I want to smoke duck to use in a salad for an upcoming event. I don't really have any experience smoking duck and haven't found very much information online. I was wondering if anyone knew of a good process for this. I plan on using whole ducks and serving the meat chilled.
ChefTalk.com Top Picks
Presuming you're talking about smoking in the ordinary sense of US style barbeque...
The prep for duck is a little different because you have to deal with the fat under the breast, as well as the toughness of the thighs, and the tendency of the skin to stay flabby.
It's a little easier to control the processes if the duck is cut up, rather than going whole, but the brining method I'm going to describe will even things out. It's what I use when I'm serving a whole duck.
I make a strong brine with salt and sugar and lots of aromatics, bring it to the boil, take it off the heat. Put the duck in it immediately. Add herbs, cut up citrus, fruit juice (if using), vinegar (if using) let it sit for no more than five minutes. Cool everything way the heck down with ice. Hold refrigerated. How long you hold depends on the strength of the brine and the size of the duck.
Sometimes I use commercially made limeade, lemonade, or the two in combination as a simple way of dealing with citrus and sweet -- but it's not going to be as good as fresh cut up fruit and the well-chosen sweetener of your choice (piloncillo or maple sugar, for instance).
"Normal brine" which is 1/2 cup table salt per gal of liquid, and a 5lb duck can go from half a day to overnight.
As an alternative to brining, you can hang the duck over a stock pot and ladle boiling water over it until the fat starts to melt. In other words, the same start used for Peking duck. If you like, you can also lacquer it the same way as you'd do Peking duck.
Don't forget to stuff the cavity with aromatics and fruit before smoking. I never cook a whole bird without trussing -- but that's me.
Normally, you don't want to go low and slow when smoking a whole bird, because it tends to make for flabby skin. So the rule is to smoke at no less than 275F. 325 is better for the duck, but -- depending on your smoker -- can be problematic in terms of your smoke wood bursting into flame.
Sometimes, after the smoking is done, I finish duck skin with a torch to get it to crisp up. In terms of your competition salad, I'd remove the skin, cut it into small pieces, deep fry, and use the cracklings for texture. That give you a great deal of leeway in terms of temperature and skin texture -- but I still recommend smoking any bird fairly hot.
Duck likes oak, pecan, and just about any fruit wood. Mesquite, hickory and stronger woods can overpower. Alder might be too mild. I particularly like cherry, oak, oak/cherry, or oak/pecan.
Hope this helps,