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Nov 17, 2011 07:30 AM

Roast Duck Questions

For some reason, I've been afraid of working with duck for several years, even though I love eating the stuff. Perhaps I've read too many horror stories.

But I took the plunge a couple of days ago and ordered two whole ducks from D'Artagnan, so now I'm committed.

After researching recipes I'm thinking of working with this one:

Two general questions:

A) The recipe has lots of positive comments, but a few people commented that the duck was dry. To combat that I'm planning to brine the birds for maybe 5-6 hours before cooking. Will this mess with the crispiness of the skin?

B) When I roast a chicken, I start the process by pouring boiling water over the top, just as I put it in the oven. This tightens up the skin, provides a moister cooking environment, and provides somewhere for the fat to land when rendering so as to avoid smoke and smell. All in all a huge win. Will this work the same for a duck whose skin has been slashed as that recipe suggests?

Thanks, all, for any help/advice. I'm looking forward to finally conquering my duck cooking phobia.

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  1. I don't know the answers to your specific questions and I will be interested to hear from others on that. I noticed that you mentioned "slashing" the skin. You just want to prick holes in it -- a lot of them -- but only through the skin, not into the flesh. It is easy to underprick in what I will call the armpit area and then you will end up with unrendered fat there which is unpleasant. I'm pretty sure what when I have slow-roasted duck it has been at a lower temperature and for a bit longer but the photos in the linked recipe look awesome so it's hard to argue.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GretchenS

      In the recipe she actually cuts a cross-hatch pattern into the skin before roasting, AND pricks it with a paring knife at a regular interval during cooking. Lots and lots of exit holes for all of the fat!

    2. The recipe says roast for 4 hours it will not need that long to cook that's why people are probably saying its dry. Pouring over hot water will open up the pores of the duck so that's a good thing. I would say you do not need to score the duck skin.

      Home cooked duck is great the only draw back is the mess it makes in the oven.

      1 Reply
      1. That recipe seems to me to have too long a roasting time. 4 hours at 300, plus a 400 heat blast of ten minutes? But the blog certainly seems well done, so who knows.

        When I roast a whole duck, I poke holes in the skin, steam it, then roast it quickly in high heat. Very crispy skin. Cooking the duck in parts is my preference, though. I roast leg quarters but like to pan-sear the breasts.

        I've never bothered to brine duck, but the breast meat itself is surprisingly lean, so maybe it could be useful. The skin will be less crispy, most likely, unless you brine a day ahead and then air dry in the fridge.

        If you're not cooking both ducks at once, you can try two approaches!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bada Bing

          With regard to the long roasting time, I'm planning to use a thermometer and pull the duck when it hits ~155 -- which should eliminate the time factor. Annoying when roast meat recipes specify time rather than temp!

          How long do you tend to steam the duck? Or do you use a thermometer? If so, when do you pull it?

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            I steam for about 45 minutes and roast at 375 or so for 45 minutes to an hour, checking temp. Here's a Food Network recipe that takes the steam and roast approach:


            The only difference is that I use a two-pan approach. I have a very large multi-tier steaming pot, so I can steam the duck at the top layer, have a layer of potato chunks below that get the fat drizzle, and then roast the potatoes and duck together afterward. Yum!

            Also, the fat can be separated from the steaming water and then rendered down to evaporate all the water. Don't toss that fat! Saves well in the fridge.

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              My Fannie Farmer cookbook says to roast until the thigh meat reaches 170-180F, and if you like your duck well done, then roast it for an additional 15 minutes after it reaches that temp but be warned that the meat will be dry. (disclaimer: I have not roasted a duck, I always cut them into parts and cook them separately).

              1. re: gimlis1mum

                P.S. Be sure to save the duck carcasses to make a nice duck broth. Use the broth in a rissotto with cognac, dried figs, pine nuts, and leftover duck meat. Or get some rice noodles and have duck noodle soup. Mm mmm.

          2. I made duck last week using the barefoot contessa's recipe. Despite my reservations about poaching the duck in chicken stock first before roasting it in a very hot oven it came out flavorful and moist and the skin was as crispy as I have had in Asian restaurants. Before I put it in the oven I put half an onion and some celery stalks in the cavity. There was also much less smoke since a lot of the fat had rendered in the poaching.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ithimis

              Thanks for the link!

              I did this same basic thing with my Thanksgiving turkey two years ago. (Based on this recipe: ... it worked very well in terms of both giving me better control over meal timing and not having the oven tied up all day long. However, I was not overly pleased with the turkey itself. Results were better than most of the turkey I've had (usually very dry and stringy), but not up to my usual results when I brine and carefully monitor the roasting temperature. Perhaps it works better with a smaller bird -- e.g. duck -- where the poaching time is much shorter?

            2. Search for "amazing 5 hour duck" recipe. I've made it and it was amazing.