I love duck, but I stink at cooking duck. I have managed to get confit duck legs down pretty well, but that’s about it. My biggest problem isn’t flavor, but the rendering of the fat. I can’t seem to render out enough of the fat so that the skin is thin (preferably crisp) and not thick with a layer of fat and unpleasant. I’ve let it go low and slow for looong times and it still doesn’t come out with the skin like I’ve had at restaurants.
What am I doing wrong or not doing? I score, I prick, and I even separate from the skin where I can. I also dry it out… It’s never enough. Invariably I have to give up lest the meat become hockey pucks. I enjoy my duck medium well, so I have in fact left them on low heat for long times where the meat is well done. It’s edible and the duck meat is tasty, but the skin is blah and looks terrible.
For you successful duck cookers, what’s your secret to rendering fat, and crisping skin? Am I just silly to think this can be done in an hour, so I really need to trim of a lot of fat and skin before I start? Do I need to cook this dang bird for multiple hours to really get it right? Do I need one of those poultry stands for the oven?
I don’t cook whole duck very often, the few time I cooked, the skin was crispy. I used younger or smaller ducks (2-2.5 kg / 4.4 - 5.5 lb) and avoid huge size ducks. As for cooking, higher temperature (with foil if necessary) towards the end of the cooking got rid of the fat.
I don’t recall if I have tried it, or even considered it, but I seem to recall something about fans for the ones in the Asian markets.
I thought I had seen it here, but apparently not. There are some other good ideas.
Here’s a hair dryer method.
One more, from WaPo DECADES ago!
(John Hartley - a culinary patriot eating & cooking in Northwest England)
That’s how I cook a breast. It works.
I don’t often cook a whole duck as I’m the only one who enjoys it. But, I do roast one from time time and do manage crispy skin. Ages ago, I read that it was a good idea to pour a kettle of boiling water over it, which tightens things up, and then pat it dry. So, that’s what I’ve always done.
Sous vide can help with this - it softens the subcutaneous fat and the skin so that they render and crisp very easily during the searing process. Lacking sous vide equipment, the slow start in a cold pan is the best way I know of.
It sounds to me like - in over-simplified terms - since your low & slow is cooking the meat just fine, you just need some way of giving it a blast of higher heat for the skin. I bet arguments could go on for some time about whether it works better to have that step at the beginning or the end (and I bet the conclusion is “either one works if you play your cards right”), but adding a short time of higher heat seems to be the missing part anyway.
Yes… And I still get flabby skin. Maybe my low is not know enough? But I’m not trying to give myself bacterial contamination either. Maybe I’m not scoring deep enough? I try not to penetrate to the meat, and maybe I’m too light handed?
I tried with a while duck once and it was pretty ugly… Flab all around! . So I mainly try with breasts and legs now. I just can’t get the breast right. The legs only come out well if I do confit in an oven for any 2.5 hrs, and then a quick sear in a hot pan.
My dream though would be to one day be able to do a really nice whole duck. I think you’re right that I need to look for smaller ducks, but they’re not easy to come by where I am.
That could be it. Maybe my mistake is expecting the skin to tighten and shrink like those old shrinky dink toys.. By the time I have to pull it off the flame, its already too done to further give it a blast in the oven. I think maybe I just have to live with pan to oven for the duck breast.
Now if that works, the trick will be to learn how to do this for a whole duck just in the oven.
It actually doesn’t release a whole lot of fat in the sous vide bag (at least not if you sous vide for just an hour or so at 100ish , which is what I do because I like my duck pretty rare and you need to allow for more cooking during the browning process). It does, however, really change the texture of the skin and fat and make them render and crisp far more easily in the skillet.
One possible way: Start roasting on fairly high heat, uncovered, until the skin is browning well; then lower heat for the rest of the time?
EDIT: I’m really just recommending an inferior or incomplete version of the hair dryer thing above, so go see it first. Hair dryers good enough for a duck aren’t expensive. I have a duck in the freezer myself, and am going to buy it a little present.