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Roast Goose/Duck - recipe variations

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Hi everyone,

Been having trouble with roasting a whole goose and duck. I've been trying to keep it really simple: salt and pepper, roast at 350F until the thermometer reads 175F. The breast turns out overdone (tough and chewy) and the legs/wings are underdone (they don't fall apart off the bone).

There are so many variations on how to cook a roast goose/duck, just wanted to get some opinions on the following major variations:

1) Brine or not to brine?

My opinion: I always brine my turkeys, but I feel like with a goose or a duck there's so much fat that this should be unnecessary. Chinese BBQ places seem to produce really juicy results without brining. I prefer not to brine my roast chickens either (I tried Blumenthal and Keller's recipes side-by-side and Keller's simple high-temperature no-brine recipe turned out way better).

2) Slow roast or fast roast?

My opinion: I've seen recipes ranging from 200F to 425F. I'm leaning towards a prettylow temperature of 250F for the entire cooking process, since I've been having trouble with getting the legs done without drying out the breasts.

3) Breast side up or breast side down? (or flip every hour, flip once 2/3 of the way, etc.)

My opinion: I'm leaning towards breast side down for the entire cooking process, and then crisping up the skin at the end (see #4). Seems like this would be the best way to keep the breast juicy. I've had luck doing this with Roast Turkey.

4) Best way to crisp up the skin?

My opinion: Rather than crisping through the roasting process, I'm leaning toward searing the whole bird on the pan at a high heat (similar to Blumenthal's roast chicken). Or perhaps just removing the skin at the end of the cooking process, crisping it up in the oven, and slicing it thin over the duck/goose (from Jamie Oliver's recipe).

What are your thoughts?

Note: I know the simple solution is to separate the breasts and legs and cook them individually; pan-sear the breasts, confit the legs; but I do think that a whole roast goose or duck can be a beautiful thing.

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  1. My favorite way to cook duck is based on a NYT (yes Amanda Hesser) article from years ago. you can google the article of course, but I use a very slow cook method, breast up. You treat the duck simply, put in a few root veg, then roast on very low for 3-4 hours. turn up the heat for the last hour to crisp the skin. (it mmay be 200-400, or osmething different). the important thing with duck is to cook it in such a way to render the fat. Hesser discusses various two step processes, such as steaming first, but the slow roast is the easiest for me. the meast has always come out beutifully. the rendering fat helps keep the meat moist.

    for goose, I have not tried this, but a friend stuffs the cavity with plain mashed potatoes, which become fat laden and delicious she says when roasting the goose.

    1. Keeping in mind I've only cooked duck, not goose:

      1) I've never brined anything - I don't have the space and I'm just too lazy - so I'm no help there.
      2) I like a fast roast. The slow roast for me always comes out...blah. A little tasteless, a little stringy...maybe it's just from smelling it in the house all day that by the time it's done I've lost the appetite for it.
      3) I like to start breast side up, flip it 1/3 of the way through, flip it back up for the last 1/3. Never had issues with tough breast or underdone legs, but I also don't truss - I let the legs splay out so good air circulation gets around them.
      4) The trick to a crisp skin and tender meat is to place the bird on a rack in the roasting pan, score the skin, and pour about 2 cups of boiling water on top before you start cooking - you can see the skin tighten as you pour (the water must be boiling, not just hot). Leave the hot water in the bottom of the pan as you cook the bird - it will steam the bird as it cooks, but the tight skin will crisp up wonderfully. If you want to use a dry rub, pour the water over the bird, pat dry with paper towels, and then rub before putting in the oven.

      I'm actually cooking a duck as we speak, and the smell combined with this post is making me very hungry... :)

      1. Thursday has described the way I do whole duck and geese - relatively high temps, on a rack with water in the pan. The beast is pricked all over with a barding needle so that the fat can run free (and the water's there to prevent oven fires). You can baste with the fat, and you can also loosen the skin from the flesh to assist with crisping.

        The whole-bird searing you're suggesting may be impractical due to the size of the birds and the amount of fat they're going to throw off. Unless you're working with induction, there's a good possibility of having a nice oil fire.

        However if you need a perfect plate, separate the breasts and the legs but go a little further.

        1. after the legs are removed, remove the skin from the rest of the carcass in as close to one whole piece as possible.
        2. look up Blumenthal's method to crochet the skin onto a cake rack (works great - I now do this regularly).
        3. sous-vide the breast (5 hours, 60ºC)
        4. after they're done in the bag, pat them dry and sear them very quickly with a little butter to build up the Maillard reaction

        For the legs, either confit, or debone them, stuff them with something, and then close them back up by either gluing them shut with transglutaminase or by old-school sewing. Then slow roast or SV, followed by crisping in a pan or with the help of a torch.

        1. Very interesting. Thanks for the responses!

          Well I've done about 2 ducks and 1 goose in the past month:

          Duck #1: Pricked the skin about 30 times, poured boiling water over the duck, roasted at 350F breast side up the entire time until 185F, turned it up to 500 for the last 10 minutes. No brining or basting.

          Result: Skin was wonderfully crispy, legs and wings were perfect; falling off the bone. However, breast was overdone; dry and chewy. And there was NO fat left on the breasts (too many pricks of the skin)

          Duck #2: Same as Duck #1, but with no boiling water, less pricks of the skin, and cooked the bird until 165 instead of 185. No brining or basting.

          Result: Breasts were very juicy, and with a perfect amount of fat on them. However, skin was not crispy, legs were underdone; tough and not falling off the bone.

          Goose #1: No boiling water, pricked the skin maybe about 10 times, tried a faster roast at about 400, breast side up until about 180F, basting and pouring out the fat every hour. No brining. Threw the giblets on the roasting pan under the goose.

          Result: Surprisingly, skin was not crispy. I'm thinking maybe because the vegetables at the bottom produced a lot of steam, I don't know. Also maybe because I didn't pour boiling water over it. Also surprisingly, the legs and wings were underdone! Had to put them back in the oven to get them nice and tender. The breasts were slightly overdone too, but tolerable. The gravy at the end turned out AMAZING.

          So I guess a few conclusions I've drawn:
          - Pouring boiling water over the bird results in awesome crispy skin.
          - It IS possible to drain out too much fat on the bird by pricking it too much
          - Giblets in the pan results in a delicious gravy
          - The basic medium/fast roast at breast side up doesn't deliver optimum results for me (my benchmark is the chinese bbq places; they seem to be able to roast a whole bird and produce really tender and juicy breast and legs)

          So I'm trying Goose #2 tonight, haven't quite decided how, but I know I'm gonna cook at least some of it breast side down, and I'm gonna experiment with low temps.

          Will let you know how it goes.

          1. I've done five hour duck (easily googled) and it has come out great.

            1. This is our favorite recipe for duck and I've used it successfully for a goose as well. It all comes out with crisp skin and moist meat.

              Time: 2 1/2 hours

              Preheat oven to 400 deg.

              Score (slash) or prick entire skin. Season liberally with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and paprika.

              Roast on rack over a pan of water.

              Roast breast side down 1/2 hour at 400 deg.

              Roast breast side up 1 hr. at 400 deg.

              Reduce heat to 325. Continue roasting 1/2 to 1 hr. depending on size of bird. We did 5 lb. for 1 hr.

              This has always been successful for us. Top it with your favorite sauce -- I make orange.