A Sandwich to Savor

Ducks get a smoky, tangy treatment in this classic Southern-style barbecue

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By Scott Leysath

In different parts of the country, the word barbecue doesn't necessarily mean the same thing. Having grown up in Virginia, I've always thought of barbecue as a process of slow-roasting meats with smoky heat at low temperatures. The standard choice of meat is a pig shoulder or, for big crowds, the whole pig. I've since learned to apply the same technique to cooking just about anything with fur or feathers to create fall-off-the-bone tender "pulled" meat sandwiches.

Now, I do understand that there are regional differences regarding what people consider "real" barbecue. I've had friends from Texas get pretty worked up when it comes to talking about "the 'cue." They tell me that true barbecue is beef and beef alone. My Carolina buddies argue about whose sauce is better, but they seem to be in agreement that they're talking pig, not beef. One thing's for sure, slow cooking is a great way to tenderize otherwise tougher cuts of meat, and a super way to prepare a mess of ducks for a family or a crowd. 

The texture of a slow-cooked bird is reminiscent of pot roast, but with dark, crispy edges and a smoky tang. You don't need any special equipment to barbecue your waterfowl. Any grill will do. But I do prefer a unit that allows me to keep the heat low, preferably under 250 degrees, and uses either charcoal, wood, wood pellets, or anything that creates smoke. A gas grill will work, but you'll lose most of the smoke flavor unless you have a way to add wood chips or chunks directly above the heat source. 

Barbecued Pulled Duck Sandwich

Try this Southern-style barbecue recipe for duck topped with cool, crunchy coleslaw. If desired, toss the cooked duck with your favorite barbecue sauce before serving. 

Preparation Time: about 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 6–12 hours
Cooking Time: 4–5 hours
Serves 6–8

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6–8 ducks, skin on or off
  • Heavy-duty foil
  • Soft hamburger buns
  • Coleslaw (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare marinade. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar and next 4 ingredients. While whisking, add oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Divide into two equal amounts.
  2. Split ducks in half along the breast bone and back. Brush half of the marinade on both sides of each duck half. Stack ducks tightly in a plastic, ceramic, or glass container. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours, turning occasionally to evenly coat meat with marinade.
  3. Remove ducks from marinade and allow them to drain before placing them in a 220- to 250-degree grill, breast side up. Cover and cook for 3 hours or until meat is 160 degrees in the thigh. 
  4. Prepare two large sheets of heavy-duty foil. Place half of the cooked ducks in each of the foil sheets. Pour reserved marinade over ducks and wrap snugly with foil. If foil tears, rewrap with additional foil. Place in the grill for another hour or until meat pulls off the carcass easily. If the meat doesn't pull off the bone with very little effort, it's not done and needs to cook longer.
  5. Allow meat to cool enough to handle and pull the meat off the carcass. Place a mound of pulled meat in the buns, top with coleslaw (if desired), and serve.
Or Try the Slow-Cooker Method In a pinch, you can cook your ducks in a slow cooker and then pull the meat off the bone, toss with sauce and slaw. Oh sure, it's not barbecue, but it does taste pretty good—and you don't have to mind the coals or temperature. Marinate like the recipe above and slow cook, covered, on medium for 7 to 8 hours until tender.