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My first homemade duck-whole bird or breast only?

I'm considering tackling my first homemade duck for either Christmas or New Year's. It'll just be me and SO and we're both up for the adventure so the accepted risk is higher thab if it were for a larger crowd. Would you recommend a whole duck or breast only?

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    1. re: rjbh20

      What's the secret? Skin side down low and slow to render the fat, then flip to finish? Looks great. I wanted to keep it simple.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        The fat layer is scored with a knife first to help render it.

        The breast is the best way to control how rare (or not) you like it.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          Correct, but not too low. Medium heat in a cast iron skillet & pour off the fat once or twice. Score the skin if you like the pattern, otherwise not necessary.

          1. re: rjbh20

            So the breast doesn't 'release' much fat?

            1. re: c oliver

              It releases plenty. I get about 1/2 cup from 3 breast halves.

              1. re: rjbh20

                I thought scoring the breasts allowed for the fat release.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Not necessary at all -- the skin is plenty porous.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I always thought it was a combo of making sure the breast stayed as flat to the pan as possible ( that somehow the cooking skin would cause it to curl up some) as well as rendering the fat.....

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      Sorry, I missed this post. I had this instruction when doing a whole duck in the 5-hour mode so "flat to the pan" wouldn't seem an issue. I've cooked one duck in my life so in NO WAY have a clue :)

          1. I did the pretty famous Five Hour Roast Duck and it was great!. Probably only took four hours.

            http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

            8 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              I came across that yesterday which is why I started pondering a whole duck

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                I think it was as easy as the Zuni chicken and really good. I think it's pretty foolproof so you won't wind up with nothing to eat :)

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  The five hour duck recipe is pretty fool-proof. 'cept that it takes 5 hours :-)

                  I've had fab results with just breasts (scoring the skin so you end up with diamond shaped slits) starting them skin down in a *cold* pan that you heat to med-hot, no fat needed.

                  The fat renders out so that the breasts cook in their own fat.

                  Once the skin is fairly crispy and most of the fat rendered you can turn the breasts around to sear the other side and let them cook to a perfect med-rare.

                  I would make these more often if I had access to duck that actually tastes like duck. The d'Artagnan brand magret duck, sadly, is pretty flavorless.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    For my duck with figs, what duck breast should I be on the look out for?

                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                      I honestly can't tell ya, but I'd recommend anything *but* the d'Artagnan brand.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    I've done the Five Hour Duck a number of times - it's easy and always comes out great. Personally I prefer slow-cooked duck leg to breast cooked by any method, and as an added bonus, if you do the whole bird you get to keep all that delicious duck fat. You haven't lived 'til you've tasted potatoes fried in duck fat!

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I've made this a number of times. It's really good, and easy.

                    2. If you do a whole duck, I would take it apart and do different preps for the legs and breast. The legs are delicious braised, roasted, etc, but you want them cooked through, whereas the breast is best medium rare. Since it's just the two of you, duck two ways will work perfectly - one breast half and one leg quarter each!

                      FWIW, I've done the 5-hour roast duck and it was ok, but the breast meat is simply NOT interesting when it's well done, IMO.

                      1. I will vote breast. Agreed with others... if you have whole duck, do separate preparations for them.