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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Cooking: Roast Duck Done Right

For tenderness and flavor, this quick-and-easy recipe is hard to beat
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  • photo by John Hoffman, DU
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By Scott Leysath

When it comes to cooking, a duck is not just a duck. Species vary in taste and texture, and this can determine the way you prepare them for the table. But different parts of the same bird can also require different cooking methods. 

In this recipe, split duck breasts are roasted at a high temperature until tender and tasty. If cooked the same way, duck legs would become tough and chewy. Since I prefer the legs to be fall-off-the-bone delicious, I remove the leg and thigh sections (see sidebar) and give them at least a two-hour head start in the oven. You can even cook them a day in advance and warm them just before serving time.

Split ducks will roast quickly and evenly. How you split the birds isn't really all that important. You can start at the top of the breastbone and work a knife along each side, filleting the breast portions as you go. Or you can use game shears to cut away both sides of the backbone and flatten out the birds with the breastbone in the middle. 


Split Roasted Ducks

Preparation Time: 10 minutes  
Marinating Time: 3–4 hours
Cooking Time: 15–18 minutes
Serves: 4–6

Ingredients
  • 2 or 3 medium or large ducks (preferably with the skin intact), split and flattened
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • Dash or two of Tabasco
Directions

1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil with the next 7 ingredients. Brush or rub this mixture onto both sides of the split ducks. Place the ducks in a shallow container, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, turning to coat evenly every hour or so. 

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the ducks from the refrigerator and place them, skin side down, in a large roasting pan. Roast the ducks on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 10 minutes. 

3. Flip the ducks over, skin side up, and roast them until the skin is crisp, about 5 to 8 additional minutes, depending on the size of the ducks. If the leg and thigh sections have been precooked, add them to the pan at this time. Continue roasting the ducks until the internal temperature in the middle of the breasts is 135–145 degrees for medium-rare. For skinless ducks, roast until the birds are evenly browned on both sides. 


TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS For super-tender legs, remove the leg and thigh section at the body. Coat these pieces with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Place the meat on a well-greased baking 
sheet on the middle rack of an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the legs over and roast for another 20 minutes. Add an inch of wine, beer, or stock to the pan. Cover with foil, reduce temperature to 325 degrees, and cook for 2 additional hours or until the meat pulls away from the bone easily. Serve immediately or cool and reheat with split roasted ducks.

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