On New Years Eve we decided to make our own special meal at home instead of eating out. We decided on roasting a whole duck. It was my first try at roasting a whole duck, a few years ago we partially smoked/grilled a whole duck for Thanksgiving, but I’d never roasted a duck before. I regularly roast whole chickens for dinner and I always use a vertical roaster for the chicken so I decided to do the same for the duck.
Many home cooks are intimidated by roasting a whole bird, whether it is chicken, turkey, or duck, but I’ve always found the process easy and over-hyped. I don’t baste or brine, I just give the bird a nice spice rub, some aromatics and pop it into the oven. I think taking care not to over cook the bird is probably more important than debating about brining and baste techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against brining or basting and I believe all of Alton Brown’s arguments for brining and find his romancing the bird very convincing. I just can’t be bothered when I’ve had juicy, flavorful birds without all that.
The challenge with duck is the hefty layer of fat that needs to render off of the bird. This I knew I had to deal with and there was no avoiding the techniques for doing so. I started on my research and discovered that there is general agreement that piercing or cutting the skin and allowing the fat to render under a long slow heat was generally the recommended method for roasting a duck. There were mixed views on whether dehydration or boiling water helps to render the fat. I didn’t plan ahead with enough time to keep the duck uncovered overnight, but I did do it for a few hours in the fridge. I skipped the boiling water technique (allegedly it shrinks the skin but I found the whole procedure a little scary), and I slit the skin cross-wise and pierced the duck periodically. Actually, I followed the Hungry Mouse’s technique pretty closely, but I didn’t need the flipping and shortened the roasting time because I used a vertical roaster. Low and slow works. This recipe has about a 3 hour roasting time. We ended up with delicious, moist, tender duck and crispy skin. It was a delicious last meal for 2012.
CRISPY OVEN-ROASTED DUCK
For the Duck:
1 whole Pekin or Long Island Duck, about 5 pounds
10-12 cloves garlic, chopped
For the Glaze:
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (to taste)
Remove all of the innards and the neck. Discard or use for stock. Rinse the duck with cold water and pat dry and set on a roasting rack. I don’t have a full-sized roasting pan so I took the rack out of my toaster oven, set it on top of a small pan and put the duck on top. This is where some recipes tell you to store uncovered in the fridge over night. I didn’t have that kind of time, so I stuck it in the fridge uncovered for 2.5 hours.
About 4 hours before meal time, pre-heat oven to 350F. Trim the excess skin and fat. This is mostly at the top and bottom of the duck. Next, score the skin on the breast side making a cross-hatch pattern. Take care not to cut the meat! Prick the duck all over, especially where the thighs meat the leg. The goal here is to allow the fat to escape, so be generous in puncturing the skin all over. Rub the duck all over with garlic, salt, and pepper, including the inside of the cavity, then set on the vertical roaster. Slice the orange into quarters and place in the cavity of the duck.
Place the duck in the oven with the breast side facing the back of the oven for 20 minutes, then decrease the heat to 300F and roast for another 40 minutes. Remove the duck from the oven, prick all over and drain any excess fat from the drip pan if necessary. Place the duck back into the oven, rotating the position so the breast side faces the front of the oven for another 60 minutes. After the second hour, remove the duck and prick all over, draining the excess fat as necessary. Place in the oven, rotating again so the breast side faces the back of the oven and roast for another 45 minutes.
In the meantime, make the glaze. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the honey, orange juice, soy sauce and sriracha. Bring to a simmer, then reduce and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Set aside.
After a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, remove the duck and prick it all over again. Turn up the oven to 400F degrees. Brush the duck with the glaze and place into the oven for another 12-15 minutes.
Remove the duck and let rest for about 10 minutes. You can carve and serve, or instead of carving, my dear husbanders likes to chop the duck with a cleaver into small pieces. We enjoyed our meal with roasted Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato fries, and a bottle of Super-Tuscan from our trip to Tuscany. It was a fine way to ring in the new year!