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How to Roast a Duck

Updated on November 2, 2015
Oven roasted whole duck
Oven roasted whole duck

Simplicity is the Key to Perfect Roast Duck

When roasting a duck, a whole duck - just like a whole chicken or turkey - is often popped in to the oven with a wide array of potential different accompaniments. The duck may be stuffed and/or it may be roasted with a number of different vegetables to impart much of its flavour to those vegetables. There are times, however, when it is nice to roast a duck as simply as possible, not only saving on preparation time but ensuring that the natural flavour of the duck is in no way impaired and can be appreciated in full. While many more complicated roast duck recipes can be and are delicious, this technique is about keeping it as simple as possible.

How to Prepare a Duck for Roasting

An important aspect of the cooking process

It may not seem like it but the preparation of the duck for the oven is a vital part of cooking a duck to tasty perfection. Do not underestimate the relevance of these simple procedures if you want to enjoy your duck at its very best.

If you buy a duck from the supermarket, it is likely to be packaged in plastic. If it is also frozen, it will need to be defrosted completely in the bottom of the fridge before it can be cooked. This is likely to take at least twenty-four hours.

Remove all packaging from the duck and be sure to check in the belly cavity for any giblets which may be included. Cooking the duck with this package of internal organs still inside will render it completely inedible.

Wash the duck well under running cold water and pat the exterior dry with kitchen paper. Season the cavity with salt and pepper.

Using a metal skewer - or a fork - carefully lift the skin all over the breasts and thighs of the duck and pierce at regular intervals. Do not follow through in to the meat and damage it. This process allows the excess fat to escape during cooking and causes the skin to become deliciously crisp. Season the top of the duck with salt only.

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C. Weigh the prepared duck and calculate the cooking time from twenty minutes per pound and twenty minutes over. Do not simply accept the weight from the packaging as this includes the giblets.

Lightly oil a roasting tray and sit the duck on it, breasts side up. Put it in to the oven and leave it alone for the alloted cooking time.

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Packaged and plastic wrapped supermarket duckGiblets must be removed from the cavity of the duckDuck skin is pricked all over with a sharp skewer
Packaged and plastic wrapped supermarket duck
Packaged and plastic wrapped supermarket duck
Giblets must be removed from the cavity of the duck
Giblets must be removed from the cavity of the duck
Duck skin is pricked all over with a sharp skewer
Duck skin is pricked all over with a sharp skewer

Preparing the Roast Duck Accompaniments

What you have decided upon to accompany your roast duck will determine how and when you start to prepare it. The suggested accompaniments in this recipe are potatoes and Chantenay carrots roasted in duck fat, as well as Brussels sprouts. As the potatoes and carrots firstly have to be parboiled and cooled, they should be started as soon as the duck is in the oven.

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Chantenay carrots and potatoesChantenay carrots and potatoes ready to be parboiledPotatoes are allowed to steam and dry after they are boiled
Chantenay carrots and potatoes
Chantenay carrots and potatoes
Chantenay carrots and potatoes ready to be parboiled
Chantenay carrots and potatoes ready to be parboiled
Potatoes are allowed to steam and dry after they are boiled
Potatoes are allowed to steam and dry after they are boiled

Wash and trim the carrots. Peel the potatoes and chop in to one inch chunks. Add to two separate pots of cold, salted water and bring the water to the boil in each instance before reducing the heat to achieve a simmer. After ten minutes, drain the carrots and return them to the empty pot. Cover and leave to cool completely. Drain the potatoes after they have simmered for twenty minutes, return to the pot and leave to steam and dry out for five minutes. Cover and leave to cool completely.

Removing the Duck from the Oven

It is important to check it is properly cooked

After the alloted cooking time has elapsed, carefully remove the duck from the oven and sit it on a steady surface. There will be a lot of grease and fat in the tray so take care not to spill any and burn yourself.

Take a skewer and pierce the thickest part of the duck breast to ensure the juices run clear. If not, put it back in to the oven for a further fifteen minutes and repeat this test. Assuming the juices are clear, lift the duck with two large carving forks to a large plate and leave for half an hour to rest.

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Roast duck is removed from the ovenRoast duck is set aside to rest
Roast duck is removed from the oven
Roast duck is removed from the oven
Roast duck is set aside to rest
Roast duck is set aside to rest

Final Preparations to the Roast Duck Accompaniments

These should be undertaken while the duck is resting

It would be possible to skim the fat from the juices of the duck and roast the potatoes and carrots in this way. Unfortunately, that is a bit of extra work and if any of the juices are inadvertently included, the vegetables will be soggy. Instead, this recipe uses pure duck (or goose) fat from a jar, purchased from a supermarket.

Put a tablespoon of duck fat in to an ovenproof dish, just large enough to contain the potatoes and carrots. Put the dish in to the oven as soon as you remove the duck for ten minutes to bring the fat up to heat.

Put the potatoes and carrots in to the hot fat and very carefully turn around to evenly coat. Cook in the oven for twenty minutes and drain on kitchen paper.

Remove any loose leaves and excess stalk from the Brussels sprouts. Simmer in boiling, salted water for eight to ten minutes before draining through a colander.

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Duck or goose fat is spooned in to an ovenproof dishCarrots and potatoes are stirred through the hot duck or goose fat
Duck or goose fat is spooned in to an ovenproof dish
Duck or goose fat is spooned in to an ovenproof dish
Carrots and potatoes are stirred through the hot duck or goose fat
Carrots and potatoes are stirred through the hot duck or goose fat

Carving the Roast Duck

This should be done in the few minutes before the vegetables are ready

There are two principal ways in which you can carve your roast duck. Both involve firstly slicing off the whole leg portions and wings.

You can then either carve the breast in slices as you would a turkey, or cut the breast fillets off whole by working down either side of the central breastbone with your knife (letting the bones guide the knife) and slicing them across the way against the grain.

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Leg portions and wings are cut from duck before breast is carvedMeat removed from duck
Leg portions and wings are cut from duck before breast is carved
Leg portions and wings are cut from duck before breast is carved
Meat removed from duck
Meat removed from duck

Plating Up and Serving the Roast Duck and Vegetables

Roast duck and vegetable trimmings
Roast duck and vegetable trimmings

A duck of this size provides two generous servings. Add a leg portion and some breast meat to each plate, along with the vegetables. There is very little meat on the wings and they are best used with the giblets for making stock.

Hopefully, you like this idea for making roast duck and will give it a try. Any comments or feedback you have may be left in the space below.

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