Duck meat is the underdog of poultry, with turkey being the more used type for festive occasions and chicken for everyday family meals. However, this is a highly unutilized and, may we say, a very delicious source of protein. The meat has an indulgent flavor and provides a juicy feel in the mouth. Not only is it rich in protein, but also in other essential nutrients such as zinc, selenium, and vitamins B-5 and B-12.
One often accentuated of duck meat is that, even when its skin is removed, it contains a lot of fat (more than two grams of saturated fat per serving). It is also imperative to cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness. With all that in mind, here is everything you need to know to cook the duck well and enjoy its rich taste safely.
Choose The Best Duck
Before we even begin our discussion about cooking a duck, it is essential to learn how to choose the best duck possible so you would get the best results. First of all, if you have the choice of getting a fresh duck instead of a frozen one, always go for the fresh. With fresh ducks, you should check whether the skin is clean, feather-free, odor-free and off-white. If you have to go for the frozen product, make sure it is plump-breasted and sealed in airtight packages. You should also check the expiration date.
Prepare The Duck For Roasting
Now that you have chosen your perfect duck it is time to prepare it for roasting. If you have bought a frozen duck, you should make sure it is completely defrosted before you start the preparation. Either way, you need to remove the giblets from its inside, check for any leftover feathers, rinse the duck with cold water, both inside and outside. After washing it, pat it dry with paper towels.
Set the duck on the countertop, leaving the breast side up. Using a sharp knife, make a diamond pattern with half-deep cuts (deep enough to cut through the skin without reaching the meat).
This will enable the seasonings to penetrate through the skin, and it will also release some of that notorious fat we’ve been talking about. Additionally, ensure the fat release by poking the other fatty parts of the duck with the tip of the knife.
Season The Roast
Use a generous amount of salt to season the duck, inside the cavity and outside, all over. You can use the various stuffing for the cavity (for the flavor, not for eating), but some of the most tried and tested ingredients are garlic cloves and lemon slices. For one duck, you will need one sliced lemon and about five chopped garlic cloves. You will notice that the duck has flapping skin on both ends. Fold it inwards to keep the stuffing inside.
Put The Duck In The Baking Dish
Now you may think that there is nothing special about putting a duck in a baking dish, but many before you have thought the same and they ended up with poorly roasted meat. When you place it in the dish with the diamond-scored side facing up, you need to tie its legs with butcher’s string or butcher’s twine. It would be very convenient to have a baking dish with a roasting rack that can lift the duck above the bottom of the dish and allow the fat to drip beneath.
The Process Of Roasting
The oven should be preheated at 350 F. The roasting takes about three hours, and it can be separated into four different time chunks:
1. Put the duck in the oven (breast side up) and roast for an hour and then remove it from the oven (it should be yellowish).
2. Flip the duck (breast side down), put it back in the oven and roast for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven (it will be light brown).
3. Now you should prepare a mixture that will make the duck meat juicier. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and balsamic vinegar combo are a good choice. Brush the duck with this mixture, turn the breast side up, put back in the oven, and cook for 40 more minutes. For extra softness and flavor, brush with the mix every ten minutes. Remove from the oven.
4. For crispiness, take the vinegar-lemon mix and add a quarter cup of honey and brush the breast side of the duck (you can also do this every next ten minutes of roasting) and roast for another 40 minutes. Remove from the oven (the duck should be crispy-looking and brown).
Duck Tales Tips! Woo-Oo!
There are some other culinary secrets that can help you prepare the perfect duck, and who knows, once you try it, you may decide to switch turkey for a duck, the next holiday.
● You can use a meat thermometer to determine whether the duck is well-cooked. To be safe to eat, it should reach the internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
● If you want extra crispy skin, you can leave the duck uncovered in the refrigerator for about one hour before cooking.
● After roasting the duck, remove it from the oven and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
● To portion the roast into four parts, gently cut out the two breasts and the two legs with a sharp knife.
● Use the duck fat left in the bottom of the baking dish for two amazing purposes. First, pour it into a container and leave to cool. After some time the fat will go to the top, and the juices will remain on the bottom – make a sauce out of them. The remaining fat can be used for roasting the most awesome potatoes ever.
What To Serve With Duck?
Duck is a sophisticated main dish, and it deserves a side dish that lives up to its reputation when it comes to both taste and presentation. The best ones are based on vegetables and accompanied by sweet-sour gravy.
Among the best side dishes for duck, the ones that truly stand out are cabbage (you can cook it on a duck fat for the extra flavor), roasted veggies (all of your favorites can be roasted, including celery, carrots, and zucchini), red beet salad (it is best when served warm), mashed pumpkin, and, of course, mashed potato. As for the gravies, everything from maple-bourbon to giblet gravy is an option.
Now that you know how to prepare the perfect roasted duck you can treat your friends and family with this mouthwatering meal, and brag about your fantastic culinary accomplishment.