Preparing and cooking duck


Prime young duckling makes a welcome change from chicken. With its faintly gamy flavour it complements the tang of citrus, the tartness of green apples, the sharpness of pineapples and the pungency of soy sauce and other condiments. Marjoram, basil, rosemary, sage, summer savory, tarragon and thyme enhance the rich flavour. Young duckling (identifiable from its still flexible beak and pliable breastbone) roasts and fries perfectly. Use older birds, with their more developed flavour, in casseroles and pâtés. Some cooks remove the oil sacs, irrespective of the method of cooking. The easiest way to do this is to remove the tail or ‘parson’s nose’.


Singe, clean, wash and dry the bird. Season inside with salt, and then stuff. Truss the bird well. Rub the outside with lemon, and season. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Ducks are generally roasted uncovered and usually do not need to be basted with fats. Cook for 20–30 minutes to brown, then reduce heat to 190°C for the remainder of the cooking period. Allow 30–45 minutes per kilogram, according to age and size. Baste the duck with honey or soy sauce, or a mixture of both, during the last 30 minutes of cooking. This crisps and colours the skin. Fruit juices or wines are also good for basting. Lift onto a serving platter and garnish with orange slices and parsley. Make a brown gravy from pan drippings and stock made from the giblets. Serve with roast potatoes (or boiled new potatoes tossed in butter and chopped mint), garden fresh green peas and apple sauce.

If the bird is very fat, prick the surface lightly after roasting for 45–50 minutes (when the skin is brown), let the excess fat drain off and remove the fat from the pan. You can also put three cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and baste with this every 15 minutes until the meat is cooked — this can also help if your family finds duck meat to be too rich.

Rotisseries are ideal for cooking duckling. They need little attention provided the heat is low and the breast is larded with rashers of bacon fat. Stuff the bird — even if you do not intend to serve the stuffing — as it makes the flesh richer and moister. Stuffing swells as it cooks, so do not pack the cavity too tightly. Cook any extra stuffing in a greased casserole, or if it will keep its shape, make it into forcemeat patties and cook it with the roast vegetables. A simple stuffing can be made from roughly chopped seasoned apples, or sage and onions.


To get most of the meat from a duck, pull the flesh from the carcase before slicing it for serving, as follows:

  • Lay the duck on its back.
  • Slice the skin at the thigh, turn the duck on its side and, with a fork, pull the thigh and leg joint from the carcase. Repeat this process with the other thigh.
  • Loosen the skin around the wing. Again turn the duck on its side, and pull the joint from the carcase with a fork. Slice the breast along the breastbone and, with a fork, pull the breast back from the carcase. Slice the breast evenly and lay slices on a serving platter.
  • Dissect the thigh joint from the drumstick. Depending on the size of the bird, the drumstick may be sliced or left whole.
  • Dissect the wing section.


Basic stuffing

  • 110 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 rounded tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh sage or savory, or ½ teaspoon dried herbs (more if you prefer a stronger flavour)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon chopped parsley

Mix well together.

Apricot stuffing

  • 110 g breadcrumbs
  • 85 g coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 rounded tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • grated rind and juice of 1 orange

Combine ingredients and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If stuffing appears too dry, add extra orange juice. If too moist, add extra breadcrumbs.

Fruit and almond stuffing

  • 110 g chopped onions
  • 55 g chopped seedless raisins
  • 55 g blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 30 g sultanas
  • 8 dried apricots, coarsely sliced (you may substitute fresh fruit)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • grated rind of ½ lemon

Sauté chopped onions in a little fat. Add raisins, almonds and sultanas and cook for 3–4 minutes. Remove from heat and add apricots, lemon juice and rind, and mix thoroughly.

Apple and prune stuffing

  • 170 g white breadcrumbs
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and roughly diced
  • 85 g stoned prunes (if dry, soak overnight — dessert prunes need only be stoned)
  • juice and rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 or 2 whole cloves, or pinch of powdered cloves
  • 55 g soft butter
  • 30 g chopped walnuts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine dry ingredients with beaten egg and butter.

Herbed duckling

  • 1.3 kg duck
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon or wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Cut duck into serving pieces and cover with seasoned flour. Brush a shallow casserole dish with oil and crushed garlic cloves. Heat oil in pan and brown duck on all sides. Place pieces of duck in casserole, skin side down, and sprinkle with rosemary. Add a little extra seasoning and the vinegar. Cover the casserole and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Bake covered for about ¾ hour in a moderate oven, then turn duck pieces skin side up, and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes more, until tender. Using paper towel or tissues, blot off any excess fat as it appears. Serve with saffron rice and fresh green salad.

Pineapple duck

Cut duck into serving portions, brown lightly in fat, and place pieces in a deep casserole. Barely cover with stock (or substitute chicken or mushroom stock cubes and water). Cook gently until nearly tender — about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper, add one small can of diced pineapple and syrup, and a dessertspoon of soy sauce (less if preferred). Cook for another 20–30 minutes. If you want to thicken the sauce, lift duck pieces onto a serving platter and keep hot. Thicken sauce with a little cornflour or arrowroot, and pour over duck.

Summer duck with figs

  • 16 to 18 fresh ripe figs
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 duck
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • good pinch thyme or marjoram
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 cup soft white breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • grated rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate figs in the wine for several hours. Season the prepared duck with salt and pepper. Mix together breadcrumbs, finely chopped onion, orange rind and juice, bind with egg, season with salt and pepper and place stuffing in cavity.

Brown the bird in a casserole in a hot oven, then drain excess fat away. Pour wine from figs over the duck and cook for 10 minutes. Add the sliced onions, garlic and thyme or marjoram, cover the casserole and continue cooking in a slow oven until duck is tender. Remove duck from casserole, and reduce the sauce by cooking uncovered at a high temperature for about 15 minutes, watching carefully. Add the figs and cook gently for another 10 minutes.

Arrange the figs around the duck. Allow sauce to cool, remove any fat, and pour sauce over duck. (In summer, a little gelatine added to the reduced sauce will assist it to gel more firmly). Serve cold with tossed green salad.

Roast duck with a difference

  • 1 large duck
  • lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon onion, chopped
  • 450 g pork sausage mince
  • 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ cup seeded black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup Marsala or sweet sherry
  • salt and pepper

Rub the duck inside and out with a mixture of lemon juice, crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper. Sauté the onion in a little butter, add the pork mince and brown gently, breaking the mince into pieces as it cooks. Remove from heat and mix in the breadcrumbs, cayenne, rosemary, olives and parsley. Allow mixture to cool, then stuff the duck.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place duck breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan, and brown. Reduce oven heat to 175°C and cook until almost done. Pour off excess fat as it appears. During the final 30 minutes, or until duck is tender, baste frequently with Marsala or sweet sherry. Remove duck to serving dish. Skim off any fat and serve remaining juices in a gravy boat.

Duck and mushrooms

  • 1 duck
  • a little butter or bacon fat
  • 800 mL boiling water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 225 g sliced mushrooms
  • 56 g plain flour
  • salt and pepper
Wash and dry the duck, season and brown in butter or bacon fat in a large heavy pan. Then add water, cloves, onion, parsley and bay leaf, cover tightly and simmer gently for 1–1¼ hours until almost tender. The time depends on the bird’s size and age. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in butter for 4–5 minutes, and stir in the flour. Strain stock from duck and add to mushroom and flour mixture, stirring until thick and creamy. Pour over the duck and cook for 10 minutes more before serving.

Sweet and sour duck

  • 450 g jar cumquats, drained
  • 2 cups duck stock (or substitute chicken cubes and water)
  • 4 cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • good pinch nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 rounded tablespoons preserved ginger, diced
  • juice of 4 fresh limes (or substitute 4 tablespoons unsweetened bottled lime juice)
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 cups cooked duck meat, diced

Add the cumquats and the spices to the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the sugar, salt, wine, ginger and lime juice and bring to boiling point. Mix cornflour with cold water, stir into cumquat mixture and continue to stir until mixture boils and thickens. Turn heat down. Add the duck meat and allow to heat in sauce. Serve with plain boiled rice.

Tasty duck casserole

  • 1 large duck
  • flour, salt, pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup cooked green peas
  • 225 g sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup sliced stuffed or stoned black olives

Joint duck, cut into serving pieces, and toss lightly in flour, salt and pepper. Heat oil in pan and brown duck on all sides. Transfer to casserole. Add onion, green pepper and garlic to the oil remaining in the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Drain sautéed vegetables and add to casserole with the wine, bay leaf and tomato paste.

Cover casserole and cook in a moderate oven for 1 hour or until duck is tender. Skim off any fat as it appears. Sauté the sliced mushrooms in a little butter, then add them to the casserole together with the peas and olives, and cook for 10 minutes longer to reheat. Serve with duchess potatoes.

Duck with fresh green peas

  • 170 g chopped bacon rashers
  • 45 g small onions (or large onions quartered)
  • 1.3 kg duck (may be jointed)
  • 680 g green peas (shelled)
  • bouquet garni
  • 340 mL stock (or substitute chicken cubes and water)

Brown the bacon and onions with a little butter and remove from pan. Place duckling in pan and brown on all sides. Drain away the fat. Place all ingredients in a casserole, cover and cook gently until duck is tender. When cooked, remove duck from sauce to keep warm. Thicken sauce with a little cornflour or arrowroot, and pour over duck.

Duckling fruit salad

  • leftover duck, sliced
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 4 oranges
  • 3–4 tablespoons French dressing

Remove pith from oranges and grapefruit. Dice oranges and divide grapefruit into segments. Toss all ingredients together and chill. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves.