continue to roast using lower heat for longer.