Orange-Rosemary Grilled Duck

This quick and easy recipe is sure to be a hit at neighborhood cookouts

By Scott Leysath

Whenever the distinctive aroma of grilling meat wafts through the neighborhood, I’m like a bird dog on scent. I’ll follow my nose to a neighbor’s house just to see what’s on the grill. Whether it’s chicken, beef, pork, or waterfowl, there’s always something enticing about searing, smoky meat. The next time you’re looking for some company, coat your ducks with a rub, slap them on the grill, and sit back and wait for the doorbell to ring.

When it comes to grills, most backyard chefs choose either gas or charcoal models. The gas masters maintain that you get plenty of flavor with a propane unit and that the convenience of having relatively instant heat outweighs any subtle seasoning that might be imparted by real wood or charcoal smoke. On the other side of the fence, grilling purists stand firmly by their assertion that the only way to get real smoke flavor is through wood embers or charcoal. In my opinion, there’s no right or wrong type of barbecue unit. My personal backyard cook station features a slick propane grill, a well-worn Texas-style charcoal box, and a wood-fired Oklahoma smoker.

Before you put game to flame, it’s best to season the meat with either a marinade or a rub. Depending on how long you soak the ducks, a marinade will add flavor and moisture. If you lean toward cooking your birds beyond medium-rare, marinating might be better than applying a rub since the added liquid will help keep the cooked meat from drying out. Use a simple marinade of wine, olive oil, and seasoning that enhances rather than overpowers the flavor of the duck. I prefer using a rub that combines olive oil with dry seasonings that will add a tasty crust to the cooked meat and help attract neighbors with cold beer.

Orange-Rosemary Grilled Duck

Preparation Time: 15 minutes    
Rub Seasoning Time: 2-4 hours
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large ducks, skin intact
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place ducks on a firm surface, breast side up with the tail toward you. Starting at the top of the breastbone, carefully work a sharp knife down both sides, removing each breast fillet while keeping the leg and thigh attached. When done, each duck will yield two breast fillets with leg/thigh sections. For best results, try removing the leg/thigh sections and cooking them in the oven before grilling.

2. Combine olive oil with remaining ingredients. Brush half the mixture over both sides of the duck halves. Reserve remaining mixture to baste the ducks while grilling. Place the ducks in a covered container and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning often.

3. Heat a well-oiled grill to medium-high heat. Using long tongs, carefully place the duck halves on the grill, skin side down. Be careful: The olive oil used to season the ducks may flare up while cooking. Grill until the skin is evenly browned and then flip over and continue grilling to desired doneness, about 6 to 7 more minutes for medium-rare. Just before removing from the grill, baste liberally with reserved mixture.