butchering wild ducks to cook

How to Cook Duck | Outdoor Life Leave a comment

Should you’re a passionate waterfowl hunter, you would possibly assume you understand how to prepare dinner duck. However do you actually? 

If your loved ones hesitates to eat the duck dishes you put together, or in case you’re throwing away organs like the center and liver, otherwise you’re not making duck inventory, then your information of easy methods to prepare dinner duck won’t be full, Jonathan Wilkins of Black Duck Revival tells OL. Wilkins is a looking information, wild recreation fanatic, and author. He’s obsessed with getting new people into looking and instructing them about easy methods to course of and prepare dinner the birds they kill.

Wilkins shared a few of his finest suggestions and tips for cooking duck with the intention to spend much less time researching recipes and strategies and extra time on the water or within the kitchen. 

Wilkins navigating the flooded Arkansas timber. Courtesy Jonathan Wilkins

Find out how to Cook dinner Duck: The Fundamentals

Wild geese are usually much less fatty than home geese you would possibly discover on the grocery retailer or butcher store. (Don’t hassle taking your wild geese to a butcher. As a substitute, discover ways to butcher a duck by yourself.) Whereas home geese spend their days in a barnyard or a pen, wild geese fly lots of or 1000’s of miles twice a 12 months, Wilkins factors out. Due to this wild geese carry much less fats and their meat a lot darker and richer. Which means they require a bit further care on the butchering desk and within the kitchen. The primary rule—which can be the best to interrupt—is to not overcook wild duck. This may be the distinction between dry, robust, gamey meat and one of the best wild chook meat you’ve ever had. 

Break Geese Down

Like some other recreation animal, a wild duck’s physique has a wide range of completely different sorts of meat. At first, Wilkins recommends breaking the duck down. 

wax-plucked duck
Some geese needs to be plucked, whereas others needs to be skinned. Natalie Krebs

Typically, puddle geese needs to be plucked, leaving the pores and skin on the meat. Divers and sea geese needs to be skinned and their fats needs to be eliminated. On account of their diets, divers are likely to harbor a fishier style within the oils and fats beneath their pores and skin. However that basic rule doesn’t all the time apply. Canvasbacks are divers, however their favourite meals is wild celery, which makes them among the finest geese to roast with the pores and skin on. Shovelers are puddle geese, however you’ll need to pores and skin these. Right here’s a tough information for which geese to pores and skin and which geese to pluck.

Pluck and depart pores and skin on


Wooden duck







Pores and skin and take away fats








Learn to pluck a duck to get essentially the most out of one of the best tasting species. However it doesn’t matter what wild duck breed you’re working with, the breast meat continues to be the pièce de résistance of the chook and needs to be cooked like every tender muscle lower. The thighs and legs want the alternative therapy. These components are filled with cartilage, tendons, and different grisly bits, which lends properly to lengthy hours in a slow-cooker. The basic dish duck confit, or duck legs slow-cooked in their very own fats and juices, are a standout instance of how legs and thighs needs to be dealt with. 

In an effort to get as a lot out of a single duck as doable, preserve organs and carcasses, too. We’ll get to what to do with these in a minute.  

Seared Duck Breasts

searing duck breasts
A hot-and-fast sear is the right solution to prepare dinner wild duck breasts. Natalie Krebs

While you image a basic seared duck breast plated with sides at a restaurant, you in all probability see fats that’s been cross-hatched with a knife and rendered all the way down to a crisp. Wild duck breasts don’t require crosshatching, Wilkins says. As a result of there’s much less fats general, there’s no have to open it up. It’s going to render by itself.

Should you plucked your geese and left the pores and skin on, begin the breast skin-down within the chilly pan earlier than it heats as much as medium-high warmth. It will assist render the fats and crisp up the pores and skin correctly with out overcooking the inside of the meat (pull when inner temp hits 130-degrees). Should you skinned your duck, a hot-and-fast sear ought to get the meat to medium-rare. You can even roast duck breasts the identical approach—with the pores and skin and fats face down within the pan. So far as seasonings go, salt and pepper is all you actually need, or you may get artistic with completely different spices. Wilkins factors towards juniper and sage as a great taste profile to check out. 

“You’re making an attempt to go with and work with the pure taste profile,” Wilkins says. “Should you used actually robust flavors on, say, turkey, it might overwhelm the flavour of the turkey. However in case you’re doing it with a protein that has a deeper, extra advanced taste, there’s room for the flavors to play collectively.”

Sluggish-Cooker Duck Thighs and Legs

duck confit
Conventional duck confit is among the hottest slow-cooker duck dishes. CCat82 / Adobe Inventory

Get away the crockpot, dutch oven, or sous vide for this half. Similar to with some other robust lower of untamed recreation, giving duck thighs and legs a full day on low warmth will break down all of the connective tissue, tendons, and even pull vitamins from the bones, whereas concurrently rendering out fats and juices to make a satisfying, tender dish. Wilkins additionally recommends pairing duck legs with robust flavors, like these frequent for carnitas seasoning (cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, plus salt and pepper). 

Braised duck legs lend properly to tacos, pasta, sandwiches, fried rice, and numerous different meals. Or, preserve it easy by slathering the meat in barbecue sauce and dumping it on a plate with some bread and sauteed greens, like Wilkins does on this barbecue snow goose confit sandwich recipe. For one thing a bit extra superior, slow-cooker duck additionally lends properly to rillette, Wilkins says. 

“After you have these comfortable items, you mix up the meat with a lot of fats and pack it right into a jar. Then you may unfold it on crackers with a charcuterie board,” he says. “However more often than not we’re simply consuming braised legs and thighs straight up, or doing a Cajun-style gravy over rice, or you may braise them, dredge them, and fry them up like wings.”

Frying and Smoking Duck

These are two extra preparations that loads of waterfowl hunters swear by. In each situations, Wilkins recommends breaking out the duck into varied components—breasts, thighs, and legs—earlier than utilizing both methodology. That may supply some freedom for the way lengthy you prepare dinner every bit to make sure each will get precisely what it wants. 

“Smoking a complete duck is a recipe for both overcooked breasts and tender legs and thighs or good, tasty, smoked breast and chewy, inedible legs and thighs,” Wilkins says. “You might half these out, smoke the breasts and do a fast sear on them. That might be scrumptious. Or you could possibly take legs and thighs, brine them, smoke them, and that might be tasty. Individuals need to smoke a complete duck and I simply inform them it’s not the factor to do.” 

Should you’re decided to make use of your smoker, an alternative choice is to smoke duck sausage. Swap out your conventional venison or elk sausage recipe for duck leg and thigh meat and go loopy, Wilkins says.

So far as frying goes, brining, searing, or smoking the meat first earlier than dredging and dropping it in effervescent oil will each assist retain moisture and add further taste. The fryer can be a good way to prepare dinner offal—however it’s definitely not the one approach. 

Duck Coronary heart, Liver, and Gizzards

duck gizzards hearts livers
Duck liver, coronary heart, and gizzards are a good way to introduce individuals to consuming offal. FuzullHanum / Adobe Inventory

Should you’ve by no means experimented with wild recreation organs earlier than, duck organs are the right introduction, Wilkins says. Whereas different massive recreation animals have extra highly effective, mineral-y flavors of their livers, or what Wilkins likens to “a comfortable bag of pennies,” duck liver could be very nice. The center and gizzards are different must-saves. 

“With the hearts, I’d roast them over a fireplace, virtually like yakitori-style. Grill them medium-rare, like little meat marshmallows,” Wilkins says. “In case your geese have notably fats livers, you could possibly do a pate. There’s additionally an important preparation I realized from Hank Shaw for gizzards. You do a fast corning brine on them then throw them in a crockpot and prepare dinner them in inventory and you’ll simply push them aside, they grow to be so tender. You possibly can serve these with braised greens, like corned beef and cabbage. 

“However what I all the time train in my courses is making soiled rice. Mince the center, liver, and gizzards up, prepare dinner it with the trinity of celery, onion, and bell pepper, and it makes superb Cajun fried rice.”  

Find out how to Brine Geese

Moist brining a duck is the straightforward technique of soaking the meat in water, salt, sugar, and spices to tenderize and moisturize it. This course of is essential for cooking these fishier and more durable diver geese, however it works properly on all duck species. Geese Limitless has a tried-and-true recipe for a great salt brine:

1/2 gallon water

1/2 cup kosher or any coarse salt

1/2 cup brown sugar (optionally available)

1/2 cup pickling spices

Warmth the water, add the sugar and spice till dissolved after which cool it absolutely within the fridge. Soak the meat within the combination for 12 to 24 hours. 

Find out how to Make Duck Inventory

Now that you’ve a carcass that’s been picked aside, seize some carrots, onions, and herbs, as a result of it’s time to make inventory.

Making duck inventory is rather like making some other wild recreation inventory or bone broth. Chop up all of your greens, bundle up your herbs, and throw every little thing—complete carcass included—into an enormous pot. Simmer every little thing on the range for a minimum of 10 hours, giving all these bones, tendons, and bits of fats time to render down and launch their vitamins. While you’re performed, run the broth by means of a fine-mesh strainer and retailer it. 

Wilkins makes use of one notably genius storage technique for his duck inventory. As a substitute of storing all of it in gallon freezer baggage or quart containers, he pours a few of it into silicone ice dice molds. When it comes time to saute some greens, deglaze a pan, taste some rice, or do mainly some other job {that a} bouillon dice would do, he drops in a wild duck inventory icecube as an alternative. 

“Including duck inventory to a dish, it provides this burst of taste that you simply’re not getting from different stuff.”

Learn Subsequent: Greatest Duck Searching Shotguns

Some Duck Recipes to Contemplate

sea ducks
Eiders, long-tails, and buffleheads are all sea duck species that ought to all be skinned earlier than cooking. Alex Robinson

Listed below are a number of standout wild duck recipes.

Find out how to Cook dinner Duck FAQs

How do you make duck meat softer?

The longer and slower you prepare dinner duck meat, the extra the muscle fibers, tendons, and connective tissue will break down. That is very true of the legs and thighs. With breasts, the trick is to not overcook them. Hold them to a medium doneness on the most to keep away from chewy meat.

How have you learnt when duck is cooked?

Not like different poultry, duck meat is edible—and, the truth is, most popular—at a medium to medium uncommon inner temperature. Should you’re searing or roasting duck breasts, preserve a meat thermometer useful and apply it to the thickest a part of the meat to find out the temperature.

What temperature is duck cooked at?

If the inside of a duck breast is cooked to 130 levels F, it has achieved medium-rare and you’ll pull it from the warmth supply. Carryover warmth, or the warmth nonetheless trapped within the meat after it leaves the warmth supply, will proceed to boost the inner temperature even as soon as it’s off the new pan. 

Learn Subsequent: Find out how to Hunt Geese

Last Ideas on Find out how to Cook dinner Duck

ducks hanging in barn
Get essentially the most use out of smaller geese like teal through the use of their carcasses for inventory. Alex Robinson

Wilkins firmly believes that wild waterfowl are underrated desk fare. Understanding easy methods to prepare dinner duck in a approach that performs up the strong taste of the meat makes all of the distinction. Additionally keep in mind that not all geese style the identical. A number of the fishier diver species are finest utilized in sausage recipes or brined, fried, and dunked in sizzling sauce. 

“Geese are bizarre, man,” Wilkins says. “They journey the road between sky, floor, and water. They exist on this in-between.”

When it comes time to chef up your subsequent restrict of mallards, experiment with utilizing the entire chook. 

“There appears to be a [new] curiosity in whole-bird utilization. We’re simply making an attempt to get essentially the most out of the chook,” Wilkins says. “Waterfowling is a gear-intensive pursuit. There are quite a lot of prices related to it—waders and weapons, shells, decoys. Individuals put quite a lot of effort into it on the entrance finish, after which it looks like there’s not that effort on the again finish. Like individuals don’t have time to pluck a duck, or they don’t prepare dinner the meat. I feel individuals are beginning to understand there’s an actual hypocrisy in that. And naturally, that is all stuff that ‘nation individuals’ have all the time performed. However it looks like there’s a bit extra of a cultural acknowledgement throughout the looking house that now we have a accountability to do higher.”

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