The Perfect Roasted Duck
by Amy Lignor
The hunt, itself, is a memory that lasts a good long time. But for those who do not wish to head to the taxidermist, a recipe to create a mouth-watering meal is another path to consider.
Some will say that a perfect, whole roasted duck is more like a creative idea than an actual fact. Yes, it is true that a combination of crispy skin, tender meat and just enough fat to make a perfect roasted duck seems like something that can only be had if a true “wizard” lives in the household. However, there are ways that can make this dream a very appetizing reality.
Any wild duck that has a layer of fat one-eighth of an inch or less on its breast is at the center of a true feast. Then, when it comes to ultimate success, the temperature of the oven is the key. The smaller the bird, the hotter the oven. Various species have their own “best oven temp.” When it comes to Teal, the species cooks better at about 500°F, while a large mallard, canvasback or small goose (from the cackler to the Aleutian) cooks better in an oven set closer to 450°F. Preheating is also a must. Do not put the bird in until the oven hits the right temperature.
Now, we get in to personal taste. You need to decide what you want to feast on when it comes to the amount of crispy skin and perfectly roasted meat. Obviously, the longer your trophy bird cooks the more done your meat will be, and the crispier your skin will be. For those who like medium-rare breast meat, take it to a solid medium, even medium-well: still pink, but definitely cooked through for the perfect taste. Why is that? Because the legs can get cooked enough to eat. There are pictures swirling out there on the Internet of whole roasted canvasback, cooked in a 475°F oven for 22 minutes. Although everything is done, spots can be seen on the legs where the skin did not crisp.
It is also important to note that geese can be a little harder to roast. They tend to be older and tougher than ducks. Large geese, such as normal-sized specklebellies, snow geese and typical Canada geese can be roasted whole. So for those looking for a base recipe to help get that mouth-watering meal, this is most definitely a prime path to take:
Prep time for four small ducks (teal, wood ducks, wigeon); or 2 to 4 larger ducks (or small geese): Make sure to prep for thirty minutes in order to help the birds come to room temperature.
Cook Time: 12 to 30 minutes, depending on the duck chosen.
Make sure to have on hand lemon or orange wedges, salt, celery stalks, as well as black pepper.
Set the oven to 450°F or higher. Small ducks are best cooked at high temperatures. Then let the oven preheat a good 20 to 30 minutes, and check the temperature before cooking. Let the ducks rest at room temperature while the oven heats up.
If the duck is reasonably fat, use a needle to pierce the skin where there is a great amount of fat under it. This comes at the front of the breast, between the breast and legs, at the flanks, and all over the back of the bird, but be careful not to pierce the meat of the breast.
Rub lemon over the bird and dust it well with a good salt product (Fleur de Sel is a great choice). Then stuff the spent lemon or an orange wedge inside the duck.
Place a few celery stalks onto an oven-proof pan so you can rest the ducks on top. This will prevent the ducks from sitting in their own juices.
Time to Roast: Allow 10 to 15 minutes for Teal or other small ducks; 13 to 20 minutes for anything up to the size of a gadwall; 18 to 25 minutes for a mallard or canvasback; and, 25 to 45 minutes for a small goose. The real key here is to get that internal temperature between 140-145°F at the deepest part of the breast meat.
Take the meat out, move to a cutting board and tent the duck(s) loosely with foil. Small ducks should rest at least 5 minutes; large ducks, closer to 10; and, geese up to 15.
When it comes to sauces, the choices are endless and they are all yours. A simple pan sauce can be made by removing the celery and stirring a tablespoon of flour into the drippings. Allowing this to cook on the stove until it becomes the color of coffee-with-cream, can be delicious. Then, anything from a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to some wine or brandy can be added to create a wild game sauce that’s truly unbelievable to the palette.
A huge selection of sauces can be found all across the Internet, and even side dishes that go perfectly with your roasted duck success. Then, the rest is easy. Eat and enjoy! After tasting that perfect duck, you will want to hunt each and every day in order to bring the next luscious ‘trophy’ home.