Food & Drink

How to cook a duck

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Cooked, crispy duck
Crispy duck delight
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Preparing duck is not so hard, but it does require some special knowledge

How to cook a duck is a very special skill. Even if you have cooked thousands of chickens in your lifetime, the experience will not help you, as cooking duck is different. This is due to the simple fact that ducks themselves are different.

Ducks do not retain large breasts as chickens do; they are long and thinner creatures. Considered waterfowl, ducks have a layer of fat beneath the skin, which waterproofs them and keeps them warm. This is the reason there is so much fat rendered when cooking duck and also the reason why the skin is so very thick and renders so much fat while cooking.

Many people, although they may love the taste of duck, are intimidated by its reputation of being difficult to cook successfully. This is in addition to the fat, which abounds. Cookbooks advise extreme measures; everything from steaming, pre-poaching, piercing and fast cooking at high temperatures to slow cooking at low temperatures and even drying the duck with a hair dryer! Duck is not difficult, but it does require specific preparation techniques and knowledge. Consider the advice below and learn how to cook a duck.

What do you need to know about cooking a whole duck?

1- Cooking time

How to cook a duck translates at least partly into knowing how long to cook it. A good rule of thumb is to allow 10 minutes per pound at 375 degrees. Check to see if the bird is done after the allotted time. If it isn’t ready, simply return it to the oven, watching it carefully until it is done to your liking.

2- Cooking method

There are many ways to learn how to cook a duck, but the easiest method is to roast it. Score the breast by cutting small slits into it with a sharp knife or by poking holes into it with a large fork. Place the duck breast down in a low temperature oven (160 degrees C) for approximately 11/2 to 2 hours. You should turn t he duck over when about ¾ of the way through the allotted cooking time. This will cause a rendering of a great deal of f at of the duck from underneath the skin, which is expected. If you do not wish the duck to sit in the rendered fat, use an oven rack and it will slide down into the pan.

On the lower shelf of the oven place a large rectangular baking pan half full of hot water. Make certain that it is placed directly underneath the roasting rack on which the duck is resting. The pan must be the same size or larger than the bird's roasting rack.

3- Resting time

When the duck is finished cooking, check that the juices run clear and remove the duck from the oven. Let it rest for 10 minutes. A long pronged fork is a very helpful utensil when it comes time to remove the duck from the oven tray, as it allows all the juices inside the cavity to drain out easily. The rendered duck fat can be sieved through a paper towel and stored for later use.

Some things not to do when learning how to cook duck

1- Don’t tuck the foil too tightly around the duck as it is important that air flow freely in order for it to cook properly.

2- Never serve duck sauce on top of the duck. Always put it on the side as otherwise, it will soften the crispy skin.

3- Do not overcook the duck or you will experience the distinct sensation that you are eating your shoes.

4- Be careful not undercook the duck as well, as this can be dangerous (salmonella etc)

In general, learning how to cook a duck means getting all your proverbial ducks “lined up in a row.” This will work well for you and your guests, although, alas, not so good for the poor “dead duck.”

C’est la vie!

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