Cooking duck will no longer seem like a challenge with this easy how-to that'll get this game meat on your dinner table more often.

Updated July 06, 2020
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There's a world of intense flavor to be discovered when you choose to roast a duck instead of taking the tried-and-true path with chicken. Yet many cooks find duck intimidating. The reason, in a word, is fat. Ducks wear a thick coat of it, and fatty skin is not a pretty prospect. Not to worry. After using our guide to roasting a duck, you'll have a crisp, bronzed bird ready for carving. Some of the duck fat will baste the meat. The rest of this liquid gold can be spooned off to cook with in the future (think roasted vegetables or duck confit).

A word about the varieties of duck most commonly available: Muscovy very often has a strong flavor that tends toward gamy, while the Pekin, or Long Island, is milder. Whichever bird you choose, it will be a delectable departure from the usual dinner.

Tools and Materials

  • 1 whole duck (5 to 6 pounds)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips with Chili Powder (optional)
  • Orange Marmalade Pan Sauce (optional)
  • Kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife
  • Roasting pan
  • Carving knife

Roast Duck 101 How-To

Line bottom of oven with foil to catch any spatters. Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in second-lowest position. Rinse duck in cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Use kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife to cut away fatty deposits and excess skin around neck area and just inside the bird's cavity. Cut through last joint of wings to remove wing tips, and place them in roasting pan with neck (which is usually included with giblets by the butcher). Place wing tips and neck in a large roasting pan fitted with a rack.

Hold a narrow paring knife almost flat against duck's skin and make shallow pricks everywhere but drumsticks. Don't forget the areas where the thighs join the body. Score skin of breast in a crosshatch pattern. Season inside and outside of duck with pepper and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt. Use a light touch with paring knife to gently crosshatch skin's top layer on breast side to facilitate release of fat. Be careful not to cut all the way through skin into flesh.

Place duck, breast side up, on rack in pan. Roast for 50 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Set duck on rack in a sink or over a towel to catch drips. Spoon off excess fat from pan; strain, and reserve 1/4 cup if making roasted vegetables. Tilt duck to drain, pouring juices from cavity into roasting pan. To ensure even browning, turn duck twice during roasting. Use paper towels to lift bird from pan. Return duck, breast side down, on rack to pan. Roast for 50 minutes. Flip duck, breast side up, and roast until duck registers 165 degree on an instant-read thermometer, about 50 minutes more. Let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Spoon off fat from roasting pan (reserve if desired). Carefully tilt duck, and pour accumulated juices from cavity into pan. Reserve neck and wing tips in pan with juices if making pan sauce.

After duck has rested, place it breast side down on a carving board, and cut along both sides of backbone. Flip duck breast side up. Slice along ridge of breastbone to remove meat. When you get to the thigh bone, sever the joint. Remove wings if desired. Separate leg quarters from breast. Slice breast into serving pieces. Sever joint between leg and thigh. Serve duck with roasted vegetables, and drizzle with pan sauce.

Comments (8)

Anonymous
February 21, 2019
MS has said that cooking Duck has always intimidated her and frankly, you either go greasy or you risk it dried out. Fans might recall when Rocco DeSpirito was on her show and the duck was cooked low and slow (225 for 2.5- 3 hours) for an even rendering of the fat and then blasted at the end at 500 for crisping the skin. (But the glaze in that video is amazing). All and all, duck is not easy fowl to perfect. One thing that is imperative is you need to add water or wine to the pan to prevent the fat from scorching and setting off your smoke alarms. If you want to render duck fat (which is essential gold), consider a second bird separated and cooked in a slow cooker. You can then opt to make confit and/ or stock. For fast dinner party duck, consider Ina Garten's recipe of steeping it first in broth. This renders the fat, (but you lose it) and then you finish off in oven.
Anonymous
April 15, 2018
My duck was done after 50 minutes TOTAL. Please make sure to check on your duck regularly and you're using a leave-in thermometer, or you're going to be disappointed. I'll use this method again, but I can't recommend this specific recipe because I would have ended up with a burnt duck. Please fix it, or remove it from the website.
Anonymous
April 15, 2018
This whole recipe us so poorly written, I'm surprised it's still on this website. The steps list to do something, and then the next step is a bit more detail on how to do the previous step. Just include that information in the original step! Based on how it's written, I would have no idea if the duck needs to be roasted for 100 or 150 minutes. It should say something like "roast breast up for 25 minutes, then flip over. Roast breast-down for additional 25 minutes, then drain, etc, then flip over again and finish roasting breast-up for about 50 minutes, or until 165 F. Please fix the layout of this recipe. The picture looks amazing, but I have significant doubts that mine will turn out.
Anonymous
December 25, 2017
I have used this recipe several times, it is my go to recipe when cooking a whole duck. It is easy and the Duck is great! not sure why others are having a problem. Have used this recipe at least 5 different times and it has turned out great each time.
Anonymous
December 11, 2016
I cannot recommend this recipe. I got through step 6 and took the bird's temp before putting it back in for the final 50 minutes. It was already very overcooked and the skin was very soggy. Essentially, the duck was ruined. I'm hoping to salvage the duck fat, and I used the carcass for stock, but the meat was very disappointing.
Anonymous
November 24, 2016
Three 50-minute sessions at 425 degrees? Do you really mean that or did I miss something?
Anonymous
November 19, 2016
Most importantly, DO NOT PLACE FOIL ON THE BOTTOM OF YOUR OVEN. I followed the instructions and I now have melted foil stuck to the bottom of my oven. I don't even want to know what it will cost to replace. Thanks, Martha.
Anonymous
November 7, 2013
When I made Peking duck I was given a tip from the butcher about an easy may to get the fat out. He said before cooking to take a ball pump needle with a hand pump and slide it under the skin in several places 10 to 12 and pump air in, this will release the skin from the meat. It worked great, and I had a wonderful duck.