I love a good roasted duck. The crispy skin, the medium rare meat, who can pass that up? But getting everything perfect isn't easy. If the skin is nice and crisp, the interior can be overdone and tough. If the interior is perfect, the skin often doesn’t have time to reach crispy perfection.
Over the years, I have tried several ways to roast a duck and have finally settled on a way that allows both to get done at the same time. The method involves ducks split in half, a preheated cast iron skillet, and a couple bricks wrapped in aluminum foil.
The marinade for this one is an Asian-inspired, teriyaki-based blend of flavors with a hint of citrus. I use the outstanding soy and teriyaki sauces from Bourbon Barrel Foods. These sauces are microbrewed from locally grown non-GMO grains and left to age and ferment in once-used bourbon barrels. The resulting flavor is outstanding, salty and savory, with a hint of sweetness from the charred oak staves of the barrel. If you can’t find the Bourbon Barrel Foods version, just use your favorite teriyaki and soy.
The easiest way to split the ducks is to lay them, breast up, on a cutting board and slice down through the center of the breast to the keel bone with a heavy spine knife or meat cleaver. Once you encounter the keel bone, simply give the spine of the knife or cleaver a sharp tap or two with a wooden rolling pin to slice all the way down through the backbone.
Marinate the ducks at least four hours or up to overnight. The marinade amount is enough for two or three large ducks, in this case, mallards and a black. Figure on a half duck per person.
8 ounces Kentuckyaki Sauce, or any teriyaki of choice
4 ounces soy sauce
Zest from one orange
Juice from 1/2 orange
One garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon honey
Two to three large ducks, split in half
Two tablespoons of lard or rendered duck fat
Cast iron skillet
Two or three clean bricks, wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil
Instant read thermometer
Begin by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Place the foil-wrapped bricks into the oven as it preheats. On the range top, preheat the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of lard or duck fat to the pan and let it heat until the oil shimmers and just begins to smoke. Season the ducks with salt and pepper then place them skin side up, into the hot oil and let them sizzle for two to three minutes. Flip the ducks skin down and continue to fry for an additional three to four minutes before placing the preheated bricks directly onto the ducks. The extra weight from the brick presses the duck skin down into firm contact with the hot skillet, ensuring that the skin crisps quickly as the duck cooks.
Place the skillet, bricks and all, into the preheated oven. Check the temperature of the duck after 25 minutes. You are looking for 140-145 in the thickest part of the breast meat. If you don’t have a quick-read thermometer, get one, they are worth the money when cooking wild game.
This cooking method works with just about any size and species of duck. For smaller ducks, like teal and wood ducks, I crank the heat up to 400 degrees and cut the roast time to around 15 minutes. You can use the technique with any marinade you like, or even with no marinade at all.
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