Much like the proverbial skinned feline, there are many ways to roast a duck. A lot of people like it low and slow, as in an hour or more in a 300˚ oven. Yes, this turns out a glorious looking bird, but one that is inevitably overcooked, in which the meat is gray with that livery taste that turns off so many duck hunters.
Instead, I take a page from Russell Chatham’s classic essay “The Great Duck Misunderstanding,” wherein he illustrates the need for a very hot oven, fast cooking time and eating ducks as close to rare as you can stand. I stand by Chatham’s words.
“All game, especially wild duck, should be cooked rare. If you don’t like it you should stick to gruel or corned beef hash.”
The Perfect Roast Duck
1 whole duck, plucked
4 tbs. butter, softened
1 tbs. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
- Preheat oven to 500˚.
- Prepare the duck by patting the skin dry with a paper towel. With the tip of a sharp knife or sausage needle, prick the skin all over. This will allow the fat to drain away and result in a crisper exterior. Coat the duck, inside and out, with softened butter. Sprinkle kosher salt and black pepper over the entire duck, making sure to also salt the interior of the body cavity. Let the duck rest as the oven heats.
- When the oven is hot, place the duck, breast side up, on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Alternatively, if you don’t have a rack, set the duck on a bed of roast potatoes and parsnips. Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, or the internal temperature of the duck’s breast reads 130˚.
- Remove the duck from the oven and immediately carve off the breast meat. Transfer the breasts to a warmed plate, tent with foil and let rest. Carve off the leg quarters, place them on the roasting rack and return the pan to the oven. Roast another 10-15 minutes.
- Plate the duck breasts and quarters. Serve with roasted root vegetables and blackened green beans.