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Trouble With Roast Duck

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I don't have a lot of luck with roasting duck. I bought a 5# long island duck the other day. It comes sealed in plastic and no matter how long I leave it out to dry after I remove the plastic the skin is still soggy. And soggy skin = flabby skin when it's cooked. Also the meat tends to be on the tough side; not at all tender and, well, ducky.

I roasted it on high heat (450) for 15 minutes to get it going, then turned down the heat to 350 and roasted it another hour. I turned it a couple of times to get even browning/cooking. (It looked really good!)

What am I missing here? I don't have that trouble with chicken.

Thank you

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post #2 of 8
Roast duck is impressively tricky, and your basic packaged duck won't give good results no matter what you do.

You can get crispy skin if you want: don't just leave it out to dry, but pat it dry and then put it on a wire mesh (like a cake cooling rack or something) and run a fan on it. Then rub the duck with some sort of fat before roasting, and it'll crisp up beautifully.

The basic problem with the roasting, however, is that the legs and breasts cook at very different rates. If your duck is impressively fresh and of a good breed (and well raised), you can pull it off with some serious work, but it's not easy.

I suggest that you don't cook it this way at all. Cut it up. Roast the legs until just done, spread with a thin layer of mustard, pack on bread crumbs mixed with olive oil and some fresh herbs, then broil until brown. Slash the skin on the breasts just barely to the flesh in a diamond pattern, then season and lay them in a cool nonstick pan and set it over medium-high heat. Cook about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is brown and crispy, then flip them over and cook about 3 minutes more until they're just done through. Rest a few minutes, covered with a foil tent or the like, and slice on the bias. Bake the excess strips of skin in a medium-hot often, on a sheet pan, until very crisp and golden, then salt generously and let cool on a wire mesh; then break these cracklings up and scatter on a salad. And of course, dice the fat pads fine and render gently, then add the livers and cook until just barely done; deglaze with cognac and cook down with salt and pepper; puree the fat and liver and work through a fine sieve; pack in a ramekin and serve on the side. Result: perfectly-done duck.
post #3 of 8
Following up on Chris's suggestion to cut up the duck. I haven't roasted a whole duck in ages -- since 1993, to be exact, when the New York Times had a recipe for pan-fried duck. It couldn't be simpler (well, cutting up the duck can be tricky, because the bones are heavy, but it's not impossible if you know how to cut up a chicken) and always gives crisp skin and tender meat. The meat is all well-done, but that's okay with me (and people I've served it to). This method steams the meat and renders the fat gently but thoroughly.

If I want a rare duck breast, I will just cut the breast off the bone and cook as magret, pretty much as Chris describes. But that's a different meal, of only the duck breast. If I want to serve the whole duck, I pan-fry it.

Here's my version:
  1. Cut your duck(s) into quarters. Season the pieces (just S&P, or herbes de Provence, or Chinese five-spice powder, etc.)
  2. Heat a large heavy covered skillet or two -- you need room to lay out the duck pieces.
  3. When the skillet is hot, place the duck pieces in it skin side down. Cook uncovered over high heat for about 5 minutes. Warning: it will spatter all over the stove top. :eek:
  4. Lift the duck pieces to dislodge them, then return them to the skillet skin side down. Add the duck neck(s) and gizzard(s), if using, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. The skin will be very dark.
  5. Dislodge the pieces again. I usually turn the pieces over at this point, although the original doesn't. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Add the heart(s) and liver(s), if using, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Uncover, pour out the fat (there will be a LOT), turn the duck pieces skin side down again, and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the skin is crisped again.
  8. If you want to make a pan sauce, keep the duck warm in a low oven. Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add water, wine, or duck stock and scrape up the browned bits. Boil until everything is dissolved and reduced a bit. (I've also added dried cherries here for a fruited sauce.)

You can save the fat and use it for cooking -- since it was rendered over low heat, it shouldn't be scorched.

Mark Bittman ("The Minimalist") had a version of this five years later, but I don't much like it. He uses higher heat and a shorter cooking time, and I found the duck wasn't cooked sufficiently. (He credits Paula Peck for the original, in a cookbook from 1961, but says her cooking time of 1 hour is too long. I disagree. :lol: ) Also, with the higher heat, the fat can burn, and then you can't use it later.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #4 of 8
This link was posted at CT a few years back but is fairly informative on cooking duck.

Bringing duck home / A guide to cooking a bird that's both crisp and juicy

Some of it comes down to what kind of duck and the market that duck is aimed at. Chinese prefer different things in their ducks than the French for example.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Well, thank you all very much. This is very helpful.
post #6 of 8
I roast whole ducks for Thanksgiving all the time. First I prick the skin all over and put the duck in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes to get the fat under the skin rendering. I remove it and wait a few minutes until it's cool enough to handle. I stuff the cavity with onions, apples and some rosemary. Place on a rack and start in a hot oven like you did and continue to roast at a lower temp., as you did. It takes a couple of hours to roast a duck (I don't believe in serving it rare). You can cook it covered or uncovered. It will be juicier if it's cooked covered, but uncover it for the last half hour of roasting so the skin gets crisp. Perfect every time.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that Greyeaglem. In the SF Chronicle article that Phil posted the link to it was noted that there are as many ways to cook a duck as there are cooks/chefs to cook them. Each insisting their way is the way to cook it for the best results. And I believe evey one of them. I'll try them all!!!
post #8 of 8

Low and slow

I agree with the method that greyeaglem gave you. I usually pull the skin off and don't eat that part, so I've never worried about getting it crispy. I've found I get the juiciest duck when I roast it very low and slow with it covered. I would suggest 250°F for several hours (put it in in the morning and it should be good by dinner time). Then turn up the heat for the last half hour to crisp the skin.
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