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This tender and juicy roasted duck recipe will make your guests happy and have them coming back for more! The goal for this recipe isn’t crispy skin; it is to make the most tender meat possible. With plenty of wintery herbs like cinnamon and star anise, this roast duck is an excellent option for a special holiday treat.
I must admit, only men in my family cooked ducks. They are the duck hunters. The first time I bought a duck from the market was for this recipe because our hunting season doesn’t start until December. Just in time for Christmas! With this straightforward recipe, you will have a delicious, tender duck for the holidays in no time.
What Does Duck Taste Like?
Duck is one of the juiciest meats in the world because the entire bird is dark meat. It is rich and savory and pairs well with sweet flavors like fruits and warm spices. This recipe uses star anise, orange, and cinnamon or accentuates the decadent flavors in the meat.
Duck has much more fat than chicken, but it renders beautifully during the cooking process and is easy to repurpose. We will make a duck gravy with our drippings, but you can also store it similarly to bacon fat. It’s perfect for roasting vegetables and potatoes and adding flavor during deep frying if combined with peanut oil.
How To Prepare a Whole Duck?
A whole duck is big and heavy, but don’t let that steer you away from making it the centerpiece of your holiday dinner. Here’s the most foolproof way to prepare it.
- Remove the duck from its packaging and discard the plastic.
- Take the giblets out of the duck and set them aside. Giblets are the duck’s heart, liver, and gizzards. Giblets are an excellent flavor boost for preparing stocks and can also be pan-fried for a pre-dinner snack. If your family isn’t a fan of giblets, feel free to discard them.
- Scrub the duck skin with kosher salt, then rinse it with cold water. Dry the skin well with a paper towel.
- Cut any extra fat hanging around the neck, bottom, and duck’s cavity.
- For this recipe, be sure not to cut into the duck’s skin. If you want a crispy duck, a popular way to help render fat is to score the duck’s skin. If you decide to do this, don’t pierce the skin to the meat. Piercing the flesh will dry it out.
- After the duck is prepared, submerge it in brine overnight or for 24 hours.
What is Brine, and Why Should You Use It For Your Roasted Duck?
Brine is a combination of salt, spices, and lots of salt. When you brine poultry, you are infusing the meat with flavor and salting it. In addition to adding flavor, it tenderizes the meat and makes it more tender.
Bringing the duck for 24 hours or the night before produces much juicier meat. I recommend separating the fatty breast skin from the flesh before bringing it. Separating the fat allows the brine to penetrate more deeply into the meat, leaving you with tender, perfectly cooked breasts. To achieve this, I used the back of a wooden spoon to separate the skin from the meat, taking care not to rip the skin. Just go slow! After you’ve assembled your brine, a great tip is to fully submerge the duck by putting something heavy like a plate on top to ensure it doesn’t float to the top.
My Tips for Roasting the Best Duck:
Now that your duck has been trimmed, brined, and chilled, it’s finally time to roast! So prepare yourself as your home fills with delicious, savory smells.
- Take your duck out of the fridge an hour before cooking.
- Remove your duck from the brine and rinse it off in the sink.
- Pat your duck dry and let it come to room temperature.
- Assemble the marinade as the duck comes to room temperature. I have the recipe listed below!
- Stuff the inner cavity of the duck with aromatics. I used onions, carrots, celery, and an orange.
- Place the duck on a flat rack and add a few star anise and a cup and a half of water on the bottom, just enough to cover the pan’s bottom. Then cover the duck in the marinade.
- Roast the duck at a lower temperature for longer will give you more tender meat. I roast mine at 275F.
- Cover the duck with parchment paper and then foil. I remove these once the internal temperature reaches 130 or after about 45 minutes so the skin can brown.
- When the temperature reaches 130F, I use the stock from the bottom of the pan to baste the duck a few times during the last ten minutes of cooking during its browning.
- I cooked mine until it reached 135 F internally. The FDA recommends cooking duck at 165F, the same temperature as chicken. Ducks don’t contain the same risk for salmonella as chicken. But cook it to whatever temperature makes you the most comfortable.
Make Duck Gravy With the Drippings!
The drippings from the duck create a beautiful stock that I use to make rich duck gravy as a side sauce! Be sure to strain the dripping on the bottom of the pan and add a simple roux to thicken it up. Then whisk constantly as you add whatever broth you like. Keep it over low heat and whisk until it reaches your desired consistency.
How do I Carve the Roasted Duck?
Now that you’ve roasted the duck, it’s time to carve and serve. But don’t worry; it is not as difficult as it seems! First take out the wooden spears and remove the vegetables from the inside. Then hold one of the legs by the end and use a sharp carving knife or shears to slice the leg from the body. Bend back the drumstick when your knife hits the bone, and the leg should come off quickly. Repeat with the other leg. Use your sharp knife or shears to cut off each wing. Slice or cut down the breastbone and separate it in two. Remove the breast from the bone by carefully sliding your knife as close as you can against the bone. Keep the carcass for stock!
Prepare the duck for the brine by washing and thoroughly drying it. Remove the giblets and set them aside.
Mix all the brine ingredients in a large bowl, submerge the cleaned duck underneath the water, and add a heavy plate to prevent the duck from floating. Wrap, and keep in the fridge overnight.
Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Prepare the baking dish with a flat rack. Add a cup and half of water to the bottom, then add the star anise and clove. Place the duck on the rack. Working in batches, add the marinated inside and outside the duck.
Add the chopped celery, onion, carrots, and oranges to the duck's cavity and close it with wooden skewers. Cover with parchment paper first, then foil. Cook for about 2 hours until the temperature reads 130F.
Uncover, and baste the duck from its drippings. Remove the duck from the oven when the temperature reaches 135F. Let it rest and cover it for 20 minutes before start carving.
To make the gravy, strain the drippings into a cup. Make a roux by melting the butter and then adding the flour. Whisk until you have a tick paste. Add the broth while whisking constantly. Adjust seasoning to taste.
|1 whole 6 lb duck|
|½ onion (chopped)|
|2 carrots (peeled and chopped)|
|2 celery sticks (chopped)|
|1 orange (peeled and cut into chunks)|
|1 ½ cup water|
|3 star anise|
|5 whole cloves|
|Brine (8 cups cold water, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup kosher salt, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3-star anise, 1 teaspoon of black pepper cone, about 8 of them, 5 bay leaves, Peels of 2 oranges plus ½ fresh orange juice, 2 tablespoon soy sauce)|
|Marinade (1 tablespoon minced ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper - you could use black pepper, 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, ¼ cup orange juice, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoon olive oil)|
|4 tablespoons butter|
|2 tablespoons flour|
|Broth to desired consistency|
|Salt and Pepper for seasoning|
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